A miscarriage is a pregnancy that ends on its own within the first 20 weeks of gestation. Most miscarriages go unrecognised because they occur before a woman’s next expected period.
Miscarriage affects 1 in every 4 women. Having a miscarriage can be traumatic and many women experience grief over their loss. It may provide some comfort to know that it is natural and very common.
Bleeding during pregnancy doesn't always lead to miscarriage
Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy may be the first sign of miscarriage. However, about 20% of women have vaginal bleeding during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and less than half of them miscarry. If you have any bleeding during pregnancy, talk to your lead maternity carer (LMC).
What should I do if I think I am miscarrying?
Call your LMC and describe your symptoms.
- Ask your partner, a friend or relative to stay with you, preferably someone with a driver's licence and car who can take you to the doctor or hospital if needed.
- Place a hot water bottle on your stomach to relieve pain.
- Pack an overnight bag for hospital, just in case you need it later.
- Save everything you pass in a bowl or bucket (rather than sitting on the toilet) to be seen by the doctor or tested to see why your miscarriage happened.
- In an emergency: if you are alone and things are happening fast, dial 111 and ask for an ambulance. Never drive yourself to hospital if you are having a miscarriage.
When to seek medical advice
Tell your LMC immediately if you experience fever and chills, pain or if there is an odour – you may have an infection which requires hospital treatment. If not treated, an incomplete miscarriage can make you very ill and may also have an effect on future pregnancies.
Pregnancy warning signs
Although most pregnancies proceed normally, some women develop complications of pregnancy.
Contact your midwife (or specialist doctor) straight away if you have any of the danger signs listed below.
- You have bleeding from your vagina, or you have vaginal discharge that is unusual for you.
- Your ‘waters’ leak or break before labour starts or, once they have broken, the fluid is dirty-looking, greenish or brown.
- If, once you are regularly feeling your baby move, your baby moves less than usual or you cannot feel your baby move at all.
- If, after the first few weeks of your pregnancy, you have stomach pains or cramps.
- Your hands, feet or face suddenly swell.
- You have pain or burning when you wee – especially if you also have a fever and a sore back.
- You have a very bad headache and this lasts for more than a few hours.
- You can’t see well – you have blurry vision or you start to see white lights, flashes or dots in front of your eyes or you have double vision.
- You have a fever of over 38°C – you may have a virus, so check with your midwife (or specialist doctor) or pharmacist before you take any medicines. If your fever lasts for longer than a day, check with your midwife (or specialist doctor), or doctor or nurse.
- You fall on or hurt your stomach – get this checked, even if you don’t feel hurt or sore.
- You are very thirsty but you can’t wee.
- You start feeling sick and throwing up in late pregnancy – especially if you have pain and a fever.
- You itch all over – especially if you have dark-coloured wee and pale poo.
Remember: if you are worried at any time during your pregnancy, talk to your midwife (or specialist doctor).