Sadly, some babies are lost during pregnancy, birth, or shortly afterwards. We have information and support for anyone who has experienced the loss of a baby, whether through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death.
A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 24 weeks. The loss of a baby after 24 weeks is called a stillbirth. If the baby is born alive from week 24-37 it is called premature birth. Often the underlying cause is the same, particularly between late miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth.
If you would like support there are charities available that provide advice, support and resources if you are experiencing a pregnancy loss, such as https://www.tommys.org/ and https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/
Miscarriages are often referred to as early or late.
An early miscarriage is one that happens in the first trimester (until 13 weeks of pregnancy). After 13 weeks, the risk of miscarriage drops.
Early miscarriages are more common than you may realise, often occurring before the mother even realises she is pregnant. Many early losses happen to mothers who simply assume the bleeding is a normal period.
A late miscarriage occurs between weeks 14 to 24 of pregnancy. This is much less common.
How common is miscarriage?
Miscarriage is more common than people realise. Up to 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime. Many miscarriages are unreported and some go unnoticed as it happens so soon. Among women who know they are pregnant, it is estimated that 1 in 6 pregnancies end in miscarriage.
How do I prevent miscarriage?
As we still don't always know why miscarriages happen it makes it very difficult to prevent them.
Sometimes, your doctor may be able to work out why you may have miscarried and provide treatment to help prevent it happening again. For instance, if you have a health condition which might have contributed to miscarriage, then this condition could be managed in a next pregnancy.
Whilst as many as 1 in 4 women experience a miscarriage in their lifetime, only 1 in 100 have multiple miscarriages and the vast majority of women go on to have healthy babies.
If you are concerned
Women's bodies go through a lot of changes during pregnancy. But while some bouts of discomfort and irritation can be self-managed, others should be checked out by your GP or midwife:
Abdominal pain: while it's normal to have slight contractions through pregnancy (this is when you feel your stomach contracting and relaxing), if you experience a sudden pain that won't go away, contact your maternity care provider as soon as possible.
Pain when passing urine: this could be a sign of infection which will need treatment. Drink plenty of fluid and contact your GP within 24 hours.
Bleeding: whilst bleeding in pregnancy can be normal, it can also be a sign that something is wrong, especially if it is accompanied by pain. Bleeding at five months could mean that that the placenta has implanted at the lower part of the womb and this can be dangerous for you and your baby. Contact your GP straight away or your maternity care provider.
Severe itching: while itching is common in pregnancy, severe itching without a rash (particularly in the last four months of pregnancy) can be a sign of a potentially dangerous liver disorder. Contact your Maternity Care provider if you are at all concerned.
Vaginal discharge: a discharge that is smelly or bloodstained may point to infection and should be referred to your midwife or GP.
Headaches or dizziness: may indicate increased blood pressure which is dangerous in pregnancy. Contact your Maternity care provider.
Swollen ankles or hands: normally common but any sudden changes should be reported to your GP or midwife as it could be a sign of pre-eclampsia – high blood pressure and fluid retention in pregnancy.
Diarrhoea, vomiting or high fever: any sudden "acute" illnesses should be referred immediately to your GP or midwife.
If at any time you feel your baby is moving around less frequently or slowing down contact your maternity care provider ASAP.
An abortion is the medical process of ending a pregnancy so it doesn't result in the birth of a baby. It's also sometimes known as a termination.
The pregnancy is ended either by taking medications or having a minor surgical procedure.
One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime.
For more information please visit: Abortion - NHS