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What is a miscarriage?

A miscarriage (also known as a spontaneous abortion) is the loss of a baby before 24 weeks of your pregnancy. However, nearly all miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks, sometimes before the woman even knows she is pregnant. This is why the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy are the most important. The risk of miscarriage decreases as the weeks of pregnancy go by. If you lose the baby after the 24th week it is then known as a ‘stillbirth’ (delivery of a dead baby).

What causes a miscarriage?

In most cases a miscarriage usually happens when there is something wrong with the baby and it has no chance of developing normally. Miscarriage is the body’s natural response to a pregnancy in trouble. A miscarriage may also occur because of an illness (e.g. German measles) during your early pregnancy, especially if you have had a fever over 100°f.

Miscarriages are very common and in most cases there is nothing you could have done to avoid it and no explanation as to why it happened. However, when pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you should try to maintain a healthy diet and start taking folic acid, while avoiding smoking, illegal drugs and drinking alcohol.

What are the symptoms?

The first symptom of a miscarriage is usually vaginal bleeding. If the bleeding is only light and there is little or no pain the baby is probably okay. This is known as a threatened miscarriage, your doctor will usually recommend that you rest and take it easy for awhile. If you notice any bleeding during your pregnancy you should contact your doctor or midwife for help and advice.

Other symptoms to look out for include:

  • Cramping pains in your stomach.
  • Very heavy bleeding – often with clots of blood.
  • Mild to severe back pain.
  • Nausea and dizziness.

Typically, the symptoms of a miscarriage worsen as the condition progresses.

What happens after a miscarriage?

After a miscarriage you should have a heavy period for a few days, this will decrease over a week or two. If you have had a miscarriage or suspect you might be having one, you should consult your doctor. It will usually be recommended that you have a minor operation called a D & C (Dilation and Curettage), to ensure that your uterus (womb) has been completely emptied.

When can I try again?

It is sensible to wait until you have had at least one normal period, this should come 6-7 weeks after the miscarriage. However, wait until you feel sure you are ready in yourself to cope with another pregnancy. There is no wrong or right time to try again, you have to go with your feelings.

Will it happen again?

Having a miscarriage doesn’t make it more likely that you will miscarry again. If you have 3 miscarriages in a row, your doctor may suggest doing some tests to ensure that it isn’t happening for a reason. The reassuring news is, that most couples who have had a miscarriage go on to have a healthy baby in the future. Miscarriage does not mean that you will not be able to get pregnant again.

A condition known as Hughes Syndrome, sticky blood or antiphospholipid syndrome is a possible cause of recurrent miscarriages. Hughes Syndrome occurs when you have antiphospholipid antibodies present in the blood. These antibodies make the immune system work harder, increasing blood clotting. In pregnancy, this affects the placenta, preventing vital nutrients getting to the growing baby. For more information on Hughes Syndrome click here.