Early miscarriage: Signs, symptoms and getting the support you need

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Losing a baby at any stage of pregnancy can be deeply upsetting and traumatising for any family, and it affects everyone differently.

An early miscarriage refers to a miscarriage that happens in the first trimester, which is up to 12 weeks, of your pregnancy. Most miscarriages happen during this early stage.

What are the symptoms of an early miscarriage?

Remember, not all bleeding during pregnancy means you're having a miscarriage. Light vaginal bleeding is fairly common during the first trimester of pregnancy, but if you do have any bleeding, you should check in with your GP just to be on the safe side.

The most common sign of an early miscarriage is vaginal bleeding. The blood can be in the form of light spotting, brown discharge, heavy bleeding and clotting and usually comes and goes over the course of a few days.

Some women may not experience any symptoms at all. This is known as a silent miscarriage and can be diagnosed with an ultrasound.

Other symptoms of an early miscarriage include cramping in the lower tummy, vaginal discharge, a discharge of tissue from your vagina and an end to any pregnancy symptoms you may have been experiencing such as breast tenderness or nausea.

When to seek medical help

In many cases, a miscarriage will be over in a few days and you won't need any medical treatment. However, if your miscarriage doesn't fully come away from the womb or if your miscarriage is picked up through an ultrasound, you will need some help to complete the miscarriage. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the options to find the best path for you.

In very rare ocassions, an early miscarriage can occur when the embryo starts to develop outside of the womb, usually in one of the falopian tubes. This is known as an ectopic pregnancy and can be very serious. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Severe stomach pain (usually on one side)

  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting after the pain has started

  • Diarrhoea and sickness

  • Feeling lightheaded and faint

  • A pain in your shoulder tip

If you suspect you might be suffering from an ectopic pregnancy you should visit your nearest A&E immediately or call 999 for an ambulance if you're unable to get there.

What causes an early miscarriage?

Sadly, early miscarriages are common, with around 1 in 5 women experiencing miscarriages for no reason at all.

Two of the most common reasons thought to cause miscarriages are chromosomal problems and placenta issues. If there are problems with the chromosomes, it can cause genetic abnormalities with the normal development of the baby, meaning the baby in many cases is unable to grow. If there are issues with the placenta and it cannot link to your baby to support it, it can also lead to miscarriage.

Finding support after a miscarriage

Recovering from a miscarriage can be a difficult and long process. If you feel like you need to talk to someone or need some support and guidance following a miscarriage, we've put together some useful resources that may help.

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