Around one in five women will suffer a miscarriage at some point in their lives. It’s never an easy thing to go through, but as part of the healing process, it can help to understand exactly what has happened
The pain, grief and sense of loss that comes from having a miscarriage can be indescribable, and it’s often hard to move past such a difficult experience – especially when it comes to being around friends with children and even trying to become pregnant again.
As well as leaning on your support network at such a difficult time, it can perhaps also help to understand the experience you’ve been through – and begin the healing process.
What is a miscarriage?
It’s the name given when a pregnancy ends before 24 weeks. If you miscarry in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester), it is called an ‘early miscarriage’ – around three quarters happen in this initial stage when some women don’t yet realise they’re pregnant. A miscarriage after the 12-week mark is called a ‘late miscarriage’.
The symptoms and signs of miscarriage
The most common symptom of miscarriage is vaginal bleeding. You’d either have a light brown discharge, or heavy bleeding and bright red blood that gradually reduces to a stop after a few days.
Light vaginal bleeding during your first trimester of pregnancy is common, so try not to automatically jump into panic mode. Sill contact your maternity team or early pregnancy unit at your local hospital immediately, just to be sure everything’s ok.
If, however, you experience heavy and painful bleeding, severe abdominal pain and are feeling faint and light-headed you should immediately go to your nearest A&E department.
Other symptoms include cramping and pain in your lower abdomen, as well as discharge of fluid or tissue from your vagina. Again, you need to contact your doctor straight away if you experience this.
What causes a miscarriage?
The NHS estimates that up to two thirds of early miscarriages are related to chromosome abnormalities. A fetus needs to have 23 chromosomes (blocks of DNA-carrying genes) from the father’s sperm and 23 from the mother’s egg to make a full set.
Abnormalities often happen when a baby receives the wrong number of chromosomes. Problems with the development of the placenta or the fetus developing outside the womb can also lead to a miscarriage.
A late miscarriage – after 12 weeks – could be down to health problems such as diabetes, infection, severe high blood pressure and problems with the cervix, uterus or placenta. But, pinning down exactly why you’ve miscarried can be tricky.
Other factors affecting your chance of miscarriage include smoking, alcohol and excessive caffeine
What affects your chances of having a miscarriage?
Research suggests that age does play a role. Women under 30 have a one in 10 chance of having a pregnancy end in miscarriage, while women between 35 and 39 have a one in five chance, according to the NHS. If you are an older mum-to-be, however, you still have a very good chance of delivering a healthy baby to term.
Other factors affecting your chance of miscarriage include smoking, alcohol and excessive caffeine. Doctors recommend no more than 200mg of caffeine in a day (that’s around two mugs of instant coffee) and to limit yourself to two units of alcohol a week (equivalent to a small glass of wine).
The main thing to remember in any case is that feeling grief, shock and pain is completely normal, so don’t be afraid to take the time you need and accept the support around you.