Miscarriage - what happens?A miscarriage occurs when the developing baby dies in the womb. Before 24 weeks it is considered a miscarriage, with 80% of all miscarriages occurring in the first eight weeks of pregnancy. After week 24 it is considered a stillbirth. Although there are other causes, the most common is a genetic problem with the developing foetus.
Most miscarriages that happen before week nine will be over within a week from when the bleeding starts. You shouldn't need to stay in hospital unless you have very heavy bleeding or abdominal pain on one side.
Although it's unpleasant, if you notice any blood clots or tissue, try to collect them in a sterile jar to show your doctor. She may conduct an internal exam to check your cervix to see if there is a medical reason for the miscarriage. Most miscarriages at this stage are due to problems in the developing foetus.
If the bleeding stops after two weeks you can be fairly confident the miscarriage is over. But you will need to have a check up with your doctor who may want to check there are no remnants of the pregnancy left in the womb with an ultrasound. If there are, you may need a D&C.
After the third month, miscarriage may feel more like going into labour. It is likely you will have to go to hospital to deliver. This is a distressing experience and can be painful. You will be offered pain relief as with a normal labour and are likely to be given more support by the hospital staff. Find out more about late miscarriage.
Find out more about why miscarriage happens.
Incomplete miscarriage and further treatment
If you have miscarried after week nine or you're still bleeding after two weeks, the miscarriage may be 'incomplete', meaning that your uterus hasn't expelled all the pregnancy tissue.
If your doctor suspects that the miscarriage is incomplete she may book you in for a D&C to ensure that the uterus is cleared of all the pregnancy tissue and prevent infection. If you are diagnosed with an infection then you will be prescribed a course of antibiotics.
Very rarely the foetus dies but the body doesn't get rid of the womb lining and pregnancy tissue. This is known as a missed miscarriage and affects only 1% of pregnancies. Signs of a missed miscarriage might be the disappearance of pregnancy symptoms or a simple feeling that something is wrong. There may be no signs at all, and the miscarriage may be first picked up at a routine ultrasound or check.
You may be given the choice of waiting a few more weeks for the miscarriage to complete on its own or be recommended a D&C.
Find out more:
Signs you might be having a miscarriage
Miscarriage - will it happen again?
Why miscarriage happens
Medical causes of miscarriage
Bleeding in early pregnancy
What is a D&C
What should I expect when I have a D&C?
Coping with miscarriage
How does my body recover from a miscarriage?
Trying again after a miscarriage
After a miscarriage
If you have had a miscarriage, it will take time to heal physically and emotionally. These steps may help you come to terms with your loss. You can also learn more about how your body recovers from a miscarriage and what you can do to help it.
You may also need time before you try again or you may feel ready to try again as soon as your cycle returns to normal after a miscarriage. If you have suffered multiple miscarriages or are concerned it could happen again, speak to your doctor about possible reasons why you have miscarried.