Miscarriage at a glance:

  • Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss and typically occurs before the seventh week of pregnancy.
  • Initial signs of a miscarriage may include bleeding or cramping.
  • Typically there are no known causes of miscarriage; some cases do occur, however, due to chromosomal abnormalities, trauma, illness, obesity or drug and alcohol abuse, among other reasons.
  • Women who suspect they’ve had a miscarriage should contact their doctor.

What is a miscarriage?

A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy.

Many medical professionals estimate that half of all fertilized eggs die before they develop, even before the woman knows she is pregnant. For those women who do know they are pregnant, almost 20 percent will have a miscarriage.

The majority of miscarriages occur before the seventh week of pregnancy. The rate of miscarriage goes down after a heartbeat is detected.

The risk of miscarriage is higher in older women, starting at age 30 but increasing between ages 35 to 40. It is highest for women age 40 and older. The risk of miscarriage is also higher for those who have had a previous miscarriage.

Initial signs of a miscarriage may include bleeding or cramping. However, this does not always mean that a miscarriage will definitely occur. If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor.

Going through a miscarriage is a heart-wrenching experience. For many, it is both a physical and emotional loss. Having a miscarriage does not mean you cannot have children in the future and the majority of women go on to have children without problem.

If you experience a miscarriage, take time to acknowledge and grieve your loss. It helps to surround yourself with supportive and caring people that can help you through this time.

Learn more about miscarriage management and support

Symptoms of a miscarriage

Signs that you may be having a miscarriage include:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Low back pain or abdominal pain that is dull, sharp, or cramping
  • Passing tissue or clot-like material from the vagina

Call your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms or have questions.

Causes of miscarriage

Often, there is no known cause for a miscarriage. It is believed that many miscarriages are caused by chromosomal problems that stop the fetus from developing. In most cases, this is unrelated to either parent’s genes.

In some instances, miscarriage can be caused by other factors, including:

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Illness
  • An immune response
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Problems in the mother’s reproductive organs (such as abnormal uterine shape)
  • Hormonal problems
  • Exposure to toxins in the environment
  • Trauma to the body­­

After experiencing the trauma of two miscarriages, Michelle received a custom plan

Medical miscarriage management

To determine if you have had a miscarriage, your health care provider may do a pelvic exam to see if the cervix has opened or thinned.  Your health provider may also perform an abdominal or vaginal ultrasound to check for the fetus’ development and heartbeat.

Your doctor may also perform one or more of the following tests:

  • HCG (pregnancy hormone level) to determine pregnancy
  • Blood type (if you have an Rh-negative blood type, you would require a treatment with Rh-immune globulin).
  • Blood count (to see how much blood has been lost)

Learn more about miscarriage management