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What is a miscarriage?

Miscarriage is when you lose a pregnancy before the 20th week of pregnancy. The medical term for miscarriage is “spontaneous abortion.”

When does miscarriage happen?

Miscarriage usually happens early in pregnancy. Eight out of 10 miscarriages happen in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

How common is miscarriage?

Miscarriage is common. Lots of people experience this kind of pregnancy loss. In fact, 10–20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

Even though miscarriage is common, it can be emotionally difficult. Feelings of grief and loss are normal after losing a pregnancy.

What are the causes of miscarriages?

It can be difficult to know exactly why a miscarriage happened, but it’s almost never caused by something the pregnant person did. Feeling stressed, having sex, exercising, and taking most medicines do NOT cause a miscarriage. Minor injuries, like falling, don’t generally cause a miscarriage, either.

Some things that cause miscarriages include:

  • When the fertilized egg has an abnormal number of chromosomes (genes). This happens at random to about half of miscarriages, so you can't cause or prevent it.
  • Certain illnesses, like severe diabetes, can increase your chances of having a miscarriage.
  • A very serious infection or a major injury may cause miscarriage.
  • Abnormalities in your uterus like fibroid tumors may cause a late miscarriage, which is a miscarriage that happens after 3 months of pregnancy.
  • If you’ve had more than 2 miscarriages in a row, you’re more likely to have a miscarriage. That doesn't mean you caused any miscarriages.

What are the different types of miscarriages?

There are several types of miscarriages:

  • Inevitable miscarriage — You have bleeding that increases, and your cervix opens. If this happens, there’s no chance for your pregnancy to continue.
  • Incomplete miscarriage — Some pregnancy tissue comes out of your uterus, and some stays inside. You may need follow-up treatment to remove the remaining tissue.
  • Complete miscarriage — All the pregnancy tissue comes out of your uterus. You usually don’t need any extra treatment.
  • Missed miscarriage — You don’t have cramps or bleeding. But an ultrasound shows an embryo without cardiac activity or an empty pregnancy sac without an embryo. Usually the tissue passes out of your uterus on its own, but you may need treatment.

What are the treatments for miscarriage?

There are 3 ways to treat a miscarriage:

  1. Just wait and see if the pregnancy tissue passes through the vagina on its own. How long this takes varies — it can take up to a week or more, depending on your situation. 
  2. Use medicines with the support of a nurse or doctor like misoprostol and/or mifepristone to make the uterus contract and pass the pregnancy tissue. Medicines often work faster than the wait-and-see approach. 
  3. Have a suction procedure, where a nurse or doctor puts a thin plastic tube in your uterus and removes the pregnancy tissue with gentle suction. This is the quickest way to complete a miscarriage and works the best. It’s also similar to a method used for abortion.

Miscarriages can be dangerous if they’re not treated. Call your doctor right away if you have any signs or symptoms of miscarriage. They’ll help you choose the right treatment option for you.

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