What is a miscarriage, what are the signs and causes and how common are they in early pregnancy?

A MISCARRIAGE is the term used when describing the loss of a baby during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Sadly, they are far more common than many people assume.

And the experience can be emotionally devastating for both mum and dad.

But what exactly is a miscarriage, what are the signs and how regularly do they occur? Here's all the information…

What is a miscarriage and what are the causes?

A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first three months of pregnancy, with a "late miscarriage" defined by the charity Tommy's as between 14 and 24 weeks.

There are many reasons why a miscarriage can occur, but the majority are not caused by anything a mother has done.

Most of the time a woman won't find out why she had a miscarriage, which can make the ordeal more distressing.

In the first trimester of pregnancy, usually a miscarriage is the result of a problem with the unborn baby.

The NHS says a common cause is thought to be abnormal chromosomes in the foetus.

If a baby has not enough or too many chromosomes, a chance event, it will be unable to grow or develop properly.

In about two to five per cent of miscarriages, genetics are to blame if a partner has an abnormality in one of their chromosomes they are not aware of.

There could be a problem with the development of the placenta, starving the baby of blood and nutrients.

In the second trimester, a weak cervix, an infection or STI, the shape of the mother's womb and PCOS and even food poisoning are all causes of miscarriage.

Tommy's says  "there are several factors that may play a part in causing recurrent and late miscarriage".

This includes blood clotting disorders, thyroid problems, cervical weaknesses and possibly immune cells zapping fertility.

Many women who miscarry go on to have successful pregnancies in the future.

But for those who have a late miscarriage, or recurrent ones, tests may be done to discover why.

How common are miscarriages?

Miscarriages are a lot more common than most people think, affecting one in eight pregnancies, the NHS says.

Many more miscarriages happen before a woman knows she is pregnant.

Recurring miscarriages, which are when three or more pregnancies are lost in a row, are less common, affecting one in 100 women.

Miscarriages become more common as women age. In women under 30, one in 10 pregnancies end in miscarriage, which raises to five in 10 in women over 45.

What are the signs?

The most clear sign a woman is having a miscarriage is bleeding, varying from light spotting to heavy blood clots.

But bear in mind, some bleeding during the first three months of pregnancy is normal and does not necessarily mean a miscarriage – contact the maternity team or GP as soon as possible.

Other symptoms of a miscarriage include:

  • cramping and pain in your lower tummy
  • a discharge of fluid from your vagina
  • a discharge of tissue from your vagina
  • no longer experiencing the symptoms of pregnancy, such as feeling sick and breast tenderness

Can miscarriages be prevented?

Most miscarriages can't be prevented.

There are ways you can lower the risk of one, however, such as avoiding smoking, drugs and consuming alcohol during the pregnancy.

Being a healthy weight and following a healthy diet can help reduce your risk of infection during pregnancy.

If a woman has suffered over three miscarriages, some women can take medication under the care of a specialist to help keep their pregnancy.

Which celebrities have raised awareness for miscarriage?

Tonnes of celebrities have shared their sadness at going through a miscarriage, given it is so common.

The former Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle opened up about suffering a miscarriage in a personal essay in 2020.

In the article for the New York Times, she described the feeling as "an almost unbearable grief".

Myleene Klass compared the heartbreak of suffering four miscarriages to going to war, saying: “It nearly broke me.”

Comedian Katherine Ryan recently detailed her experience of two miscarriages in quick succession her memoir The Audacity, saying "I didn't really understand how common it was until it happened to me".

Coronation Street's Michelle Connor and husband Steve McDonald suffered a heartbreaking miscarriage on the show in 2016.

In the wake of the tragic storyline both actors, Kym Marsh and Simon Gregson, bravely spoke about their devastating experiences of losing their own babies in miscarriages.

Simon made a heart-wrenching revelation on Twitter that his wife Emma Gleave has suffered 11 miscarriages, while Kym lost baby Archie seconds after he was born prematurely at just 21 weeks in 2009.

Giovanna Fletcher, I'm A Celebrity winner who has three children with McFly's Tom, has also opened up about her heartbreaking miscarriage and the aftermath of the tragedy.

Danniella Westbrook is another famous face to speak out about how losing her baby affected her life.

And Jamie Oliver's wife Jools confessed that a devastating miscarriage has prevented her enjoying pregnancy.

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