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Miscarriage - Topic Overview

This topic is about the loss of a baby before 20 weeks of pregnancy. For information about the loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before the baby is born, see the topic Stillbirth.

A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks. It is usually your body's way of ending a pregnancy that has had a bad start. The loss of a pregnancy can be very hard to accept. You may wonder why it happened or blame yourself. But a miscarriage is no one's fault, and you can't prevent it.

Miscarriages are very common. For women who already know they are pregnant, about 1 out of 6 have a miscarriage.1 It is also common for a woman to have a miscarriage before she even knows that she is pregnant.

Most miscarriages happen because the fertilized egg in the uterus does not develop normally. A miscarriage is not caused by stress, exercise, or sex. In many cases, doctors don't know what caused the miscarriage.

The risk of miscarriage is lower after the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy.

Common signs of a miscarriage include:

  • Bleeding from the vagina. The bleeding may be light or heavy, constant or off and on. It can sometimes be hard to know whether light bleeding is a sign of miscarriage. But if you have bleeding with pain, the chance of a miscarriage is higher.
  • Pain in the belly, lower back, or pelvis.
  • Tissue that passes from the vagina.

Call your doctor if you think you are having a miscarriage. If your symptoms and a pelvic exam do not show whether you are having a miscarriage, your doctor can do tests to see if you are still pregnant.

No treatment can stop a miscarriage. As long as you do not have heavy blood loss, a fever, weakness, or other signs of infection, you can let a miscarriage follow its own course. This can take several days.

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