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Experiencing the loss of a baby

Sadly, one in four women will lose a baby during pregnancy or birth. Some pregnancies end early, others develop problems along the way that result in medical complications for both mum and baby.

Miscarriage

A miscarriage is the loss of a baby from the date of a missed period up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. 

You may hear miscarriages described as either ‘early’ or ‘late’. An ‘early miscarriage’ may happen until 12 weeks of pregnancy. A ‘late miscarriage’ may occur between weeks 12 to 24 of pregnancy. A stillbirth is the death of a baby during pregnancy or labour after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

How common are miscarriages?

Miscarriage is most likely to happen during the first 12 weeks of preganncy. Many of these 'early' losses are experienced by women who weren't even aware they were pregnant, and assume the bleeding is the result of a normal period. A 'late' miscarriage, which is much less common, may occur between weeks 13 to 24 of pregnancy. After 24 weeks, the delivery of a baby who has died in the womb is referred to as a stillbirth.

As most miscarriages happen in the early few weeks of pregnancy, many women will not yet have told their friends or family that they were pregnant. Unless someone close to you has had a miscarriage and told you about it, you may not have thought about the subject until you become pregnant yourself.

For many of these women a miscarriage may have occurred so early that they weren’t actually aware that they were pregnant. 

Find out more about miscarriage

Find out more miscarriage statistics

Stillbirth

Unfortunately, around 4,000 babies are stillborn in the UK each year.

Stillbirth refers to the death of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy but before birth. A miscarriage is the loss of a baby before 24 weeks of pregnancy. The medical profession describes stillbirth as either ‘intra-uterine’ or ‘intra-partum’. An intra-uterine stillbirth means that the baby has died in the womb. An intra-partum stillbirth means that the baby dies during labour. 

Read more about stillbirth

Find out more stillbirth statistics

Premature birth

A premature baby is an infant born earlier than usual, somewhere between 24 and 37 weeks pregnant. There are different levels of prematurity, and generally the risk increases the earlier the birth is - babies at highest risk are those born before week 26.

There are numerous causes of premature birth and the effects, treatment and reasons for prematurity are extensively studied. Knowing the stages of growth and development after a preterm baby is born and how to care for your baby is essential to give the best chance of survival.  

Find out more about premature birth

Find out more premature birth statistics

Also in this section

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Read more information about

Miscarriage

Stillbirth

Premature birth

Pre-eclampsia

Toxoplasmosis

Molar pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy


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