Early miscarriage

Most miscarriages occur during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriages that happen in this period are called early miscarriages.

An early miscarriage or a first trimester miscarriage is one that happens in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Most miscarriages are early miscarriages.

Losing a baby can be very upsetting. No matter when in your pregnancy you miscarry, you may need support to help you come to terms with what’s happened. You can talk to a Tommy’s midwife for free, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. You can call them on 0800 0147 800 or email [email protected]. All our midwives are trained in bereavement support and will be able to talk to you about what you’re going through.

What are the symptoms of an early miscarriage?

Most women experience vaginal bleeding, but some women have no symptoms at all. This is known as a missed (or silent) miscarriage. You will usually be diagnosed as having a silent miscarriage after an ultrasound scan.

What causes an early miscarriage?

Unfortunately, early miscarriages are very common and 1 in 5 women have a miscarriage for no obvious reason. The most common cause is thought to be a genetic problem within the developing baby, but a poorly formed placenta can also cause problems.

Chromosomal problems

Chromosomes are blocks of DNA which contain instructions for developing every part of your baby.  They are found inside every single cell of the body. Sometimes, things go wrong at conception or during the development of the baby’s chromosomes, which can cause genetic abnormalities. If these problems are incompatible with life, or normal development, you may lose the baby.

It’s estimated that up to nearly half of early miscarriages are associated with chromosomal problems in the baby. But this doesn’t mean there are any problems with your own or your partner’s chromosomes. Most couples who experience miscarriage as a result of chromosomal problems go on to have a healthy baby in the future.

Placental problems

The placenta is an organ which links your blood supply to the baby’s. This life-giving link is essential to a developing baby. If there is a problem with the development of the placenta, it can also lead to a miscarriage.

What happens next?

We have more information about how early miscarriages are managed.

If you have had 3 or more miscarriages in a row, you can ask for tests and investigations to understand why it happened. Many of the studies at the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research look at why miscarriages happen and how to prevent them. Sometimes doctors won’t be able to find a reason. Try not to worry too much if this is the case. Although it is heartbreaking, most couples go on to have a successful pregnancy in the future.

It can be hard to recover from a miscarriage. We have more information about coping after a miscarriage and stories from other people who have also experienced an early miscarriage. We hope these will help you to know you are not alone and there is support out there.

Trying again after a miscarriage

It’s best to ask your doctor whether there are any medical reasons while you should wait for a while before trying to get pregnant again. If there aren’t, it’s up to you when you want to start trying again. Some couples feel they need some time to prepare themselves emotionally and physically for a new pregnancy. You may need to allow yourself time to grieve for your lost baby before you think about the future. Other couples feel trying again will help them come to terms with what has happened.

It is an individual choice and one you need to make as a couple. Find out more about trying again after a miscarriage.

NICE (2019). Ectopic Pregnancy and Miscarriage: Diagnosis and Initial Management National Institute for health and care excellence

https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng126/chapter/Recommendations#early-pregnancy-assessment-services

Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (2016). Early miscarriage. https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-early-miscarriage.pdf

NHS Choices. Your pregnancy week by week. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-week-by-week.aspx#close (Page last reviewed: 22/07/2014. Next review due: 22/07/2016)

Ogasawara M, et al (2000) Embryonic karyotype of abortuses in relation to the number of previous miscarriages. Fertility and Sterility. 2000 Feb;73(2):300-4.

Review dates

Last reviewed: 13 March 2020
Next review: 13 March 2023