A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 23 weeks. The main sign of a miscarriage is vaginal bleeding. This may be followed by cramping and pain in the lower abdomen.
An ectopic pregnancy is one that develops in the fallopian tubes instead of in the womb. Sometimes an ectopic pregnancy can also develop in the abdominal cavity. An ectopic pregnancy is a serious, life-threatening condition and will end in miscarriage.
On this page
- General UK miscarriage statistics
- Risk of miscarriage after 12 weeks
- Risk of miscarriage by week of pregnancy
- Risk of recurrent miscarriage
- IVF and miscarriage risk
- Why miscarriage happens
Things that affect your risk of miscarriage
- Your age
- Your partner’s age
- Previous pregnancy history
Most miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks, known as early pregnancy.
Many miscarriages in the first trimester are caused by chromosomal abnormalities (problems in development) in the baby but it is thought that around half have underlying causes.
- An estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage (1 in 5 if we only count women who realised/reported the miscarriage)
- Around 11 in 1,000 pregnancies are ectopic
- About 1 in 100 women in the UK experience recurrent miscarriages (3 or more in a row)
- More than 6 in 10 of women who have a recurrent miscarriage go on to have a successful pregnancy
The risk of miscarriage greatly reduces in the second trimester. This is called late miscarriage.
- Around 1-2 in 100 women have a miscarriage in the second trimester
Reliable research and statistics breaking down the risk of miscarriage by week of pregnancy don’t really exist.
Most women are very aware of the rate of miscarriage falling by the end of week 12 and this is supported by a lot of research, but there is another point earlier that the risk also goes down.
According to one study, once a pregnancy gets past 6/7 weeks and has a heartbeat, the risk of having a miscarriage drops to around 10%.
Many women will not be aware of this point and commonly the heartbeat is not checked until the first ultrasound scan around week11/12, but those who have had fertility treatment or are having early scans for other reasons will be able to date their pregnancy accurately and will know when they have passed this milestone.
Recurrent miscarriage is 3 or more miscarriages in a row.
- After each miscarriage your risk of another increases
- 1 in 100 women experience recurrent miscarriage
- If the cause is unknown, 6 out of 10 women who have had three miscarriages will go on to have a baby.
- The cause is unknown in around half of cases of recurrent miscarriages
- One research study of more than 300 women with a history of recurrent miscarriage showed that those who saw a heartbeat at 6 weeks of pregnancy had a 78% chance of the pregnancy continuing. It also showed that seeing a heartbeat at 8 weeks increased the chance of a continuing pregnancy to 98% and at 10 weeks that went up to 99.4%.
Research suggests that assisted reproduction (in vitro fertilisation etc) has a small, if any, increased risk of miscarriage in itself as a treatment. The usual risks of age, father's age and previous pregnancy history apply.
We have information on the known causes of early, late and recurrent miscarriage here.
But too often health professionals are not able to tell women why they have had a miscarriage. This area of research is underfunded, with many taking an unhelpful (and unique to pregnancy) approach of ‘It was not meant to be’.
Research into why miscarriage happens is the only way we can save lives and prevent future loss. In 2016, Tommy’s opened the UK’s first national centre dedicated to miscarriage research.
Join us for change
Together we can make a difference. We need everyone's help to change the statistics and find out why miscarriages happen. You can sign up today to support Tommy's work.
Miscarriage causes untold pain to families
Leanne had three miscarriages
“I found myself in a very dark place. I had chosen to keep my losses a secret from everyone. I started to make excuses not to go to family events... I put my friendships on the line by not contacting anyone. In a cruel way my miscarriages started to rule my life.”
Media requests about miscarriage
We have clinicians, scientists, researchers and case studies available to speak about miscarriage for press and media. If you are interested in speaking to a clinician from the Tommy's miscarriage research centre, contact Hannah Blake, telephone: 07730 039361 or email [email protected].
[i] NICE (2012) Ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage: diagnosis and initial management Clinical guideline 154 Published: 12 December 2012 https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg154/resources/ectopic-pregnancy-and-m...
[ii] NICE (2012) Ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage: diagnosis and initial management Clinical guideline 154 Published: 12 December 2012 https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg154/resources/ectopic-pregnancy-and-m...
[iii] RCOG.(2011) The investigation and treatment of couples with recurrent first-trimester and second-trimester miscarriage. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Green-top guideline, 17. London: RCOG press.
[iv] Nybo Andersen, A M et al. (2000) “Maternal age and fetal loss: population based register linkage study” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 320,7251 (2000): 1708-12.
[v] ONS (2017) Births in England and Wales 2017, Office of National Statistics, London, England, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarri...
[vi] Tong S1, Kaur A, Walker SP, Bryant V, Onwude JL, Permezel M. Miscarriage risk for asymptomatic women after a normal first-trimester prenatal visit. Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Mar;111(3):710-4. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e318163747c.
[vii] RCOG.(2011) The investigation and treatment of couples with recurrent first-trimester and second-trimester miscarriage. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Green-top guideline, 17. London: RCOG press.
[viii] Duckitt K, Qureshi A (2011) Recurrent miscarriage. BMJ Clinical Evidence.
[ix] RCOG (2012) Recurrent and late miscarriage: tests and treatment of couples: information for you. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.London: RCOG press.
[x] ACOG (2012) Evaluation and treatment of recurrent pregnancy loss: a committee opinion. The Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Birmingham, Alabama. November 2012 Volume 98, Issue 5, Pages 1103–1111 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2012.06.048
[xi] S.A.Brigham, C.Conlon and R.G.Farquharson1 (1999) A longitudinal study of pregnancy outcome following idiopathic recurrent miscarriage. Human Reproduction vol.14 no.11 pp.2868-2871
[xii] Schieve, Laura A. PhD; Tatham, Lilith DVM et al (2003) Spontaneous Abortion Among Pregnancies Conceived Using Assisted Reproductive Technology in the United States. Obstetrics & Gynecology: May 2003 - Volume 101 - Issue 5 - p 959–967
[xiii] Wang JX1, Norman RJ et al (2004) Incidence of spontaneous abortion among pregnancies produced by assisted reproductive technology. Hum Reprod. 2004 Feb;19(2):272-7.
[vi] Jansen RP (1982) Spontaneous abortion incidence in the treatment of infertility. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1982 Jun 15;143(4):451-73.
Roslyn and Paul from South Ayrshire in Scotland had an early miscarriage before getting pregnant with their first daughter Ava who is now 4 years old. They went on to lose another 3 babies before getting a referral to Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research at University Hospital in Coventry. Their second daughter, Ciara, was born in April 2019 and is now 7 months old.
Neither of us had ever contemplated miscarriage - it simply wasn’t in our thoughts. Yes we’d of course heard of it, but we never for one moment thought it would happen to us.
Danielle and her husband Paul experienced a missed miscarriage before their first daughter Eva, 5, was born. They had 3 more heartbreaking losses before self-referring to Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research at Birmingham Women’s Hospital. Danielle gave birth to baby Louie in July 2019.
”If I can help just one person get through this awful experience, then it is worth it. I want people to know that they are not alone.”
Sarah and Adam had their first son Brodie in 2015. They suffered four heart-breaking losses before being referred to the Tommy’s research centre at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. With the support of Professor Andy Shennan, Sarah gave birth to baby Ari.
Lisa and Ryan lost their son Dylan at 16 weeks. They self-referred to the Tommy’s clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital where they found the hope to try again. They have just completed their sixth IVF attempt which ended in a chemical pregnancy.
Emma experienced 5 losses before her rainbow baby, Theodora, was born in December 2018.
Shema and her husband Ian lost their firstborn son, Altair, at 21 weeks. After discovering she had a rare condition, she was supported to full term in her next pregnancy by Professor Alex Heazell and the Tommy’s team at St Mary’s in Manchester.
It took us 4 years to have a child. But on 31 Aug 2014 Emelia was born and is a wonderful little girl, happy and living life to the full.
I thought I would challenge myself by doing something in their memory. Something I will be able to look back on and have something proper to remember them by. For me and my wife in memory of our two snowdrops Sam and Sarese Larkin.
Willow is our little symbol that anything is possible.
We will never know why we lost our first child, but we will honour him. I will be running, not only for Tommy's but in his memory and in his honour.