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
- Statistics about miscarriage and age
- 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 end in miscarriage (1 in 5 if we only count women who realised/reported the miscarriage)
- Around 11 in 1,000 pregnancies is ectopic
- About 1 in 100 women in the UK experience recurrent miscarriages (three 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.
This graph is from a large study on age and miscarriage and shows the increase in baby loss with increased age of the mother (‘spontaneous abortion’ is the medical term for miscarriage).
- In women of 20, around 15% pregnancies will end in miscarriage
- In women of 25, around 16% pregnancies will end in miscarriage
- In women of 30, around 18% pregnancies will end in miscarriage
- In women of 35, around 22% pregnancies will end in miscarriage
- In women of 40, around 38% pregnancies will end in miscarriage
- In women of 45, around 70% pregnancies will end in miscarriage
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.
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 have a 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.
I’ll never forget seeing our baby on the scan monitor. It no longer looked like our beautiful baby that we saw only a few weeks ago at our 12-week scan. I couldn’t see its little nose, its big belly or tiny foot. I knew something wasn’t right.
I left the hospital and drove to the coast, crying until I had no tears left to cry.
The following weeks all I heard was ‘well it wasn’t meant to be’ but it was.
You don't realise how badly a miscarriage can change you.
What happened to my son is tragic. But he is not. He is a constant source of love and pride in our lives.
In 2018, Lucy & Stephen’s first baby, Reuben, was stillborn at 36 weeks. Here, they tell their story to raise awareness of the continued need for the work of Tommy’s.
I long to be one of those couples that came out of the sonographer's room with their photos. I long to plan my nursery and buy too many baby clothes.
For such a small person, who only had a place in the world for the nine months he was carried, he has brought so much love and is loved by so many people.
This experience has opened my eyes and I want to be part of that change. I don’t want to stand on the side lines. I and other women should never feel ashamed to talk about pregnancy loss.
I think often about those three missing little ones. They’ll never know it but they’re my strength. They’re my compassion. They’re my drive. They’re my resolve.
It means so much to me that I have taken the worst time in my life and managed to make a positive out of it. I really believe in the work that Tommy's do, and it is a comfort to me that I am able to help in a small way.
Marty Hayes wrote about his experience of miscarriage after not knowing where else to turn; 'miscarriage isn’t really the thing you chat about down the pub, or with your mates.'