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, please contact the press office on 0207 398 3436 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.
Helen and Rick had a long and difficult journey to parenthood, with several rounds of fertility treatment and a heart-breaking late miscarriage before their rainbow baby Parker arrived at Tommy’s Birmingham clinic.
James and his wife have sadly lost four babies since they started trying to conceive in 2017. In this blog, James reflects on miscarriage from a partner’s perspective, and the complex emotions that Father’s Day stirs up when grieving your children.
Craig, 36, lives in North Wales with his fiancée Kerry and her 6-year-old son Jacob. His job as a radio presenter and station director was difficult after the loss of their baby boy Ellis, having to entertain listeners while battling grief, but he’s now using his talent for public speaking to break the silence on miscarriage by sharing their family’s story.
Jonathan is 27 and lives in Wigan with his wife Michaela. Jonathan is a father to his son, Zachary, born sleeping, and his daughter, Amelie Autumn, who was born on 16 June 2020.
Priyah and Markus from North London started trying for a baby in 2018. Sadly, in the past 2 years, they have experienced 2 miscarriages. In this blog, Markus reflects on what it feels like to lose a baby from a partner’s perspective.
Nicola sadly experienced a miscarriage just before her 12-week scan. As a doctor, she was not used to being in hospital as a patient - but has been inspired to share her story by the support she received.
Jag and her husband coped with the loss of their son in very different ways. In this blog, she reflects on the grieving process and the support that has helped her to manage the pain of her ‘favourite what if’.
Lara and her husband Joseph went through 9 rounds of IVF and experienced 2 miscarriages before making the decision to stop trying to conceive. In this blog, Lara reflects on the journey she has been on to find meaning and happiness in a life without children.
I had 3 miscarriages before being referred to Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research at University Hospital Coventry. Now I’m pregnant again, but the coronavirus pandemic means having to find new ways to get the care and support you so desperately need when pregnant after loss.
After giving birth to her son Noah in 2012, Faye and her husband Dean had 3 miscarriages. In 2015, Faye took part in the PRISM trial led by researchers at Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research. Her daughter Leila was born in 2016.
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.