A late miscarriage is one which happens after the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, but before 24 weeks – in the second trimester of your pregnancy. Losing a baby after 24 weeks is called a stillbirth.
Causes of late miscarriage
Late miscarriages are much less common than early miscarriages. They may be caused by the factors listed below, but many losses remain unexplained at the moment, so many of the studies at the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research looks at why they happen and how to prevent them.
Late miscarriage has many of the same causes as preterm birth, which is the birth of a baby between 24 and 37 weeks of pregnancy.
These are known causes of late miscarriage.
Cervical weakness/cervical insufficiency
A cervix (the neck of the womb) that is weak or dilates (opens) too soon can lead to a late miscarriage. This cervical weakness can be caused by surgery on the cervix after an abnormal smear. If this is a known risk for you, you may be offered a scan to measure the length of your cervix and you may need a stitch in your cervix to prevent miscarriage.
An infection that develops in the womb (intrauterine infection) during pregnancy can result in miscarriage. This is rare as the womb is protected by the cervix.
Some long term chronic health conditions can increase your risk of late miscarriage. These include diabetes (if it’s not well controlled), severe high blood pressure, kidney disease, an overactive or underactive thyroid and coeliac disease.
Medicines and alternative therapies
Some medicines and alternative therapies such as plant extracts and aromatherapy oils can increase the risk of miscarriage, so to be sure a medicine is safe to use in pregnancy always check with a doctor, midwife or pharmacist before taking it.
Other rare problems
There are a few other rare structural problems which can inhibit either the attachment of the placenta, or growth of the baby, and may lead to miscarriage. These include an abnormal womb shape and large fibroids which grow into the womb. These problems can sometimes be solved by surgery before pregnancy.
Sarah and her husband sadly experienced a miscarriage at 21 weeks. They met their baby boy, Alex, after he was born, and still treasure the images and footprints captured by their midwife. This is Alex’s story.
Although she was tiny, no longer than my palm, she was so wonderfully wrapped in a blanket.
Everything in my pregnancy had been going fine, no problems at all. We had been to America for 2 weeks, I had awful travel sickness but other than that I was fine.
A list of the best supportive blogs, instagram and Facebook accounts from parents who have gone through miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, neonatal death and termination for medical reasons (TMFR)
Knowing what and what not to say to people after the loss of a baby can be difficult. We have come up with a list to help you better comfort a bereaved loved one.
A late miscarriage may be treated differently to early miscarriages.
- RCOG (2012) Recurrent and late miscarriage: tests and treatment of couples, information for you, London Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
ℹLast reviewed on August 1st, 2016. Next review date August 1st, 2019.