A miscarriage is called an ‘early’ miscarriage or a 'first trimester' miscarriage if it happens within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Most miscarriages occur during this period.
Causes of early miscarriage
Most early miscarriages are caused by genetic problems within the developing baby but a poorly formed placenta can also cause problems.
Chromosomes are blocks of DNA which contain the instructions for developing every single part of your baby. They are found inside every single cell of the body. When something goes wrong at conception or during the development of the baby’s chromosomes, it 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 these problems don’t mean there is any problem with your own chromosomes 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.
The placenta is an organ which links your blood supply to the baby’s. This life-giving link is essential to a developing baby, so if there is a problem with the development of the placenta, it can also lead to miscarriage.
A chemical pregnancy is the term given to a pregnancy which ends in miscarriage before the fifth week of gestation.
Missed miscarriage can come as a big shock as there are none of the usual signs of miscarriage, such as bleeding or pain.
If you start to miscarry naturally, and experience some bleeding, this indicates that the pregnancy is over and the process of losing your baby is underway.
- NICE (2012) Ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage: diagnosis and initial management in early pregnancy of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, clinical guideline CG154, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
- Stillbirth (Definition) Act 1992, Definition of stillborn child, Section 1(1), London The Stationery Office, 1992
- RCOG (2008) Early miscarriage: information for you, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, , 2008
- RCOG (2008) Bleeding and Pain in early pregnancy: information for you, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2008
- 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.
By Mary (not verified) on 12 Jul 2019 - 19:04
Am 42yrs, am 8wks pregnant but for the last 4days I have been discharging dark brown thick tissues. I went for scan today n expression was threatened miscarriage. Kindly advice
By Gill (not verified) on 26 May 2019 - 20:03
Following a small amount of spotting last thursday I went to hospital and had a scan which suggested things were not positive. Three days later I am having a miscarriage with painful contractions and very little bleeding and this has been going on for hours. Ironically the pain and length of time of the miscarriage is far worse and longer than that of the birth of my two children 1 hr 30 mins and 10 mins requiring no pain relief. I think it is terribly sad that women have a scan told it's not looking positive, sent home (and not necessarily with anyone at home to help) with a miscarriage leaflet not knowing what's going to happen and when, not knowing what to say to the employer or how long you will be off work for. It has been and is one of the most distressing emotional and physical experiences, left almost abandoned.
By Chevone (not verified) on 31 Mar 2019 - 19:29
Hi I’m about 5/6weeks pregnant and have been spotting for about 6days now could I be misscarrying?
By Anonymous (not verified) on 6 Jul 2019 - 21:33
Please check, sometimes spotting is possible in pregnancy as well.
By Agnes (not verified) on 30 Mar 2019 - 19:45
I am 42 and really wanted a baby.I was so happy when I found out I am pregnant.Till my miscarriage 2 days ago my pregnancy went so well without any strangle .During my scan I was told that there is no heart beat.2 days ago I was pregnant with head of full of dreams and plans and now it is all over..Tears can’t stop coming.
By Chris (not verified) on 7 Jul 2019 - 23:08
Hi. I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. I notice it was the end of March you had your miscarriage which was the same time my partner had surgery for an ectopic pregnancy at 7 weeks. She is only a few months from being 42 so we’re in a similar situation, time is not on our side. Not sure if it has worked naturally for you but we have needed to take clomid from a private doctor as well as having acupuncture which has resulted in 2 pregnancies which both ended at 7 weeks. We think taking progesterone pessaries after ovulation up until 12 weeks may help as our second baby was still alive and had a strong heartbeat unfortunately she was stuck in the Fallopian tube so needed to be taken out. We were taking progesterone for this baby after we identified it might have been a factor in losing the first baby but we didn’t take the progesterone until after we found out about the pregnancy, we think possibly if we took the progesterone after ovulation it might have helped the egg through to the womb rather than getting stuck. Stress apparently is the progesterone killer so you need to do all you can to avoid stress. I thought I’d let you know our situation as we’ve done lots of research and it would have been nice if someone had been there to give us more help and information. The Miscarriage Association are quite good, they helped my partner and they provide stars of remembrance on their website. Anyway, I’m rambling. I hope some of this might be useful.
By Roisin (not verified) on 16 Feb 2019 - 10:56
Hello, I’ve had two miscarriages in 4 months. I’m scared of this happening again after all the pain we’ve been through. Have you any research centres in N.ireland or ireland?
By Midwife @Tommys on 21 Feb 2019 - 11:04
Hi Roisin, Thank you for your comment.
We as so sorry to hear about your recent miscarriages, this must be a very difficult time for you and your family. We don't currently have a research centre in Northern Ireland but we can always give you information about our centres in London, Coventry and Birmingham. Please email the Tommy's Midwives on [email protected] Hope this helps, take care, Tommy's Midwives x
By Gretchen (not verified) on 5 Feb 2019 - 14:52
Am 6 weeks preggy and experiencing now a lil brown stain in my liner and have miscarriage last year. What should I do that it won't happened to me what happened last year.
By Wanita Jackson (not verified) on 20 Jan 2019 - 12:42
My daughter has just had a miscarriage in the Maldives, shes in the hospital where they want to do a D&C but she wants to come home and have it in the UK what's the danger? what should i advise her?
By Sabila Fred (not verified) on 17 Jan 2019 - 20:54
Hi my wife has got miscarriages many time at 13 to14 weeks so far 4 miscarriages and I need solution from you. Thanks
By Midwife @Tommys on 18 Jan 2019 - 13:42
I am so sorry to hear about what you and your wife are going through at the moment. If you have been through 4 miscarriages then you can be referred to a recurrent miscarriage clinic where they can do some tests and investigations to see if they can support you both in a future pregnancy.
By Aysha (not verified) on 11 Dec 2018 - 13:58
Can u have miscarriage on 12 weeks and 2 days
By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Dec 2018 - 15:38
Hi Aysha, Thank you for your comment.
It is possible to have a miscarriage at any stage of pregnancy up until 24 weeks. After 12 weeks, the risk of miscarriage does drop, so the chance of this happening is reduce, but there is still always a risk that they can happen. Hope this helps, Take Care, Tommy's Midwives x