Miscarriage is an event that results in the loss of a foetus in early pregnancy, usually before 12 weeks. This occurs in 1 in 5-6 pregnancies. There are different names applied to different types of miscarriage.
Uterine bleeding with the cervix (neck of the womb) still closed and a heartbeat present on the ultrasound is termed a threatened miscarriage – most of these settle without any continuing problems.
If the cervix opens, then the pregnancy may come away resulting in a loss of the foetus. If a pregnancy comes away completely then it is called a complete miscarriage. If some products remain in the uterus then it is called an incomplete miscarriage.
Occasionally, with or without bleeding, a pregnancy fails to continue but does not come away. This is termed a missed miscarriage. A missed miscarriage or an incomplete miscarriage will require removal of the pregnancy products. This may involve surgery.
The cause of miscarriage varies and in many cases remains unknown. A miscarriage does not necessarily mean that there is anything medically wrong with a woman or her partner and does not mean that they cannot have children in the future. Repeated miscarriages should be investigated by your doctor.
A stillbirth is the birth of a baby who is born without any signs of life at or after 24 weeks of pregnancy. There are wide-ranging reasons why this may happen. These include a placental problem, genetic factors, mum's health, age and lifestyle, and infection.
There is no normal range of emotions to feel when there is a pregnancy loss. Some women and their partners feel grief, distress, confusion, sadness, fear, emptiness or numbness. It is important to know that there are community services available for information and support if needed.
Information and support after a miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death is available at Sands.