Information on the symptoms, signs and causes of a miscarriage and advice on understanding and coping with miscarriage
If a pregnancy ends within the first six months it is known as a miscarriage. Miscarriages are quite common in the first three months of pregnancy. Probably at least one in six clinically recognised pregnancies ends this way. At this stage a miscarriage usually happens because there is something wrong with the baby. A later miscarriage may be due to the placenta not developing or working properly, or the cervix being weak and opening too early in the pregnancy.
An early miscarriage can be rather like a period, with bleeding and a similar sort of aching pain, maybe occurring on and off, happening at the time when a period would have been due. With a later miscarriage, bleeding is likely to be accompanied by pains that feel more like the pains that come with labour.
If you bleed or begin to have pains, you should contact the person who is giving you antenatal care, either at the hospital or your GP's surgery. You may be told to lie down quietly or to come into hospital immediately. Sometimes the bleeding stops by itself and your pregnancy will carry on quite normally. But if a miscarriage is going to happen, there is very little that anyone can do to stop it.
After a miscarriage, you may have a 'D and C' (that is, dilatation and curettage) to empty the womb. This is done under anaesthetic. The cervix is gently widened and the lining of the womb scraped or sucked away. The cervix narrows again afterwards.
One miscarriage will not affect your chances of having a baby in the future. Even after three miscarriages you still stand a good chance of carrying a baby to term. If you have three or more miscarriages, you should be referred for further investigations. In some cases, all investigations will be normal and no precise cause found.
A miscarriage can be very difficult to come to terms with. You may feel disappointed, angry, or even guilty, wondering what you did wrong. Some people fear that the miscarriage may have been caused by making love, though this is extremely unlikely. In fact, whatever the cause, it is very rarely anyone's fault.
You will almost certainly feel a sense of loss. You need time to grieve over the lost baby just as you would over the death of anyone close to you, especially if the miscarriage has happened later in pregnancy. Many people find it helps to have something to remember their baby by. In early pregnancy you might be able to have a picture of a scan. After about four months you could ask for a photograph of the baby. If your miscarriage is very late you may be able to see and hold your baby, if you wish, as well as having a photograph. Talking also helps. Talk about your feelings with your partner and those close to you.
Author : Department of Health: The Pregnancy Book 2004 - 2005
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