Around one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. What are the first signs? What can you expect to happen if you have a miscarriage? Why does it happen? And how would you feel?
It can be scary if you have bleeding from your vagina, or ‘spotting’ in your underwear when you’re pregnant. You can easily fear the worst and think it means you’re having a miscarriage. But often it’s nothing to worry about.
During pregnancy the blood vessels in your cervix can be delicate and bleed much more easily, so you can find blood in your underwear or on the sheets. You can compare it to a nosebleed! It can especially happen after sex because the penis bumps into the cervix. But it won’t do the baby any harm at all.
Not all bleeding during pregnancy is harmless though. It can be the start of a miscarriage. What’s more, bleeding can also be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, where the baby is growing outside the womb. So if you experience bleeding during early pregnancy, perhaps everything is fine, but you should still go and see the doctor or midwife to get checked out.
One in three early pregnancies end before the woman’s period is late. The fertilised egg just comes out with the blood like a normal period. If this happens, you won’t even realise you’ve been pregnant. A miscarriage is when the pregnancy ends in the first 16 weeks. And in fact, that happens with about one in five pregnancies.
Miscarriages might be a part of life, but that doesn’t make them any easier to bear. A miscarriage can be deeply upsetting. The further on in the pregnancy the miscarriage happens, the deeper the grief. Especially if you’ve been longing to get pregnant, your dreams are shattered and your future falls to pieces.
People can make it worse by not understanding your feelings. They might say things like, 'It was probably for the best.' Or 'Don’t worry, you’re still young, there’s still plenty of time for another baby.' But whatever people say, you have every right to feel grief for your miscarriage.
It might sound harsh, but it’s true there’s nearly always a ‘good’ reason for a miscarriage. In most cases, it’s because there is something wrong with the baby. So you shouldn’t feel guilty that something you’ve done has caused the miscarriage, like heavy exercise or passionate sex.
It’s true sex can sometimes set off a miscarriage, but it’s not the cause. The miscarriage was going to happen anyway, and sex just starts it off.
A miscarriage starts with bleeding and painful cramps like period pains. It can be very painful because it’s like a mini-birth. The cervix has to open up to let the embryo and placenta out, and you have contractions just like in labour. And it takes time. A hot-water bottle on your lower back or stomach, or a warm bath, can help you cope with the pain.
You should expect to bleed more than a normal period. But if the bleeding is like a running tap, or carries on after the amniotic sac (the bag holding the embryo) has come out, you should get medical help.
If the pain carries on after the miscarriage has finished it could mean not everything has come out properly. Again you should get medical help. You might need an operation called a D&C (dilation and curettage) to suck out anything left in the womb.