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This topic is about the loss of a baby before 20 weeks of pregnancy. For information about the loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before the baby is born, see the topic Stillbirth.
What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks. It is usually your body's way of ending a pregnancy that has had a bad start. The loss of a pregnancy can be very hard to accept. You may wonder why it happened or blame yourself. But a miscarriage is no one's fault, and you can't prevent it.
Miscarriages are very common. For women who already know they are pregnant, about 1 out of 6 have a miscarriage.1 It is also common for a woman to have a miscarriage before she even knows that she is pregnant.
What causes a miscarriage?
Most miscarriages happen because the fertilized egg in the uterus does not develop normally. A miscarriage is not caused by stress, exercise, or sex. In many cases, doctors don't know what caused the miscarriage.
The risk of miscarriage is lower after the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy.
What are the common symptoms?
Common signs of a miscarriage include:
How is a miscarriage diagnosed?
Call your doctor if you think you are having a miscarriage. If your symptoms and a pelvic exam do not show whether you are having a miscarriage, your doctor can do tests to see if you are still pregnant.
How is it treated?
No treatment can stop a miscarriage. As long as you do not have heavy blood loss, a fever, weakness, or other signs of infection, you can let a miscarriage follow its own course. This can take several days.
If you have Rh-negative blood, you will need a shot of Rhogam. This prevents problems in future pregnancies. If you have not had your blood type checked, you will need a blood test to find out if you are Rh-negative.
Many miscarriages complete on their own, but sometimes treatment is needed. If you are having a miscarriage, work with your doctor to watch for and prevent problems. If the uterus does not clear quickly enough, you could lose too much blood or develop an infection. In this case, medicine or a procedure called a dilation and curettage (D&C) can more quickly clear tissue from the uterus.
A miscarriage doesn't happen all at once. It usually takes place over several days, and symptoms vary. Here are some tips for dealing with a miscarriage:
After a miscarriage, are you at risk for miscarrying again?
Miscarriage is usually a chance event, not a sign of an ongoing problem. If you have had one miscarriage, your chances for future successful pregnancies are good. It is unusual to have three or more miscarriages in a row. But if you do, your doctor may do tests to see if a health problem may be causing the miscarriages.
Frequently Asked Questions
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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