Pregnancy loss happens in about 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies.
Pregnancy loss happens in about 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies. A pregnancy loss is called:
- Miscarriage or spontaneous abortion if it happens before 20 weeks gestation
- Stillbirth if it occurs after 20 weeks
Most losses occur within the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she's pregnant.
Reasons for the loss
Usually, the unborn fetus is not developing normally and wouldn't survive. Reasons for pregnancy loss include:
- Genetic factors. Half of all miscarriages in the first trimester are due to chromosomal abnormalities. Chromosome problems are usually not caused by the parents' health and are not likely to happen again in a future pregnancy. The chance of chromosome issues goes up as a woman ages.
- Maternal health issues.
- Problems with the uterus or cervix. An abnormally shaped uterus or incompetent cervix (when the cervix opens too early) can lead to pregnancy loss.
- Health problems. Some health problems, such as polycystic ovary syndrome or diabetes, can also contribute to pregnancy loss.
Most of the time, miscarriages happen for unknown reasons. Note that exercising, having sex or using birth control pills does not raise the risk for miscarriage.
Vaginal bleeding is the most common sign of miscarriage. (But many women have some spotting in pregnancy and go on to give birth to healthy babies). Call your doctor if you have:
- Heavy vaginal bleeding with clots or cramps
- A gush of fluid from your vagina
- Passed fetal tissue
Your doctor may examine you to confirm if you've had a miscarriage.
You may not need any treatment if the loss occurred early. The fetal tissue may empty from the uterus on its own and look like a heavy period. If it doesn’t, your doctor may remove the tissue or prescribe medicine to help your body pass it.
As early as two weeks after a miscarriage you can ovulate and could become pregnant. Be sure to use birth control if you are not intending to become pregnant right away. The amount of time needed after a miscarriage before becoming pregnant again is not defined and varies by couple.
You and your partner may feel sad after your loss. This is normal, and healing emotionally may take longer than recovering physically. If your grief is profound or lasts for more than several weeks, talk to your doctor.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Early pregnancy loss. Accessed June 20, 2022.
Office of Women’s Health. Pregnancy loss. Accessed June 16, 2022.
Last Updated: June 20, 2022