A miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) is always most upsetting to the parents, particularly if the woman has had difficulty in falling pregnant in the first place. A miscarriage usually starts with a slight vaginal bleed, then period-type cramps low in the abdomen. The bleeding becomes heavier, and eventually clots and tissue may pass.
A miscarriage occurs when a pregnancy fails to progress, due to the death of the foetus, or a developmental abnormality in the foetus or placenta.
If the baby is lost before 20 weeks, it is considered to be a miscarriage. After 20 weeks, doctors consider it to be a premature birth, although the chances of the baby surviving if born before 28 weeks are very slim. Most miscarriages occur in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, and many occur so early, that the woman may not even know that she has been pregnant and may dismiss the problem as an abnormal period.
Miscarriages are far more common than most women realise. Up to 15 percent of diagnosed pregnancies, and possibly 50 percent of all pregnancies, fail to reach 20 weeks. There is virtually no treatment for a threatened miscarriage except strict rest, sedatives and pain relievers. If the body has decided to reject the foetus, medical science is normally helpless to prevent it.
Once a miscarriage is inevitable, doctors usually perform a simple operation to clean out the womb, and ready it as soon as possible for the next pregnancy.
Heavy bleeding, that may lead to anaemia, infections in the uterus, and the retention of some tissue in the uterus are the most common complications. Retained tissue may make it difficult for a further pregnancy to occur.
In most cases, there is no reason why a subsequent pregnancy should not be successful. It is only if a woman has two miscarriages in succession that doctors become concerned, and investigate the situation further.