FAQs about pregnancy loss

You’ll find quick answers here to our most commonly asked questions, with links to where you can find out more.  We aim to provide accurate and up to date information but it cannot and should not take the place of individual medical advice.


I’m bleeding/spotting.  Am I miscarrying?


When can I have a scan? / Why do I have to wait for a scan? / Why do I have to have a repeat scan?


What’s a fetal pole?


What’s a missed miscarriage? Why does it happen?


How much pain/bleeding will there be?  How long will it last?


What are the options for treating a missed or incomplete miscarriage?


Do I have the right to choose how my miscarriage is ‘managed’?


What happens to the remains of my baby?  What if I miscarry at home?


I had a miscarriage at home, do I need to go to the doctor?


What happens in hospital?


When can we have sex again?  When can we try again?


When will I get my period?


Why did I have a miscarriage/ectopic pregnancy/molar pregnancy?  Was it something I did?


What are the chances of it happening again?


When can I have investigations?  What do they test for?


After ectopic pregnancy, what are my chances of having a normal pregnancy?


What is a molar pregnancy?


Does having a molar pregnancy mean I might have cancer?


Where can I find someone to talk to who will understand?


I don’t know how to talk to my partner about my miscarriage


I didn’t think I wanted the baby so why do I feel so upset now?


Q.I’m bleeding/spotting.  Am I miscarrying?

A. You might be, but even heavy bleeding doesn’t always mean miscarriage.  An ultrasound might tell you more, but not till about 7 weeks and even then, it might not give a full picture.  See www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/information/signs-and-symptoms/pain-bleeding-or-spotting for more information.


Consider contacting your GP, midwife, Early Pregnancy Unit or Accident & Emergency department if you have more pain and bleeding than you can cope with.

Do contact your GP, midwife, Early Pregnancy Unit or Accident & Emergency department if you:

  • have previously had an ectopic pregnancy, or
  • have sharp one-sided pain and/or pain in your shoulders, or
  • feel very faint or dizzy.

Early diagnosis and treatment of ectopic pregnancy won’t save the pregnancy but may prevent an acute emergency and can mean less radical treatment.  See www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Ectopic-pregnancy.pdf for more information.

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Q. When can I have a scan? / Why do I have to wait for a scan? / Why do I have to have a repeat scan?

A. The best time to have a scan is from about 7 weeks’ gestation when it should be possible to see the baby’s heartbeat. But it can be hard to detect a heartbeat in early pregnancy and it can be hard to know whether the baby has died or not developed at all, or whether it is simply smaller than expected but still developing.  See www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/information/ultrasound-scans/ for more information.

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Q. What’s a fetal pole?

A. The fetal pole is the first visible sign of a developing embryo, with the embryo’s head at one end and what looks like a tail at the other end.  If you read or hear the term ‘crown rump length, or CRL, that describes the measurement from head to ‘tail’, which helps to date a pregnancy.

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Q.  What’s a missed miscarriage? Why does it happen?

A. A missed miscarriage (also called silent or delayed miscarriage) is where the baby has died or failed to develop but your body has not actually miscarried him or her. The scan picture shows a pregnancy sac with a baby (or fetus or embryo) inside, but there is no heartbeat and the pregnancy looks smaller than it should be at this stage.  Pregnancy hormone levels may still be high, so you may have had no idea that anything was wrong, still feel pregnant and have a positive pregnancy test.

It’s not clear if there is a particular reason for this kind of miscarriage.  Some people think it’s just the downside of early pregnancy tests and ultrasound:  if the miscarriage wasn’t diagnosed on, say, a booking scan, you would only know you had miscarried when that physical process started.

Keri has written about her experience of missed miscarriage.

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Q. How much pain/bleeding will there be?  How long will it last?

A. This varies a lot, depending on the number of weeks pregnant, the type of loss (miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy) and on the way it is managed (natural, medical, surgical).   There’s more information in the following leaflets:

www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Management-of-miscarriage.pdf

www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Late-Miscarriage.pdf

www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Ectopic-pregnancy.pdf

You’ll find some personal accounts of the miscarriage process at www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/information/management-of-miscarriage/

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Q.  What are the options for treating a missed or incomplete miscarriage?

A. The options are natural (waiting for nature to take its course), medical (usually tablets to start or speed up the miscarriage process) or surgical (removing the remains of your pregnancy with general or local anaesthetic).  You’ll find detailed information about each of them in the leaflet:  www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Management-of-miscarriage.pdf (for first trimester loss).  For loss after 14 weeks there is information on page 3 of the leaflet:  www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Late-Miscarriage.pdf .

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Q. Do I have the right to choose how my miscarriage is ‘managed’?

A. You should usually be able to choose the option you feel you can cope with best, but that doesn’t always happen.  There may be medical reasons that you shouldn’t have one or other option, or you may be advised that the pregnancy is too early to be absolutely certain of the diagnosis.   Also, recent (NICE) guidance advises hospitals to suggest natural management for two weeks or so in many cases before offering any other options.  If you really don’t want this, and if there’s no medical reason for waiting, you may need to push for having medical or surgical management – but it’s not a right.

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Q.  What happens to the remains of my baby?  What if I miscarry at home?

A. After a late miscarriage, most hospitals offer either burial or cremation. Some hospitals offer this for all babies, no matter how early the loss. Hospital practice is improving all the time, but sadly some hospitals may still treat the remains of an early loss as clinical waste.  You have the right to take the remains home if you prefer. You can read more about this, and your options, at www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/information/management-of-miscarriage/after-the-miscarriage.

If you miscarry at home you may wonder what to do with the remains of your baby.  You’ll find information at www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/information/management-of-miscarriage/after-the-miscarriage/#atHome.  Do call us on 01924 200799 if you’d like to talk it through.

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Q. I had a miscarriage at home. Do I need to go to the doctor?

A. If you want your miscarriage to be recorded in your medical notes, then yes. If not, and if you are feeling OK physically, or are getting there, there’s probably no medical reason for you to go if you don’t want to. Just make sure you take care of yourself. But if you feel unwell or very faint, if you have a high temperature, are bleeding more heavily than you can bear or have an unpleasant vaginal discharge, it’s a good idea to be seen by a doctor. There’s more information on pages 5 and 6 of our leaflet Your Miscarriage.

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Q.What happens in hospital?

A. It can vary, depending on your symptoms, which department you’re seen at and what day and time it is.

In Accident & Emergency (A&E, Casualty), you may have to wait a long time. You might see other people going in before you even if they arrived after you, because they are considered to need more urgent care. You may have to answer the same questions more than once. A&E staff are often very busy so they may be less sympathetic than you would like. But you have a right to understand what is going on so do ask them questions if you are unsure.

Some people find A&E upsetting, especially when it’s busy. If you are bleeding heavily, you might feel embarrassed. Take spare clothes as well as sanitary pads if possible.

After you are seen, they may refer you to an Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) or a gynaecology ward, possibly for a scan or blood tests. That might be straight away or you may be asked to come back another day. Most EPUs aren’t open evenings or weekends.

If you are referred or have an appointment at a specialist Early Pregnancy or emergency gynaecology unit, you will be seen by people who understand miscarriage. There will still be some waiting, but you’ll be assessed and they’ll decide if you need a scan and explain what happens next.

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Q.  When can we have sex again?  When can we try again?

A. It’s best to avoid having sex until any bleeding has stopped, to reduce the chance of infection. Once bleeding has stopped, you can try again whenever you and your partner feel ready.  If you wait until after your first period it can make it easier to date another pregnancy, but it won’t make any difference to the risk of miscarrying again.

N.B. The advice on timing might be different after late miscarriage, ectopic or molar pregnancy.

See http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/support/trying-again/ for more information.

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Q.  When will I get my period?

A. In most cases, between 4 and 6 weeks after your loss, though this can vary.

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Q.  Why did I have a miscarriage/ectopic pregnancy/molar pregnancy?  Was it something I did?

A. It’s usually difficult to know why any pregnancy loss happens, though it’s very unlikely to be because of anything you did or didn’t do.  You can find out more at  www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/information/causes-tests-and-treatment as well as in the following leaflets:

http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Why-Me.pdf

www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Ectopic-pregnancy.pdf

http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Molar-Pregnancy.pdf

http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Late-Miscarriage.pdf

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Q.  What are the chances of it happening again?

A. No-one can say for sure, but there is general information that might be helpful in the leaflet http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Thinking-about-another-pregnancy.pdf, especially on page 6.

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Q.  When can I have investigations?  What do they test for?

A. Tests are usually offered only after three miscarriages in a row, but sometimes earlier, e.g.:

There is information on tests after recurrent miscarriage in our leaflet: http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/RecurrentMiscarriage-July-2011b.pdf

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Q.  After ectopic pregnancy, what are my chances of having a normal pregnancy?

A. The chances are good, even if you have a tube removed, though it depends on the condition of the remaining tube.  Overall about two-thirds of women get pregnant again naturally after an ectopic, while some will need help (e.g. fertility treatment) to do so.  The overall chance of you having another ectopic is between 7% and 10%.

There’s more information on page 17 of our leaflet www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Ectopic-pregnancy.pdf

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Q. What is a molar pregnancy?

A. In a molar pregnancy, an abnormal fertilised egg implants in the uterus (womb).  The cells that should become the placenta grow far too quickly and take over the space where the embryo would normally develop.  The baby cannot develop but pregnancy hormones keep rising and that can make women feel particularly tired and sick.  You can find out more in our leaflet http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Molar-Pregnancy.pdf

Molar pregnancy is also called Hydatidiform Mole pregnancy.

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Q.  Does having a molar pregnancy mean I might have cancer?

A. A very small number of molar pregnancies develop into choriocarcinoma which is a form of cancer – fortunately, with an almost 100% cure rate. Anyone who does not need chemotherapy treatment for molar pregnancy, does NOT have this kind of cancer.  See http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Molar-Pregnancy.pdf for more information.

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Q.Where can I find someone to talk to who will understand?

A. It isn’t always easy to find someone who will understand what you are going through. Our helpline, email support, forum, Facebook pages and local support groups are all ways you can contact friendly, supportive and helpful people who can understand. Have a look at our How we can help page.

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Q.I don’t know how to talk to my partner about my miscarriage. 

A. You and your partner might find it difficult to talk about your miscarriage and explain what kind of support you need. This can be especially difficult if you both feel differently about the miscarriage. It can help to choose a moment when you are both relaxed and you have time to talk. Try writing things down. This can help you share difficult emotions with your partner or just make sure you know what you want to say before you start.

It might be helpful to have a look at our page on other people’s reactions and our information on talking about miscarriage. You both might find it helpful to look at our Partners Too section.

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Q.I didn’t think I wanted the baby so why do I feel so upset now?

A. If your pregnancy was unplanned and you didn’t feel ready for a baby, you might expect to feel relieved after a miscarriage. Some people do feel this way but others still feel very upset.

You might have been thinking about abortion. The miscarriage might have come as a relief as the decision was taken out of your hands – but you might also feel guilty – as if the thoughts caused it. (They didn’t.)

You might find it helpful to talk things through with us, or with people on our forums or Facebook groups.  You might also want to look at our Special circumstances section.

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