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Late miscarriage: second trimester loss

Most miscarriages happen in  the first 12 or 13 weeks of pregnancy.  It is much less common to miscarry after this stage.  We provide some information on second trimester loss on this page, and more on the emotional impact here.

What is a late miscarriage?

Late miscarriage, also called second-trimester or mid-trimester loss, refers to a miscarriage that happens when a baby dies between 14 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.

If a baby dies before 14 weeks but the miscarriage itself happens later, that is usually considered to be a missed or silent first-trimester loss.

If a baby dies at or after 24 weeks of pregnancy, this is called a stillbirth.

(These definitions apply to the UK – they can differ in other countries.)

You may find it very hard to understand why a very late loss is called a miscarriage rather than a stillbirth.  The reason is that 24 weeks of pregnancy is the legal age of viability in the UK – the stage at which a baby is thought to stand a good chance of surviving if born alive.  Some parents find this distinction very upsetting.

We talk more about the emotional impact of late loss here and you can find people’s stories about late loss here.

Why do late miscarriages happen?

There are several known causes of late miscarriage.  Some can cause earlier losses too, while others can cause problems after 24 weeks of pregnancy as well as before.  Most miscarriages at whatever stage happen because of an abnormality in the baby.

Causes of late miscarriage

The main causes of late miscarriage are thought to be:

Management and investigations

There is more detailed information about causes, management and investigations of late miscarriage here.