Second trimester loss: late miscarriage
Miscarriage is sadly common. Around one in four pregnancies ends this way and it can be a very distressing experience.
Most miscarriages happen in the first 12 or 13 weeks of pregnancy. It is much less usual to experience pregnancy or baby loss after 13 weeks and if this has happened to you, you may have been very shocked.
You might have just received this news, perhaps with no warning, or your loss might already have happened. You might be somewhere in between those points, having to make decisions or waiting for treatment or for the loss to happen naturally. Perhaps you are pregnant after a previous late loss and are anxious about it happening again.
Whatever your circumstances, we hope that these pages and links help a little at what might be a very difficult time. And while we generally use ‘you’ to address the person who has physically gone, or is going, through the loss, we hope this resource will also offer support to partners and to anyone else affected by this loss, including family members and friends.
We talk below about what second trimester miscarriage is and the different ways in which people describe it. On the pages that follow, we’ll talk about
- causes of second trimester loss
- the physical process
- tests and investigations
- after the loss
- the physical impact
- the emotional impact
- considering another pregnancy
What we mean by “second trimester loss”
Second trimester loss is usually used to describe when the baby dies between 14 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. This is sometimes called a late miscarriage.
It is also called mid-trimester miscarriage or mid-trimester loss, as it happens in the middle stage of pregnancy.
Doctors divide pregnancy into three stages:
- the first trimester is up to 13 completed weeks;
- the second, or middle, trimester is from 14 to 24 weeks;
- the third trimester is from the start of the 25th week of pregnancy onwards.
These pages don’t discuss missed or silent miscarriages, where the baby dies before 14 weeks, even if the actual miscarriage happens later. We talk about these in our other information resources, especially Your miscarriage and Why me?
They also don’t cover losses which happen at 24 weeks or later – these are called stillbirths.
If I say it was a stillbirth, it’s not technically true … what I feel best describes what I went through isn’t accurate.
What people prefer their loss to be called
You may find it hard to understand why a very late pregnancy loss or baby loss is called a miscarriage and not a stillbirth – particularly as it means that there is no birth or death certificate for the baby.
This is because 24 weeks of pregnancy is the legal age of viability – the stage at which a baby is thought to stand a good chance of surviving if born alive.
For some people, hearing the late loss of their baby called a miscarriage can feel very hurtful and distressing. The people who shared their thoughts with us in the creation of these resources often felt that the word miscarriage did not describe the lived experience of pregnancy and baby loss at this stage of pregnancy.
My daughter was a baby. My baby died. I held her, I had a funeral for her. I hate that I can’t register her, that nobody will know she existed.
We share some people’s thoughts on terminology here.
In the information provided here we have done our best with the terminology that we have used, taking the lead from people who have experienced second trimester loss. However, we do understand that the terms we have used may or may not fit with everyone’s views of how to describe their experience.
In some cases, we also use medical terms that you may encounter during care, including the words miscarry and miscarriage, and delivery and birth. We are very conscious that some of these terms might not feel right for you.
On the next page, we talk about causes of second trimester loss.