Miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week. About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. But the actual number is probably much higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn't even know she's pregnant.

Miscarriage is a somewhat loaded term — possibly suggesting that something was amiss in the carrying of the pregnancy. This is rarely true. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn't developing normally. However, because these abnormalities are rarely understood, it's often difficult to determine what causes them.

Miscarriage is a relatively common experience — but that doesn't make it any easier. Take a step toward emotional healing by understanding what can cause a miscarriage, what increases the risk and what medical care might be needed.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Most miscarriages occur before the 12th week of pregnancy.

Signs and symptoms of a miscarriage might include:

  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding
  • Pain or cramping in your abdomen or lower back
  • Fluid or tissue passing from your vagina

If you have passed fetal tissue from your vagina, place it in a clean container and bring it to your health care provider's office or the hospital for analysis.

Keep in mind that most women who experience vaginal spotting or bleeding in the first trimester go on to have successful pregnancies.

© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use