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Some spotting or light vaginal bleeding is common in the first three months of pregnancy and does not usually mean you are having a miscarriage.

You can wait to see your midwife or general practice team for up to 48 hours if you have spotting or light bleeding (needing a liner but not a pad). Do not go to the emergency department.

Losing a baby at any stage in your pregnancy can be an extremely sad and confusing time. Losing a baby before 20 weeks is called a miscarriage. A miscarriage is most likely to happen in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy.

Miscarriage is relatively common – it happens in up to one in five pregnancies.

Some light vaginal bleeding is common in the first three months of pregnancy and does not usually mean you are having a miscarriage.

Signs of a miscarriage

Signs that could indicate a miscarriage include:


Contact your midwife, LMC or GP immediately or go to the Emergency Department if you:

Diagnosing a miscarriage

If you have any of the signs of a miscarriage, see your LMC or GP.

They will usually arrange an ultrasound scan to check on your pregnancy. This is the best way to confirm a miscarriage.

Treating a miscarriage

The type of treatment you need will depend on how far along your pregnancy was, whether you can pass all the pregnancy tissue and if you have any complications.

If your body passes all the pregnancy tissue naturally, you may not need any treatment.

If this does not happen or you have complications, you may need tablets or minor surgery to remove the pregnancy tissue.

After a miscarriage

After a miscarriage it is possible to get an infection in your womb, which will be treated with antibiotics.

You may have an infection if you feel cold, shivery, or unwell, have smelly vaginal bleeding or discharge, or have a high temperature. Make sure you see your GP, midwife or LMC straight away if you have any of these symptoms.

You can do several things to help prevent an infection.

It is important to have a check-up with your midwife, LMC or GP two to three weeks after your miscarriage to make sure that everything is OK.

It is also best to have at least one regular period before trying to get pregnant again. If you do not want to get pregnant straight away, make sure you use contraception.

Getting help after a miscarriage

Losing a baby can be extremely upsetting. There are many places to get support and information.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Recurrent miscarriages

Written by Acute Gynaecology Assessment, Christchurch Women's Hospital. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed January 2022.


Page reference: 30632

Review key: HIPLT-311303