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HealthInfo Canterbury

Early pregnancy loss (miscarriage)

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.

Miscarriage is relatively common – it happens in up to one in five pregnancies. But every woman's experience of miscarriage is different. This is a guide to help you understand what to expect.

How do I know if I'm having a miscarriage?

Miscarriage is most common in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. During a miscarriage it's normal to:

Cramping or period-like pain can continue for several days. This is quite normal. Taking mild pain relief such as paracetamol (Panadol) or ibuprofen (Nurofen) can help. Some women also find holding a heat pack to their tummy can help.

The best way to confirm a miscarriage is by having an ultrasound.

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

What happens after a miscarriage?

After a miscarriage it's possible to get an infection in your womb. However, if you do get an infection it can be easily 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 right away if you have any of these symptoms.

You can do several things to help prevent an infection.

It's 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's also best to have at least one regular period before trying to get pregnant again. If you don't want to get pregnant straight away, make sure you use contraception.

Where can I get support?

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

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by Acute Gynaecology Assessment, Christchurch Women's Hospital. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by midwife liaison, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed June 2018.


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