All miscarriages are terribly upsetting if it's a wanted pregnancy, but a late miscarriage, occurring between weeks 14 and 24, can be heartbreaking.
Around a quarter of miscarriages happen in the second trimester. Possible causes include:
- Chromosome and genetic problems
- Bicornuate uterus (a womb that's partly divided in two)
- Problems with blood vessels supplying the placenta
- Large fibroids
- Weak cervix
A quarter of late miscarriages are thought to be caused by an 'incompetent' or weak cervix, where the cervix opens too early. It's more likely if you've had surgery for a previous miscarriage or abortion.
The cause is discovered in roughly half of all late miscarriages; this can be a source of comfort and help if when considering future pregnancies. "Finding out that my baby was genetically perfect helped me get further treatment and testing to discover why it kept happening to me," says one mum.
Warning signs of late miscarriage
Possible warning signs are cramping pains and a pinkish vaginal discharge. It may be nothing, but it's always best to check with your midwife.
- Spontaneous miscarriage starts naturally - your waters might break and most women feel something like labour pains
- Silent miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb and you might not find out until you have a scan
Medical treatment for late miscarriage
Most women are induced, which means they're given hormones (in pessary, tablet or injection form) to start labour.
"I was four and a half months pregnant when I found out during a scan that the baby had died," says one mum. "I was induced. Despite it being traumatic, it was the best way to do it for me. I was able to leave the hospital 12 hours later and go home. They gave me very good pain relief. If I had had a caesarean I would have had to stay in hospital for days, and the emotional and physical recovery would have been prolonged."
You may be offered the chance to hold your baby. Mumsnetters' suggestions for how to say goodbye include naming your baby, taking photographs and wrapping your baby in a shawl if they're too fragile to dress.
Many hospitals offer a burial or cremation service. You can also make your own arrangements. You may be asked for your permission to carry out a post-mortem examination on your baby, to try to find out why your baby died.
Some parents make up a box of mementoes to keep. Others have some sort of memorial to remember their baby. "We bought a rowan tree to plant in our garden in memory of our daughter," says one mum. "The most important thing is not sweeping everything under the carpet and pretending the baby never existed, which is what some members of our family wanted to do."
Physical effects of a late miscarriage
Your body has been thrown into an abrupt hormonal reversal, which can be very physically and emotionally unpleasant. Getting back to your pre-pregnant self physically can take a while.
You'll probably feel very tired afterwards and may bleed for several weeks. Your breasts will produce milk, which can be very upsetting, but you can take hormones to slow down milk production. You might lose your pregnancy shape very quickly or continue to look pregnant for a while.
Coping after a late miscarriage
Emotionally, late miscarriage is an enormous strain. Mumsnetters who've had late miscarriages recommend seeing a bereavement midwife or specialist grief counsellor: "It was fantastic for helping me let the feelings out, as trying to make sense of it all was sending me insane."
And, of course, your partner is also suffering.
What Mumsnetters say about late miscarriage
- We had to talk about the disposal of the baby's body, did we want to name it, did we want to see it, etc. I didn't realise they did all that at such an early(ish) stage. It sort of made it harder for us both, I think. LittlePeanutWhat
- I think the impact on your partner is less obvious initially, as they are trying to be strong for you, but my husband broke down about three months ago and poured his heart out. scotlass
- I have an incompetent cervix - I found out by going into very early labour and losing a baby. In my next pregnancy I was scanned to see if my cervix was shortening and they put in a stitch (suture). I went on to have two perfectly naughty children. DimpledThighs
- Need some TLC? Share your experiences in our Miscarriage Talk forum