Miscarriage: It’s more common than you think

Anna Druet
Jul 1, 2016 · 7 min read
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For all the talk about babies we hear, not much discussion happens about the less-cute aspects of reproductive health. One of the most overlooked: miscarriage. Miscarriage is a common part of the reproductive cycle. It happens in all mammals who experience pregnancy. Still, it can bring with it a diversity of emotions from grief, to anxiety to relief.

Miscarriage occurs in roughly 1 in 5 detected pregnancies (1). The miscarriage rate is closer to 1 in 3 when accounting for undetected pregnancies (or over 2 in 3 if you include fertilized eggs that don’t implant in the uterus)(2, 3, 4). Miscarriage is not caused by the actions, behaviors, or even the body of the pregnant person in the majority of cases.

Despite this, there is still a lot of confusion, silence and misinformation around the topic. Public figures like Priscilla Chan have spoken about the isolation they felt throughout their own miscarriage experiences. Healthcare services do not always provide resources for social or emotional impacts miscarriage can have. Understanding what miscarriage is and why it happens is an important step in removing the stigma around it.

A late period may actually be a miscarriage

In people having unprotected intercourse, it is not uncommon for an irregular cycle to be due to a miscarriage, before someone even knows they are pregnant (4, 6).

Because a miscarriage can happen around the same time someone expects their period, it can be mistaken for menstruation.

Not all fertilized eggs lead to pregnancy

Miscarriage is most often random

Between 5 and 7 of every 10 early miscarriages are caused by these chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo (7, 8). In many of these cases, an embryo never starts to develop at all.

A miscarriage can also be caused by a medical condition in the pregnant person. This can be hormonal condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome, a thyroid disorder or a physical issue in the uterus, from a condition such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis (9, 10, 11, 12). Miscarriage can also be caused by things like infections, exposure to certain environmental toxins, high stress and behaviors like drinking alcohol (13, 14).

After an early pregnancy stops, the inner tissue of the uterus, along with any new tissue that has grown, usually sheds by itself via the vagina. By the time bleeding occurs, the pregnancy has already ended, meaning an early miscarriage cannot be ‘stopped’ by stopping bleeding or other symptoms such as cramping

The majority of people who’ve had one, two and even three unexplained miscarriages can go on to have a healthy pregnancy (15, 16).

You can be fertile immediately after a miscarriage

It is possible to be fertile again immediately after a miscarriage, meaning a person can become pregnant even before their menstruation returns.

Emotions can vary

While medical services can be great at treating the body, they are not always equipped to address emotions as comprehensively. Some people will need to seek out help for strong emotions that last, and become overwhelming.

Acknowledging a painful loss can be a helpful tool in emotional recovery (19).

Some people choose to bury the tissue, for example, or take time away from regular life activities to grieve.

Knowing your options can help

Contact a healthcare provider if you think you may be having a miscarriage. They will ask you some questions, and make sure everything is okay. Some people may need a blood test. In certain cases a miscarriage doesn’t complete on it’s own, requiring treatment. If you experience sharp pain, dizziness, fever or shoulder pain, go to the doctor or emergency room to rule out complications like ectopic pregnancy.

Tracking bleeding patterns and other symptoms with Clue during and/or after a miscarriage can help provide a record of how things are changing. It may also help spot when something might be off, or when a miscarriage may need further treatment. If you are concerned about your cycle or any symptoms, talk to a healthcare professional.

Remember, you can make sure a miscarriage (or other anomalous cycles) won’t affect Clue’s predictions (and your statistical averages) by excluding any irregular cycles later on..

Understanding how common miscarriage really is, and why it happens, can help to shape and inform decision-making and emotional process. And the more we are able to talk about it, the more we will weaken problematic cultural stigma.


  1. Garcıa-Enguıdanos A, Calle ME, Valero J, Luna S, Domınguez-Rojas V. Risk factors in miscarriage: a review. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. 2002 May 10;102(2):111–9.
  2. Wilcox AJ, Weinberg CR, O’Connor JF, Baird DD, Schlatterer JP, Canfield RE, Armstrong EG, Nisula BC. Incidence of early loss of pregnancy. New England Journal of Medicine. 1988 Jul 28;319(4):189–94.
  3. Zinaman MJ, Clegg ED, Brown CC, O’Connor J, Selevan SG. Estimates of human fertility and pregnancy loss. Fertility and sterility. 1996 Mar 31;65(3):503–9.
  4. Yan J, Saravelos SH, Ma N, Ma C, Chen ZJ, Li TC. Consecutive repeat miscarriages are likely to occur in the same gestational period. Reproductive biomedicine online. 2012 Jun 30;24(6):634–8.
  5. Wang X, Chen C, Wang L, Chen D, Guang W, French J, Reproductive Health Study Group. Conception, early pregnancy loss, and time to clinical pregnancy: a population-based prospective study. Fertility and sterility. 2003 Mar 31;79(3):577–84.
  6. Ellish NJ, Saboda K, O’Connor J, Nasca PC, Stanek EJ, Boyle C. A prospective study of early pregnancy loss. Human Reproduction. 1996 Feb 1;11(2):406–12.
  7. Kajii T, Ferrier A, Niikawa N, Takahara H, Ohama K, Avirachan S. Anatomic and chromosomal anomalies in 639 spontaneous abortuses. Human genetics. 1980 Jul 1;55(1):87–98.
  8. Romero ST, Geiersbach KB, Paxton CN, Rose NC, Schisterman EF, Branch DW, Silver RM. Differentiation of genetic abnormalities in early pregnancy loss. Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2015 Jan 1;45(1):89–94.
  9. Rai, R., Backos, M., Rushworth, F., & Regan, L. Polycystic ovaries and recurrent miscarriage–a reappraisal. Human Reproduction (Oxford, England). 2000. 15(3), 612–5.
  10. Trokoudes KM, Skordis N, Picolos MK. Infertility and thyroid disorders. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2006 Aug 1;18(4):446–51.
  11. Puchar A, Feyeux C, Luton D, Koskas M. Therapeutic management of uterine fibroid tumors. Minerva ginecologica. 2015 Dec.
  12. Galle PC. Clinical presentation and diagnosis of endometriosis. Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America. 1989 Mar;16(1):29–42.
  13. Maconochie N, Doyle P, Prior S, Simmons R. Risk factors for first trimester miscarriage — results from a UK‐population‐based case–control study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. 2007 Feb 1;114(2):170–86.
  14. Nepomnaschy PA, Welch KB, McConnell DS, Low BS, Strassmann BI, England BG. Cortisol levels and very early pregnancy loss in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2006 Mar 7;103(10):3938–42.
  15. Li W, Newell-Price J, Jones GL, Ledger WL, Li TC. Relationship between psychological stress and recurrent miscarriage. Reproductive biomedicine online. 2012 Aug 31;25(2):180–9.
  16. Rai R, Regan L. Recurrent miscarriage. The Lancet. 2006 Aug 18;368(9535):601–11.
  17. Donnet ML, Howie PW, Marnie M, Cooper W, Lewis M. Return of ovarian function following spontaneous abortion. Clinical endocrinology. 1990 Jul 1;33(1):13–20.
  18. Lok IH, Neugebauer R. Psychological morbidity following miscarriage. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology. 2007 Apr 30;21(2):229–47.
  19. Brier N. Understanding and managing the emotional reactions to a miscarriage. Obstetrics & gynecology. 1999 Jan 1;93(1):151–5.
  20. Al-Ma’ani W, Solomayer EF, Hammadeh M. Expectant versus surgical management of first-trimester miscarriage: a randomised controlled study. Archives of gynecology and obstetrics. 2014 May 1;289(5):1011–5.
  21. Creinin MD, Schwartz JL, Guido RS, Pymar HC. Early pregnancy failure — current management concepts. Obstetrical & gynecological survey. 2001 Feb 1;56(2):105–13.

Clued In

Clue helps you understand your cycle so you can discover…

Anna Druet

Written by

Science writer, researcher. Former Science and Education Manager at www.helloclue.com. @annadruet

Clued In

Clued In

Clue helps you understand your cycle so you can discover how to live a full and healthy life. #NowYouKnow

Anna Druet

Written by

Science writer, researcher. Former Science and Education Manager at www.helloclue.com. @annadruet

Clued In

Clued In

Clue helps you understand your cycle so you can discover how to live a full and healthy life. #NowYouKnow

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