What is a miscarriage and how common are they?

The Duchess of Sussex has spoken of her pain after revealing she lost an unborn baby in July.

Meghan said she had a miscarriage while she and husband Harry were living in Los Angeles.

What is a miscarriage, and how common are they?

What is a miscarriage?

A miscarriage is when a woman loses her unborn baby during the first 23 weeks of pregnancy.

According to the NHS, a miscarriage is a one-off event for most women – but after each miscarriage, the risk of another increases.

What are the signs of a miscarriage?

Vaginal bleeding is the main symptom, which can be followed by cramping and pain in the lower abdomen.

The NHS recommends pregnant women who experience such symptoms contact their GP or midwife, who can refer them to an early pregnancy unit at their local hospital.

Why do miscarriages happen?

Most miscarriages are caused by abnormal chromosomes in the unborn baby, medical experts suspect, but the NHS says there can be many other reasons why they can happen.

The cause is not usually identified by medics, but miscarriages are rarely the fault of the mother.

Can miscarriages be prevented?

Miscarriages cannot usually be prevented, but the NHS advises avoiding smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs while pregnant to reduce the risks.

Maintaining a healthy weight and diet before pregnancy can also reduce the chances of a miscarriage.

What happens after a miscarriage?

Women can feel emotionally and physically drained following a miscarriage, and feelings of guilt, shock and anger are also common, according to the NHS.

Hospital counselling services and charities provide advice and support for women who have suffered a miscarriage – and the NHS also recommends some people might like to have a memorial for the lost baby.

Tommy’s, the leading UK charity for research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, has also highlighted the emotional impact the experience can have on fathers.

How common are miscarriages?

One in four women has experienced a miscarriage, according to Tommy’s.

Recurring miscarriages are much rarer, with one in 100 women in the UK experiencing three or more miscarriages in a row. More than 60% of these women, where the cause of miscarriage is unknown, go on to have a successful pregnancy.

Tommy’s figures also show 11 in 1,000 pregnancies are ectopic, which is a serious and life-threatening form of miscarriage which happens when the unborn baby develops in the fallopian tubes instead of in the womb.