How Common is a Missed Miscarriage?

I remember lying on the hospital bed getting an ultrasound at six weeks pregnant due to the light bleeding and cramping I was experiencing. I remember being pregnant one day and then the next I wasn’t. I had worked hard to be pregnant and had tracked my ovulation and planned things just right.


So, why were things going so wrong? I remember the shock and confusion to learn how common of an experience early miscarriage is even though I felt like it was only happening to me, and I think it would be far easier to process had I known the facts.

It wasn’t just me. I didn’t cause it. And, it was more common than I thought.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), about 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. The most common cause, according to American Pregnancy Association (APA), is a chance chromosomal or genetic abnormality in the embryo.

Basically, that means that something went wrong early in development that caused the embryo to not develop properly.

What is a Missed Miscarriage?

Going in nauseous to your first 12-week appointment to hear your baby’s heartbeat is a long awaited time for many, and a nervous, anxious time for some. Unfortunately, this is the time that it’s likely when it will be realized a missed miscarriage has occurred or is occurring.

When I went to the hospital after very light spotting at six weeks, I thought they were going to tell me everything was normal, it was just spotting, or that I was never pregnant.

I didn’t expect them to say you were pregnant but now the sac is empty and there is nothing we can do except wait for the tissue to pass. I was sent home with pain meds and diminished hopes for a second baby.

It’s called a missed miscarriage because most of the time women do not know anything has went wrong. They may still be experiencing pregnancy symptoms only to find out at their first ultrasound there is either no heartbeat or an empty sac. This is often the case with early miscarriages, especially at six weeks.

Another reason it’s called a missed miscarriage is there are often no symptoms present such as heavy bleeding or painful cramping due to the loss happening so early-on in the pregnancy.

It can be an emotional battle for women going through this experience as the placenta is likely still producing pregnancy hormones, and the body may not recognize the loss or expel the pregnancy tissue as fast.

Once you find out you are having a miscarriage, most women want to stop experiencing the pregnancy symptoms and speed the process so they may start trying again or at least not have to walk around with a reminder of what isn’t there anymore.

What the Experts Say

“Depending on the medical situation, the physical process of losing a pregnancy can vary from person to person.”

Jennifer Jolley, M.D., Assistant Professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle


“Most miscarriages occur before the eighth week of pregnancy. As your pregnancy progresses, the chances of having a miscarriage decreases.”

Dr. William Sears


“The most common cause of miscarriage is chromosomal abnormality – meaning that something is not correct with the baby’s chromosomes. Most chromosomal abnormalities are the cause of a damaged egg or sperm cell or are due to a problem at the time that the zygote went through the division process.”

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Why Miscarriages Happen

Many women wonder if they could have done something wrong to cause a miscarriage. Did I exercise too much? Did my medication cause a problem? Am I too old? Too fat, or too skinny?

These are the kinds of things we ask ourselves. But, a missed miscarriage often happens for reasons out of our control. Women are finding our sooner and sooner about pregnancy due to advanced technology in pregnancy tests to detect HCG early.

Missed miscarriages often happen at implantation or right after, around the time of menstruation. Here are a few reasons why:

  •  Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Problems with implantation
  • Progesterone levels

Signs of a missed miscarriage include spotting or bleeding, cramping, or a heavier-than-normal period.

No matter how early a pregnancy loss, it’s still a loss. It can be heartbreaking to find out you are no longer pregnant after just experiencing the initial excitement. The let down is disappointing and disheartening.

Try to keep your new pregnancy to you and your close family members for the first three months. After that, chances greatly decrease, and you won’t have the extra heartbreak of telling everyone you aren’t pregnant anymore. Make sure to seek support and take care of yourself during this time.

Further Reading


Stephanie Portell

Stephanie is a single mom to two boys and a part-time writer. She is a lover of literature and bookstores. Trying to keep sane when her kids purposely try to make her insane. Check out more of her truths about parenting on her site.

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