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Symptoms of Miscarriage

Feb 17, 2022 | 2 minutes Read

Every pregnancy carries a risk of miscarriage. Even a healthy woman who's already had full-term pregnancies should look out for miscarriage symptoms, because around 20 to 25% of all pregnancies fail in the first 13 weeks. It's wise to be aware of miscarriage signs listed below and to get medical help should they appear.

Knowing miscarriage indicators and being mentally prepared for miscarriage, however, does not soften the heartbreak of losing a little life. If it happens to you—and there is a one in four chance that it will—you can expect to feel overwhelmed by sadness.

Unfortunately, there is no magic way to stop an early miscarriage. Usually, by the time miscarriage symptoms are noticeable, the pregnancy is no longer viable.

Sadly, there is no easy path through the grief of miscarriage, although many couples find talking about it helps a lot. Nowadays, more people are upfront about losing a pregnancy, as miscarriage is no longer the big secret it was even 10 years ago.

They key thing to remember is that the risk of miscarriage is out of your control. So don’t beat yourself up if miscarriage symptoms appear just get yourself to your health care provider.

Miscarriage symptoms

You're having a miscarriage if you've had a positive pregnancy test and then experience these miscarriage signs:
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding that soaks a pad in an hour or less.
  • Strong cramps that make you double over or breathe heavily. Vaginal bleeding will usually follow shortly after.
  • Passage of tissue that looks like large thick blood clots in the earliest weeks, then pinkish or greyish material, with or without cramps or pain.
  • With second trimester miscarriages, which are much rarer, there is sometimes internal bleeding that leads to a pain in the shoulder, plus abdominal bloating.
  • Back pain, abdominal discomfort, or cramping may be signs that you are miscarrying, even if you have no bleeding.
It is also important to recognize the symptoms of a septic miscarriage. This occurs when a woman has an infection in her uterus and miscarries. It is dangerous for the woman's health and requires immediate medical care. Symptoms include fluid coming from your vagina that smells bad, vaginal bleeding, fever, chills, cramping, and pain in the abdomen.

Sometimes there are no miscarriage symptoms at all, and the shock of miscarriage may only be discovered during a routine scan where no heartbeat is detected.

Some women also report miscarriage indicators that aren’t necessarily physical, but emotional such as feeling down (although this could be due to falling hormone levels), or odd feelings of unease, illness, or even a strange taste in the mouth prior to vaginal bleeding starting.

Possible miscarriage symptoms

Sometimes there are signs that a miscarriage is close; however, none of these signs means a miscarriage is certain and gives you a chance to prevent a miscarriage if possible. They include:
  • Vaginal bleeding that starts and stops. It is often a sign that pregnancy hormone levels are falling, and miscarriage is starting. Bleeding is scary—however, 70% of all pregnancies have vaginal bleeding at some point.
  • Cramping is only a concern if accompanied by vaginal bleeding.
  • Loss of pregnancy signs ,such as breast tenderness or nausea, although of course this is to be expected around weeks 10 to 14 as your hormones even out. Loss of pregnancy symptoms is not usually first of the list of miscarriage indicators you'll notice.
  • A pregnancy test that is positive and then a subsequent test is negative. This is a classic sign of an ectopic pregnancy and is often accompanied by spotting. Alert your doctor immediately, but keep in mind that if it's very early days and if you do the second test later in the day, urine may not be concentrated enough to keep the test positive. Test again the following morning to be sure.
  • Fever, weakness or vomiting.

Unlikely miscarriage symptoms

There are all kinds of strange sensations, pains and pokes during pregnancy that cause moms-to-be to worry and panic.

Before you call for help, remember that most pregnancies result in a baby. Here are the most common things you'll worry over and could possibly think are miscarriage indicators:
  • Vaginal bleeding. Small amounts of brown blood (which means it's old) are expected when the egg implants in the uterus 7 to 10 days after ovulation and sometimes at the point when you would've otherwise had a period. You may also bleed a bit after sex, but this is probably because your cervix is soft and filled with blood. You may be especially scared if you see bright red blood at any time. This could be due to a minor hormone fluctuation. If you aren’t cramping, it's probably not one of the miscarriage symptoms to watch for, but you should call and let your doctor know.
  • Cramping during pregnancy is most often caused by ligaments expanding to accommodate the growing uterus. It's only a problem if it continues even after you've had a rest, gets worse, is accompanied by vaginal bleeding, and or you need to breathe hard like you’re in labor.
Few or no pregnancy signs can be a worry once you've had a positive test, but remember every pregnancy is different. Some women don’t even know they're pregnant for the first few months, as symptoms vary so much.

The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.