Miscarriage occurs when a pregnancy is suddenly lost before the 20th week. Between 10% and 20% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage, so it is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms if it happens to you.
Warning Signs of Miscarriage
If you start to experience any of the following symptoms, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible to see if you are having a miscarriage.
- Weight loss
- White-pink mucus
- Mild to severe back pain
- Cramping in the abdomen that is worse than normal menstruation cramps
- Painful contractions occurring every 5 to 20 minutes
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Fluid or tissue passing from your vagina
If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, your doctor will likely perform some tests to confirm the miscarriage, including:
- Pelvic exam: This involves your doctor checking to see if your cervix has dilated at all.
- Ultrasound: Ultrasounds help your doctor check to see if the embryo is developing normally and if it still has a fetal heartbeat.
- Blood tests: Sometimes the pregnancy hormone beta HCG can be measured in your blood to determine if you have miscarried and if you have completely passed all of the placental tissue.
- Tissue tests: If you have passed tissue, you can have it tested to confirm the miscarriage, as well as to help determine the cause of your miscarriage.
Types of Miscarriages
There are also different types of miscarriages that may display different symptoms. These include:
- Threatened: This occurs if you experience some of the symptoms of miscarriage, such as uterine bleeding, cramping, or backaches, but your cervix remains closed.
- Inevitable or incomplete: If you experience abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, and your cervix opens, this means that a miscarriage is inevitable. Once the cervix is dilated, the membrane will rupture. The bleeding and cramps will likely continue until the miscarriage is complete.
- Complete: This means that the embryo and fetus have been completely emptied from the uterus. After this happens, bleeding should subside, as well as any pain or cramping you are experiencing. If your doctor is unsure whether your miscarriage is complete, it can be confirmed by ultrasound.
- Missed: Sometimes women experience miscarriage without knowing it. This means that the embryo has died but is not expelled from the uterus. Most of the time, this is discovered when there is an absence of a fetal heartbeat on an ultrasound. If this occurs, you will have a few options. You may want to wait and see if the miscarriage will occur normally, which may take up to three or four weeks. Another option is to take miscarriage-inducing medications such as misoprostol or mifepristone. The medication will usually take effect within a few days. The final option is to have the embryonic tissue surgically removed from the uterus in a procedure called a dilation and curettage (D&C).
- Recurrent: If you have had three or more consecutive miscarriages during the first trimester, this is referred to as recurrent miscarriages. This condition affects about 1% of couples who are trying to conceive.