Miscarriage is one of the most awful experiences any couple can go through. For the woman who must physically and emotionally endure it, it is usually life-altering. One thing’s for sure — no woman ever forgets the baby she was supposed to have and the pregnancy that barely happened. It’s a heartbreaking experience that never finds justification. For some women, they aren’t even sure of what’s happened before it’s over.
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How Do You Know if You Had a Miscarriage?
There are telltale signs that a miscarriage may be pending, but there are also some murky signs that women shouldn’t jump to conclusions about. For example, bleeding during pregnancy usually sends most women into panic mode. The majority are immediately concerned that miscarriage must be imminent. However, bleeding can happen during pregnancy for a multitude of reasons. For instance, some women may have issues with their placenta, such as placenta previa. Others might just have old blood leftover from a previous period that makes its way out of the cervix. Some might have implantation bleeding in very early pregnancy that they even mistake for their period starting or a miscarriage.
In most cases, miscarriage involves a certain kind of blood. It may be thick or thinner and watery, but the blood will be red. Some people refer to it as bright red, but it can also be so thick or copious that it seems dark when it is actually dense and vibrant. Miscarriage also passes in clots. Although in some cases the entire fetus can be passed still in the sac, this isn’t common. Women are encouraged to save some of the passed material if they would like to have it analyzed by a lab to try and discern what may have caused their miscarriage. In many cases, there is no genetic component aside from chromosomal irregularities. Sometimes the endometrium — the inner lining of the uterus — is just too thin for a pregnancy to be able to implant and hold on to.
For some people, the bleeding may last a while — even a few months. For others, it might taper off within less than a week. This often depends on how far along the pregnancy was before it stopped progressing. Most miscarriages occur in the early weeks before seven weeks. For this reason, many women don’t even know they are pregnant before they are having a miscarriage. Sometimes the bleeding starts at a time when they assume it’s just their period, too. This is known as a chemical pregnancy.
So how can you tell if what you’re experiencing is a miscarriage? Truthfully, even with all the signs in the world, you’ll need to head to the hospital or doctor to get an ultrasound and pelvic exam to be sure. Even with those advancements in medicine on your side, it will probably take a few days to confirm that a miscarriage is happening if the ultrasound is inconclusive.
Pregnancies that are early to date may not be captured as easily on an ultrasound. Every millimeter accounts for a day of pregnancy and the measurements are only as accurate as the sonographer that is measuring the baby. If it’s too early to even see a heartbeat, then not seeing one doesn’t necessarily mean a miscarriage has occurred. While most fetal heartbeats can be seen by six to seven weeks of pregnancy, some aren’t until a few weeks beyond that.
Thus, the few days of grace period might be necessary to confirm what is going on. This is carried out through a blood test. The test is known as a qualitative HCG. This tests for the amount of human chorionic gonadotropin — also known as HCG — in the blood. The results of this test take time because it must be performed twice. The first test is to get a benchmark level to test from. The second blood draw is two to three days later. The doctor will want to see that the HCG level has doubled within 72 hours. However, if it is rising somewhat more slowly than that yet not within the time range, it is usually fine, too. In fact, after six weeks, it can take up to five days for levels to double, and the time it takes just keeps increasing as the pregnancy progresses.
Moving on, Miscarriage is a Sad Thing
So what does a miscarriage feel like, though? After all, it’s not all physical. It’s hard to imagine a time and place where everything will be okay when going through such a painstakingly difficult process. But it will. Up to a quarter of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, per Medical Daily. The majority of those women go on to have healthy, stable pregnancies with no further issues. In cases of recurrent miscarriage, the likelihood of successful full term pregnancies in the future is still high.
Emotionally, it’s going to feel very much like someone has died. That someone was your child. Whether it’s your first or tenth child, the pain is the same, and whether it’s your first or tenth miscarriage, the pain is much the same there, too. Mothers and fathers alike will need time to grieve. They will have to mourn the loss of the child they won’t come to know. Unfortunately, society often forgets that miscarriage is like a death. They don’t allow for the same time off of work or gathering of community, but the whole family truly hurts when there is this kind of loss.
When a couple finds out they are expecting, it is such a momentous and happy occasion. When something comes along and plants an abrupt end to all the dreams Mom, Dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles have dreamt up, it’s hard to let go of what might have been. Trust the process. It’s normal to go through the phase where you don’t want to get out of bed. At some point, though, you will have to. Know that moving on from there is easier the more you do it, and that time really does heal this wound.