While we may not want to think about it when newly pregnant, knowing what the signs of a miscarriage look like is vital. Not only can you possibly stop the miscarriage from occurring but you can also eliminate a lot of pain and suffering for yourself and baby. Having said that, it is unfortunate that once a miscarriage has started there isn’t very much you can do to stop it.
Now, often times there may be missed miscarriage symptoms, which we will touch on, and sometimes there are silent miscarriage symptoms too. Many a woman doesn’t even know she is pregnant, never mind that she went through a miscarriage. That a woman can have a miscarriage with no symptoms is also a phenomenon which we will attempt to explain to you too.
Miscarriage, or spontaneous abortion, as it’s commonly known as well, normally occurs in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. There is no hard and fast rule to when a baby will miscarry, and the reasons behind a miscarriage are numerous. A guestimate is that between 30 and 40 percent of pregnancies end up in a miscarriage. Sad but true. And they are generally the first pregnancy of your life too. And why we say guestimate is that this number is accurate as to the number of reported miscarriages. However, because there are so many silent or missed miscarriages not reported, the number is definitely higher.
What is a miscarriage like? Well, to be blatant, it is like your baby is peeling away from the insides of your uterus, most times, but it doesn’t always feel like that. The word miscarriage broken down means that something that was carried has come away or is now unattached.
Table of Contents
- What Happens When You Have a Miscarriage?
- The Signs of a Miscarriage
- First Trimester Miscarriage Symptoms
- Late Miscarriage Symptoms
- Incomplete Miscarriage Symptoms
- After Miscarriage Symptoms
- Natural Miscarriage
- Missed Miscarriage Symptoms
- Miscarriage Symptoms Week by Week
- Miscarriage or Period
- Miscarriage at Home
What Happens When You Have a Miscarriage?
Miscarriage is the loss of a baby and by this we mean that the baby has for various reasons decided to separate itself from the uterus. Sometimes the baby doesn’t necessarily separate but just dies, which often is referred to as a stillbirth, but technically still falls under a miscarriage. A Stillbirth baby is one that is born, but not alive, after 24 weeks of pregnancy. If a baby dies internally before 24 weeks, then we refer to it as a miscarriage. The reason for this differentiation between the pre-24 weeks and the after 24 week’s name, is not that a baby is less of a baby before 24 weeks, it is just a common separation as to the two types of deaths.
Interestingly enough a Stillbirth death is as common as a miscarriage, if not more common. Stats show that 1 in 160 women will have a stillbirth in her lifetime. The saddest and often most mentally disturbing part of a stillbirth is that most times the mother has to actually give birth to the dead baby. In short, factors that can cause a stillbirth are smoking, drugs, alcohol, malnutrition and conceiving when over the age of 35. Other reasons can be maternal diabetes, placental abruptions, birth defects and bacterial infection, to name but a few.
The miscarriage process from the symptoms to the actual realizing and diagnosis that you have miscarried is a traumatic and often times painful one. Knowing what the symptoms are and how to deal with them will assist you when and if it should happen. It is best to be prepared than to sit and wonder what is going on with your body.
Educate yourself from the word go and be better informed, not only about how to avoid a miscarriage but also how to manage a miscarriage, should it occur.
The Signs of a Miscarriage
There are clear signs that a miscarriage is under way or has already occurred. While some of these occurrences may not mean a miscarriage, it is best to know about them and then have yourself checked out. Note, as well, that some miscarriage symptoms or signs can look like the start of a period cycle. There will be marginal differences which we will educate you on.
Here is what to look out for.
- Spotting is little spots of blood that you will find on your underwear or when you wipe yourself following urinating and it is fairly commonplace in the early stages of pregnancy and most times doesn’t mean anything other than the body adjusting to the new inhabitant. However, it can mean that the baby is in the process of miscarriage and can be one of the early miscarriage symptoms. It is best to wait a day or two to see whether the spotting is pregnancy related or an actual miscarriage. Spotting can be following or include cramps and lower back pain.
2. Abdominal Cramping
- While also just a symptom of a body preparing itself for the new arrival, mild miscarriage cramps are a sign of miscarriage and often one of the missed miscarriage symptoms. What do miscarriage cramps feel like? Well, very similar to menstrual cramps, affecting the lower back and lower abdominal area. Sometimes you may want to take a muscle relaxant or anti-inflammatory to alleviate the pain, but if you are not sure what is causing it, steer clear of taking any drugs. They may aggravate the situation or if you were not going through a miscarriage, may induce or spur one on.
3. Back Pain
- Early miscarriage symptoms can be shown by way of back pain, generally the lower back area above the buttocks. Sometimes the entire pelvic region, in and around the hips area, can hurt excessively. As the lower back is closely connected to the abdomen, it will hurt should there be a problem in the uterus. A deep and gentle rub of the lower back can lesson the pain but be sure not to press on the abdomen too harshly. Again, as with all these symptoms, this may not mean that you are going through a miscarriage. It could just mean that you have hurt your back somehow, overstretching, lifting something heavy or your back is sore because of period pains.
- A light discharge is not uncommon in the beginning stages of pregnancy, or in fact, at anytime in a woman’s life, but a white/pink mucus could mean a problem. It is a combination of blood and mucus from the lining of the uterus, so be sure to have it checked out rather than ignoring it. Sometimes these discharges don’t come with any warning, like an itchy or sore vagina or even any form of pain in the abdominal or uterine area.
5. Tissue or Clot-like Material
- When the discharge is a thicker, more sinewy material, then you need to worry seriously. A little blood or mucus can be explained but actually tissue or clot-like material can be one of the first trimester miscarriage symptoms. The tissue could mean your uterus wall is peeling and the baby has died.
There are other signs of a miscarriage and we will cover these under different areas of miscarriage as we go.
First Trimester Miscarriage Symptoms
The first trimester is generally when a miscarriage will occur, as this is the most delicate period of your pregnancy. The baby is trying to settle in to its new home and your body is attempting to adjust to the foreign addition and all the other changes that are happening, such as tender breasts, lower back aches and the constant feeling of fatigue.
Many women and couples don’t even tell their closest family and friends about their pregnancy during the first 12 weeks, for fear of losing the baby and having to then tell everyone again what happened. But a pregnancy is a happy occasion and always reason to celebrate. Your close friends and family can be the pillars of strength that you will need should a miscarriage occur.
Let us look at a few typical symptoms of a miscarriage in the first trimester of pregnancy.
1. Mild to Severe Lower Back Pain
- Obvious signs that you have miscarried in the first trimester would be either mild or severe lower back pain. These can be similar to menstrual cramps but much worse and more intense. You may be tempted to take a drug to release the pain, but it is best not to. Any drugs can have averse affects on the unborn baby and the sensitive goings on internally.
- Another sign that falls under natural miscarriage symptoms would be actual true contractions, which can occur anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes apart. You will know them when they start and you need to get to the hospital immediately should this happen. This can also be a result of an incompetent cervix, which we will discuss a little later on in detail.
- A pink, red or brownish type of blood flow, whether mild or hectic, could be miscarriage blood and should be treated with caution. Miscarriage bleeding is where the baby is pulling away from its safe little cocoon and generally signals that you are going through a miscarriage. As period blood can look like this too. Should you experience this in the first 4 to 5 weeks following possible conception, wait a few days to see if it progresses into a normal period cycle or if it is abnormal. If abnormal, it could mean you are just pregnant and the body is adjusting or you have had an early miscarriage.
Late Miscarriage Symptoms
When a miscarriage happens later in the pregnancy, i.e. after 20 to 24 weeks, then we call the signs late miscarriage symptoms. Some do refer to this as a stillbirth but technically that is the term used for death of a baby internally after 24 full weeks of pregnancy. We will cover a little on stillbirths later.
All the normal signs like bleeding, cramping, lower back pain and discharge can occur but a few more common signs that are significant to a late miscarriage are these:
1. No Feelings of Being Pregnant
- Now, when you are pregnant, you feel pregnant. It is not a feeling you can equate to, if you have never been pregnant before, but you just know it. Be it a maternal, natural sixth sense of sorts or just because you were told what to expect, your body will know when it is pregnant. Well, most times you do. But with all things in this nature, sometimes they are not obvious. So what does feeling pregnant actually feel like, if you didn’t already know? Your breasts feel tender, larger and generally heavier; your ankles may be swollen as will some other parts of your body like the toes, the knee caps and the elbows; you are tired more frequently and find you need to lay down or have a nap, generally in the afternoon; you feel you need to eat smaller meals more often as opposed to 3 large meals a day; and general moving around becomes more labored and uncomfortable. If these little signs go away then it may be that you have had a miscarriage. If you never experienced these symptoms of pregnancy at all, then you will need to look out for other signs that a possible miscarriage has occurred.
2. No Movement
- The baby generally starts to move around any time between 16 and 25 weeks of pregnancy. Should you either never feel the baby move and you are far into this period or it stops moving all together, then there may be a chance you have had a late miscarriage. Some babies are more active than others, but as a mother, you will pick up when something doesn’t feel right inside. Always go with your gut instinct.
Incomplete Miscarriage Symptoms
Incomplete or inevitable miscarriages are when the cervix dilates prematurely or effaces. Effacement means the cervix is preparing for delivery of the baby and the baby will drop closer to the cervix, which will become softer and thinner. There may be a rupture and miscarriage pain that will arise as well as miscarriage bleeding. This means you are going through an incomplete miscarriage. This means your doctor needs to assist you in completing the miscarriage or you will be left with remains of the baby and supporting tissue inside of you which can fester and infect your body with dire results.
After Miscarriage Symptoms
Sometimes haemorrhaging may occur after miscarriage and needs to be closely watched and treated. A great deal of blood can be lost this way and can be dangerous for the mother. In the older times, many a mother died from after miscarriage symptoms, mostly the loss of huge amounts of blood. Nowadays, we are able to curb this situation and remedy it quickly.
When you have an early miscarriage, i.e. within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, your body will generally expel all the fetal tissue on its own; however, if it is later than 20 weeks you may need to have a D&C (dilation and curettage) whereby the doctor removes the leftovers, as it were.
Where excessive bleeding follows you can have drugs prescribed to lessen this bleeding. If the bleeding persists still after medication, and you end up with a fever or the chills, then you need to get back to the doctor or hospital. You may have contracted an infection. Infections should never be left unattended. A bad infection can lead to permanent damage to the uterus and cervix, inhibiting you from either becoming pregnant again or carrying a baby full term.
Some women choose to have a natural miscarriage and this doesn’t mean they voluntarily want to have a miscarriage or induce a miscarriage. This means that they want to naturally let their body get rid of the fetal tissue on its own. A D&C (dilation and curettage) can be an unpleasant experience and if you can avoid it while still keeping safe and healthy, then give the natural miscarriage option a try.
Here are a few natural remedies:
- Has a natural ingredient that encourages contractions and hence will help push the remains out naturally.
2. Dong Quai Herb
- Sprinkle some in your tea or some water and it will do the same job.
3. Homeopathy Herbs
- Sabina and Sepia will also naturally get all that out of your body.
4. Black and Blue Cohosh Herbs
- Not nice to taste but work a charm in assisting the fetal remains to expel naturally from your body.
It is interesting to note that these natural herbs and substances were very readily used back in the day for women didn’t want the baby, i.e. a natural form of abortion. The herbs too can be used, under supervision, to spur on contractions for getting the cervix ready for child birth.
Missed Miscarriage Symptoms
A missed miscarriage is when you don’t even know you have had a miscarriage, and sometimes let alone that you were pregnant in the first place.
Many women don’t experience bleeding at all when they miscarry and it begs the question “can you miscarry without bleeding?” The answer would be a resounding yes, unfortunately.
Unfortunately because bleeding is generally a sure sign something is wrong, if you don’t bleed or even cramp, then how would you know?
A missed miscarriage or blighted ovum means that the body hasn’t yet processed or admitted to the fact that a miscarriage has occurred. Miscarriage begins when the mother’s hormone levels drop and not when the baby has died. The presence of such hormones can be deceiving when taking a pregnancy test as the test results may be positive. But unfortunately, many a times an excited prospective mother will run to the doctor or gynae with her positive urine tested pregnancy stick only to find out she isn’t pregnant or in fact has had a miscarriage.
Sometimes, the mother will go for her routine ultrasound with her gynae or doctor, none the wiser that anything is wrong internally. When the baby’s heartbeat doesn’t come through it can be a bitterly sad and destroying moment, one that the doctors have a hard time having to inform the mother or waiting parents about.
Miscarriage at Week 2, 3, 4
It is quite difficult to tell whether you have miscarried at such an early stage as this because you haven’t yet gone through a full cycle. The body often times rejects the fertilized egg and will miscarry within those first 4 weeks leading up to the next ovulation period. Sometimes it has to do with the health of the mother that makes the fertilized egg detach itself or decide it doesn’t want to be there anymore.
Having been on contraception can have a great effect on the first 4 weeks of pregnancy or even the process of conceiving. Most times the doctor will tell you to go off the contraception for at least 3 months before trying to conceive. This allows the chemicals involved in the contraceptive pills to completely and fully expel from your body, thereby not interfering with the natural progression of the conception process.
The symptoms of an early miscarriage can be heavy bleeding which can sometimes lead you to think you are having a late heavy period cycle. Look out for mucus-type discharge along with the blood and even some heavy tissue. This may mean that you have miscarried as opposed to having a heavy period flow with just blood.
Miscarriage at Week 5, 6, 7, 8
By the 2nd month of pregnancy, the baby is generally pretty set in place, but this doesn’t mean it still can’t miscarry. Sometimes, after one full cycle has passed, i.e. 4 weeks from conception, the mother can develop an infection, such as a bladder infection or even a sexually transmitted infection. This can cause huge complications for the growing fetus. It can be no fault of the mother, mind you. Even if the mother had all the checks and tests done before hand and was super careful during sex and with her general hygiene, an infection can develop after the fact.
2. Chronic Illness
Sometimes it is chronic illnesses that affect the growth process of your baby.
High fevers can be most dangerous to both mother and baby. High core temperatures that exceed 102 degrees can cause a miscarriage and generally this is more of a risk in the first 7 weeks of pregnancy.
3. Pregnancy Symptoms
Very often you will experience typical pregnancy symptoms that are in fact miscarriage symptoms, which of course can be confusing. These signs may be tender breasts, frequent urination and excessive fatigue. The reason is that the levels of progesterone and estrogen drop during a miscarriage. The ultrasound will show signs of pregnancy but no gestational sac.
4. Hormone Level Changes
When pregnant, certain hormone levels rise, such as HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) but when a miscarriage occurs, these levels drop drastically. It is important to note that a home pregnancy test may still show positive after a miscarriage has occurred.
5. Cramping and Pelvic Pain
The cramps initially may feel like period pains, hitting your lower back and abdomen, but will start to increase as the blood flow increases. If you feel even mildly uncomfortable, it is best to seek medical help.
Miscarriage at Week 9, 10, 11, 12
1. Bleeding and Severe Abdominal Pain
These cramps and pains will make you feel like you are going into labor. Even if you haven’t experienced labor pains before, you will know these when they arrive. The contraction-type pains will occur anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes apart. There will be bleeding most times and it may start out like spotting but will end up as a heavy flow.
2. Water Breaking
In addition, your water may break and you may not realise it as it is obviously a clear liquid, which may even be mixed in with the blood flow. This type of miscarriage is often caused by an incompetent cervix, which means that the cervix tissue is weak and cannot support a pregnancy full term. The cervix basically starts to open prematurely, like it would around the due date for delivery. Incompetent cervix issues only occur in 1 out of 100 pregnancies.
It is good to know that an incompetent cervix can be avoided in some instances but it is worthwhile knowing the causes of this type of cervix. Namely, damage during a difficult previous birth, previous surgery on the cervix, trauma caused by a previous D&C (dilation and curettage), a malformed uterus or cervix from your own birth, and DES exposure (Diethylstilboestrol) which is a drug that was in fact used to help dissuade miscarriages back in the 1940 and all the way to 1971. The ironic thing was that side effects of this drug actually worked in reverse and high exposures can cause cancer and miscarriage.
Miscarriage or Period
As mentioned before, sometimes a miscarriage can be mistaken as a period or vice versa. But it is worth a mention on its own. When you are trying to get pregnant, you are very sensitive to all the changes your body goes through as well as when that four weeks starts to loom when you would normally get your period. So when you see that spotting of blood at around that time, your heart will sink and you will think your period has started and you are not pregnant this time round. However, it could also mean you did become pregnant and have miscarried the baby. This is a very common occurrence and most women, in fact, never even know they miscarried, hence why our stats are not that accurate.
Having said all that, sometimes a little bleeding doesn’t mean either and it is best to wait a few days to see if the bleeding either stops or carries on. A period should last around 5 – 7 days, so waiting that long to see whether it was in fact a period or a miscarriage is fine. However, if you are having severe abdominal pains or lower back spasms and cramps that you normally wouldn’t have during a period then you should go seek medical attention.
Miscarriage at Home
As it goes, miscarriages don’t have specific times and days, although, as mentioned before, they generally occur during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. And they of course don’t care where you may be at the time either. Most times you may be home, alone, and while this is a daunting thought, there are ways to complete a miscarriage if you cannot leave home.
What we mean by completing a miscarriage is that you may not be able to get to the hospital to have a D&C (dilation and curettage), where the uterus is scraped free of all remaining fetus and tissues. You may need to get rid of this yourself. We have covered the natural miscarriage ways of expelling these from your body. So be sure to have those supplies on hand should you need to do this on your own. A D&C can be very obtrusive to the body and the mind, given they are removing the final remnants of your once child. The natural method of a D&C is much better for the body, soul and mind.
But remember that if you are still experiencing cramps and bleeding after a few days with the natural remedies, then you want to go have yourself checked out. Leaving the pregnancy remains inside of you can cause an infection and lead to fever and the chills. A mother can get very sick from this and can even damage her uterus and cervix down the line for future pregnancies. Never mess around with this sort of issue.
We hope that out comprehensive article has helped you to be better informed about miscarriages and the symptoms that could arise. If at all in doubt or you are experiencing a symptom not mentioned, then please consult your gynae or doctor. Your body is a precious temple and so is the life that you may be carrying, so while you can self-diagnose, if you really are not sure and have an uncomfortable feeling then it is best to seek professional advice.