What Does a Miscarriage Look Like?

by | Mar 24, 2020

There are many things that can cause a woman’s period to vary each month depending on one’s lifestyle.  But if you’re someone that has menstrual periods regularly and can predict when it should arrive, it can be a bit alarming if your period starts later than normal.

woman feels pain in a belly

Some women may find themselves wondering if their late period is actually a miscarriage(medically referred to as spontaneous abortion). Usually, miscarriage is defined as pregnancy loss before the 20th week.

But there’s also loss during early pregnancy.  Early pregnancy loss is common in about 10% of pregnancies. In this situation, it’s possible to not be able to tell the difference between a heavy period or a miscarriage.

If there was an instance of unprotected sex during your fertile period then pregnancy is very possible.

 

Is it my period or miscarriage?

In early pregnancy, it’s difficult to know whether or not you’re having a miscarriage or pregnancy because the symptoms are so similar in the beginning. Assess your symptoms and compare them to your previous periods.

  • Vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy loss can be pretty similar to your regular menstrual cycle. Take notice of whether or not you’re experiencing more heavy bleeding than normal.
  • Cramping is another symptom that you may experience during your period and miscarriage, during miscarriage your symptoms are usually much more painful and last longer.
  • Back pain in your upper and lower back can be a sign of miscarriage as well.
  • Blood clots can accompany heavy bleeding, you may notice small pieces of tissue in the toilet or when you wipe.

 

What color is your blood when you have a miscarriage?

You may see blood that ranges from pink to red to brown, similar to what you may see during your regular period. Red blood is fresh blood that you will usually see in the beginning. Brown blood is older blood that has been in the uterus a while.

 

How do doctors test for miscarriage?

If it’s possible you’re having a miscarriage, your doctor will perform a few tests to figure out exactly what’s going on. A few of the test a doctor may perform include:

  • Blood test: Your doctor may choose to perform a blood test to determine whether pregnancy hormones are being produced. Your doctor may also check for any indication of infections as well.
  • Pelvic Exam: A pelvic exam may also be done to look for any possible indication of a miscarriage as well. Your healthcare provider may take a look at your cervix to see if there are any changes.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound may also be performed to check for any indication of pregnancy as well. However, If there’s a possibility you’re in early pregnancy it’s hard to determine whether or not you will see anything.
  • Pregnancy test:  With pregnancy test detecting lower and lower levels of the pregnancy hormones it’s possible even during early pregnancy to receive a positive test.

 

In later pregnancies, the signs and symptoms of a miscarriage will be more evident.

If you’re aware that you’re pregnant and begin to have a miscarriage you may notice that your pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, sore nipples, vomiting, and other symptoms you were once having disappear.

Many women report a feeling of no longer feeling as though they’re pregnant.

Other signs and symptoms you’ll experience in later miscarriages include:

  • Heavy Bleeding
  • Severe cramping
  • Severe abdominal/belly pain
  • Dull pain in your lower back, this can feel like pressure as well.
  • Changes in vaginal discharge

 

If you know you’re pregnant and you begin to experience any of the symptoms above, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider to decide the next step should be for your care.

If you’re pregnant and you’re experiencing the symptoms mentioned above along with severe pain in your pelvis and shoulder pain it’s important you contact your doctor immediately.

It’s possible you may be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, which can be extremely life-threatening. An ectopic pregnancy is when a pregnancy occurs outside of the uterus usually in your fallopian tube.

If this happens and the pregnancy continues to progress, your tube may rupture causing a lot of internal bleeding that could require surgery.  It’s important to know this type of pregnancy cannot move to your uterus so treatment is always required.

 

What happens in a chemical pregnancy?

A chemical pregnancy is a known pregnancy followed by bleeding shortly after. Pregnancy may have been confirmed by a pregnancy test or bloodwork. Chemical pregnancies usually happen a couple of days after expected period, which is why it appears to be a late period or may appear to have been a false positive for most women.

Most of the time chemical pregnancy signs and symptoms are like those of a regular period because it is such an early pregnancy loss. You can continue track your ovulation and trying to conceive after chemical pregnancy.

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What happens if I am miscarrying?

If your healthcare provider determines you are miscarrying your signs and symptoms will determine the type of treatment needed for you. Typically a woman’s body will naturally begin to miscarry the pregnancy and begin the process of ending the pregnancy.

However, sometimes other treatments may be needed.

If there’s still pregnancy tissue left and bleeding continues, you may need a procedure performed called Dilation and Curettage(D&C). This commonly performed procedure widens the cervix and allows the uterine wall to be scraped. If this procedure is decided, talk with your healthcare provider about what you may expect and how to keep you comfortable.

Sometimes medication may be given instead of the procedure mentioned above to cause your body to end the pregnancy as well. Your healthcare provider can help you decide what is best for you.

fence with motivation signs

 

Why does miscarriage happen?

The first thing to know if you’re experiencing or have experienced a miscarriage is that it’s not your fault. In most cases, chromosome abnormalities are the cause of many first trimester miscarriages. In this case, there’s nothing you can do differently to stop a miscarriage from happening.

 

Are there things that can put me at risk of miscarriage?

It’s important to always lead a life as healthy as possible before conception. Smoking and alcohol use during known pregnancy can increase your risk of miscarriage. Consuming a lot of caffeine can also increase your chances of miscarrying, so it’s important to drink caffeine in moderation if you’re pregnant. Avoiding alcohol and tobacco along with controlling your caffeine intake can help with achieving a healthy pregnancy.

 

How do I cope with having a miscarriage?

No matter how far along you may have been, the loss of a pregnancy can be painful for you and your partner. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider for guidance. Finding a local support group or a support group online can help with some of your feelings.

 

Conclusion

During early pregnancy, especially if you’re not sure that you’re pregnant, it can be difficult to determine whether or not you’ve had a miscarriage or if its a regular period. Keeping up with your cycles, fertile days, and sexual activity can help you determine whether or not you’re experiencing a heavier than a normal period or an early miscarriage.

If you find that you’re experiencing a miscarriage, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. It’s okay to feel sad, lost or even confused during this experience. It’s also important to seek help if needed.

 

check icon Medically Reviewed by Banafsheh Kashani, MD, FACOG

Banafsheh Kashani, M.D., FACOG is a board-certified OB/GYN and specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Eden Fertility Centers, and has been treating couples and individuals with infertility since 2014. Prior to joining Eden Centers for Advanced Fertility, she was practicing as a top fertility specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Orange County and Reproductive Fertility Center. Dr. Kashani has received numerous awards throughout her years of study and medical training. 

Dr. Kashani has conducted extensive research in female reproduction, with a specific focus on the endometrium and implantation. Additionally, Dr. Kashani has authored papers in the areas of fertility preservation, and fertility in women with PCOS and Turners syndrome. She also was part of a large SART-CORS study evaluating the trend in frozen embryo transfers and success rates.

Dr. Kashani is a fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In addition, she is a diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and an active member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and Pacific Coast Reproductive Society (PCRS). She is also a member of the Society of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (SREI).

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