Experiencing a miscarriage can leave you feeling sad, overwhelmed and unsure where to turn. Here’s a start to finding out more about the basics.
What is Miscarriage?
Sadly, miscarriages are a common occurrence, with one in six pregnancies ending before week 20. This is little consolation when you have lost a baby through miscarriage, and you may want to find out why it occurred to see if you can reduce the risk of it happening again.
Some women will experience more than one consecutive miscarriage. The term recurrent miscarriage is used when women experience three or more consecutive early pregnancy losses (2 in 100 women).
Missed miscarriage (also called ‘delayed’ or ‘silent’ miscarriage)
This is where the baby has died or failed to develop but is still in your uterus. You might have had no idea that anything was wrong until a routine scan. You may still feel pregnant or your pregnancy symptoms may have subsided.
Blighted ovum (also called ‘missed’ or ‘delayed’ miscarriage)
This is where an ultrasound scan shows a pregnancy sac with nothing inside. This is usually because the fertilised egg hasn’t developed normally so the pregnancy sac grows but the baby doesn’t. Sometimes the baby stops developing at such an early stage that it is absorbed back into the surrounding tissue.
This is where some but not all of the pregnancy tissue is miscarried. You may have pain and heavy bleeding that does not subside. In some instances a D&C will be required to remove the remaining pregnancy tissue.
Sometimes you may get some bleeding that settles down within a day or so and the pregnancy then continues as normal. This is known as a threatened miscarriage. Normally it is wise to take it easy and perhaps have a scan to see if there was a cause such as a sub-chorionic hematoma.
Signs and Symptoms of Miscarriage
The most common signs of miscarriage are heavy bleeding, perhaps with blood clots, and strong period-type pains. Sometimes however a miscarriage can occur without any symptoms at all.
If a miscarriage is really under way, unfortunately it will take its course no matter how much we wish it wasn’t so. The signs of a miscarriage will depend on the gestation of your pregnancy. Most women will experience something similar to a heavy period, with slightly more cramping and bleeding than usual. Others can experience labour-like cramping, and pass large clots, particularly if it’s later in the first trimester.
In some cases, there are no signs or symptoms at all, and a woman will have no idea that anything is wrong until a routine scan shows that the baby has no heartbeat and stopped growing at an earlier time. This will obviously come as a huge shock and be devastating for the woman and her partner.
In general, it is best to see your healthcare professional if any of these occur:
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Dull lower back pain/pressure
- Changes to vaginal discharge
It is important to remember to use sanitary pads not tampons during a miscarriage, as these can lead to infection.
On rare occasions, miscarriages happen because the pregnancy develops outside the womb – most commonly in the fallopian tube. This is known as an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies are potentially serious as there’s a risk you could experience internal bleeding, and in some cases your fallopian tube can rupture. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy usually appear between weeks 5 and 14 of the pregnancy.
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may include:
- Persistent and severe abdominal pain, usually on one side
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting, commonly after the pain has started
- Pain in your shoulder tip
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
- Feeling very faint and light-headed, and possibly fainting
Please remember this is a guide only. Get in contact with your healthcare professional if you are worried and in case of emergency, visit your nearest Emergency department or call 000.
Miscarriage Support Resources