October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It’s estimated that 44 miscarriages happen every minute worldwide. If your life has been touched by miscarriage, know that you’re not alone. Understanding how it happens and that it’s not your fault may help you to cope. Keep reading to learn more about miscarriage diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
What is Miscarriage?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks gestation. The National Library of Medicine estimates that nearly 26 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. The exact percentage is unknown because miscarriages usually occur before women even realize they’re pregnant.
What are the Symptoms of Miscarriage?
The most obvious miscarriage symptom is vaginal bleeding. While bleeding during pregnancy isn’t always indicative of a miscarriage, it’s important to alert your doctor so they can monitor your symptoms and provide treatment if needed. Other signs of miscarriage include:
- A sudden decline in pregnancy symptoms
- Pain or cramping in your abdomen or lower back
- Fluid or tissue passing from your vagina
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately to get the necessary care!
How are Miscarriages Diagnosed?
There are several tests that can be done to diagnose a miscarriage. The Mayo Clinic states that your doctor may perform a(n):
- Pelvic exam. Initially, your doctor may perform a pelvic exam to see if your cervix has started to dilate.
- Ultrasound. Ultrasounds detect the heartbeat of the fetus and determine whether the embryo is growing properly or not.
- Blood test. A blood test measures the amount of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your system and compares it to previous levels. If your hCG levels are lower than before, it could mean a miscarriage has occurred.
- Tissue test. If you’ve discharged any tissue, your doctor may send it to the lab to confirm that you’ve experienced a miscarriage.
Based on your test results, your doctor may diagnose you with a(n):
- Threatened miscarriage. A threatened miscarriage is a condition that indicates a miscarriage could potentially occur. You may experience bleeding or abdominal cramping, but your cervix hasn’t dilated. The Mayo Clinic states that these pregnancies often continue successfully.
- Missed miscarriage. In a missed (or silent) miscarriage, there are fetal tissues present in the uterus, but the embryo died or was never formed. Missed miscarriages occur without any obvious signs, such as abdominal pain or bleeding.
- Inevitable miscarriage. If your miscarriage symptoms can’t be stopped, the miscarriage is considered inevitable.
- Complete miscarriage. If all pregnancy tissue has been expelled from your uterus, it’s considered a complete miscarriage.
- Incomplete miscarriage. An incomplete miscarriage is when a miscarriage starts, but not all of the tissue passes from your uterus.
- Septic miscarriage. A septic miscarriage occurs when an infection develops in the uterus. This can be a severe condition and requires immediate treatment.
How are Miscarriages Treated?
The treatment you need depends on the kind of miscarriage you’re having. The Mayo Clinic states that your doctor may recommend:
- Bed rest. If you’re experiencing a threatened miscarriage, your doctor may recommend bed rest. They may also advise you to avoid traveling, exercise, and sex. Bed rest isn’t guaranteed to prevent miscarriage, but it can increase your physical comfort and keep you from overworking yourself.
- Expectant management. If you don’t show any signs of infection, you can allow the miscarriage to progress naturally, which could take up to four weeks to complete. This process can be very physically and emotionally draining, so be sure to surround yourself with a strong support system. If your body doesn’t expel all of the pregnancy tissue, you may need surgery to prevent infection.
- Medication. If you would rather speed up the process, your doctor can prescribe misoprostol to help your body pass the pregnancy tissue. This method usually works within 24 hours for up to 90% of women.
- Surgery. If you’re experiencing a septic miscarriage, you may need to undergo a suction dilation and curettage (D&C). During this procedure, the doctor dilates your cervix and extracts the remaining pregnancy tissue from your uterus.
How Long Do Miscarriages Last?
Miscarriages can span from a few hours to two weeks, depending on:
- Whether you were carrying one baby or multiples
- Your gestational age (how far along you are in your pregnancy)
- How long it takes for your body to expel the fetal tissue and placenta
However long your symptoms last, a miscarriage can be frightening and devastating. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor and your loved ones for care and encouragement!
Are Miscarriages Painful?
Not every miscarriage is painful. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some women experience very painful cramps, while others report discomfort similar to their periods. The type of miscarriage you have and how far along you were may also determine how you feel. For example, if you have a later miscarriage, you may feel more pain than someone who miscarried very early in their pregnancy.
What Causes Miscarriage?
The Cleveland Clinic states that chromosomal problems cause about half of all miscarriages, which usually occur by chance. The cause of the chromosomal problems is currently unknown. Other miscarriage risk factors include:
- Improper implantation of the fertilized egg in your uterine lining
- Abnormalities in the uterus
- Incompetent cervix (the cervix begins to dilate too soon in pregnancy)
- Severe malnutrition
- Hormonal imbalances
- Older age
- Immune system disorders, such as lupus
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Kidney disease
- Congenital heart disease
- Thyroid disease
- Radiation therapy
- Using certain medications, such as the acne medication isotretinoin
- Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs
As you can see, miscarriages happen largely due to circumstances outside of your control. It’s important to know that lifestyle factors don’t put you at fault if you didn’t realize you were pregnant. Understanding this can help you take your first steps toward coping.
How to Cope with Miscarriage
Regardless of physical pain, the emotional pain of miscarriage can feel overwhelming. The Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Sciences states that many women feel frustrated with themselves for being unable to continue their pregnancies. It’s also common to experience depression and anxiety after miscarriage.
If you’ve ever experienced a miscarriage, please don’t blame yourself. As mentioned above, miscarriages are almost never the fault of the mother. To take steps toward coping and healing, you can:
- Give yourself time to grieve. Don’t hide from your difficult emotions or push yourself to move on quickly. You’ll likely experience a lot of emotional ups and downs on your path to healing. Many women still grieve their miscarriages years down the road.
- Avoid emotional triggers. If social media posts about pregnancy and motherhood are too difficult for you to see, consider logging off for a while.
- Take care of your physical health. Maintain a nutritious diet, drink plenty of water, and get all the rest you need to physically recover.
- Find a therapist or support group. Talking openly about your miscarriage may help you to process your emotions. Consider speaking to a therapist or joining a support group. Surrounding yourself with people who understand your experience will remind you that your feelings are normal and that you aren’t alone.
- Memorialize the baby. Many women feel like they’ve lost a child after a miscarriage. Acknowledging the baby in a meaningful way may help you find some closure. For example, you could make a charitable donation in your baby’s honor or host a memorial.
Free Ultrasounds in Euless, TX
If you think you might be having a miscarriage or may be at risk of having one, don’t wait to get the care you need! At Mid Cities Women’s Clinic, we provide free ultrasounds and a safe place to process your emotions. Whatever you may be feeling, our compassionate team of nurses and licensed sonographers is here to show you the support you deserve.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, April 27). Miscarriage Matters: The Epidemiological, Physical, Psychological, and Economic Costs of Early Pregnancy Loss. Pubmed.gov. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33915094/
- Miscarriage: Causes, Symptoms, Risks, Treatment & Prevention. Cleveland Clinic. (2022). Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9688-miscarriage
- Dugas, C., & Slane, V. H. (2022, June 27). Miscarriage. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532992/
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, October 16). Miscarriage. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354304
- Emotional Healing After a Miscarriage: A Guide for Women, Partners, Family, and Friends. Georgetown University School of Nursing. (2020, October 5). Retrieved from https://online.nursing.georgetown.edu/blog/emotional-healing-after-miscarriage-guide-women-partners-family-friends/