There’s no way around it. A miscarriage is so hard, and if you’re going through one or think you may be, we wish we could reach through the screen and give you a huge hug and a listening ear.
Tragically, statistics say that anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. And if you add in the early miscarriages in pregnancies that haven’t yet been confirmed, the statistics go up even more.
But you’re more than any statistic. When you’ve been dreaming of and planning for a baby, knowing that you’re not alone may provide some level of comfort, but we know it won’t take away the pain.
If you’re pregnant and worried about miscarriage, remember that every woman — and even every pregnancy — is different. As an example: If you’ve had a previous loss that included lots of cramping and now have cramping with your current pregnancy, you might assume the worst — but this symptom doesn’t always mean miscarriage.
Similarly, it’s possible to have a miscarriage — either very early or with something called a “missed miscarriage” — without any immediate or unusual symptoms.
With all this in mind, let’s take a closer look at what a miscarriage can feel like.
If you believe you may be having a miscarriage, contact your medical provider. They’ll be able to provide you with the tests to determine your health and the health of your baby.
Most miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy and are unavoidable. While this is heartbreaking, it’s important to know that this means there was likely nothing that you or your partner did to cause it.
The most common cause of miscarriage during this time is a chromosomal abnormality in the DNA. Other, more rare reasons for a first trimester miscarriage include:
- hormonal factors
- maternal health
- exposure to toxic substances
- failure of the egg to properly implant into the uterine lining
Age can also play a role in miscarriage. In one
If you’re having a miscarriage during the first trimester, you may feel:
- Back pain. The extent of this can differ greatly from woman to woman, but it’s often worse than normal monthly menstrual cramping.
- A white-pink mucus coming from the vagina.
- Pelvic contractions. We can’t say this enough, though: As with everything else, the extent of this can differ greatly from woman to woman. Some women report experiencing labor level contractions every 5 to 20 minutes while others don’t report having contractions at all during their miscarriage.
- Brown or bright red bleeding with or without cramps. But some bleeding — especially light — isn’t too uncommon in normal pregnancies. In one study, only 12 percent of women with first trimester bleeding experienced a miscarriage.
- A sudden decrease in signs of pregnancy like nausea or breast pain. But keep in mind that these symptoms — particularly nausea — typically decrease in the second trimester of a perfectly normal pregnancy.
- Diarrhea and abdominal pain.
It’s also possible to feel nothing unusual. A chemical pregnancy occurs when a pregnancy is lost so early on that bleeding occurs around the time of your expected period. Many women don’t realize that they’ve conceived in these cases and won’t recognize that they’re miscarrying.
And finally, your physical symptoms might be delayed in the case of a missed miscarriage. This is when the fetal heartbeat stops without your knowledge, but you don’t physically miscarry.
A missed miscarriage — also called a silent miscarriage or medically termed a “missed abortion” — is usually detected on a routine follow-up ultrasound after your pregnancy has been confirmed. Sometimes, growth measurements may even indicate that the fetal heartbeat stopped weeks earlier — for example, if you’re 11 weeks pregnant but the fetal age is measured as 7 weeks.
Physical feelings and recovery from a missed miscarriage depend on whether you have a D and C or are given medication to induce a miscarriage. To learn what happens after a missed miscarriage, take a look at this article.
A second trimester miscarriage is rare. In fact, once you hit 20 weeks, pregnancy loss isn’t referred to as miscarriage — but more on that in a minute.
Common causes for a miscarriage during the second trimester include:
- chromosomal abnormalities
- cervical insufficiencies, like a short or incompetent cervix
- drug use
- maternal infections
One possible complication of incompetent cervix is preterm delivery. Because of this, you may feel stronger cramping than you would with a first trimester miscarriage. If you’re experiencing bleeding and heavy cramping, this may mean that the cervix is opening and contractions are following.
A pregnancy loss in the third trimester isn’t referred to as a miscarriage. Instead, it’s called a stillbirth.
If you feel or have any of the following at this stage, call your OB — or just go to the ER — immediately:
- significant vaginal blood loss
- pain or cramping in the vaginal area
- fewer baby movements
It can be useful to do daily kick counts in the third trimester to get a feel for how often your baby moves and as a way to notice if movement seems to be decreasing.
If you feel like you’re having a miscarriage, it’s very important to call your doctor and not make a self-diagnosis.
There are many reasons to feel a lot of the things we’ve mentioned — including urinary tract infections, hormones, and other medical circumstances.
Your doctor may discover that instead of a miscarriage you have a problem that can be fixed without any effect on the pregnancy. Or, your doctor may find that there is a problem with the pregnancy, but that preventative measures can be taken to protect it.
Additionally, should they find that you did miscarry, they’ll be able to tell you whether the miscarriage is “complete,” “incomplete,” or “missed” (all medical terms). This will help the doctor make necessary medical decisions to protect your own health and future fertility.
A miscarriage — or even the thought of a miscarriage — can involve a lot of feelings. You might feel scared or like you’re in a bad dream. You might begin to blame yourself or someone else. And despite the statistics, you may feel very, very alone.
You may also have many unanswered questions about what’s happening to your body and pregnancy. If you feel confident that you’re having a miscarriage, you may even begin to wonder if you’ll ever be able to conceive or have a child. (Rest assured, most women are.) Your mind may go to having to tell other people about your loss.
These feelings are all very normal.
It’s critical that you keep lines of communication open with your family, friends, and health providers. Share your feelings with those who care about you and get your questions answered by medical professionals.
And if it turns out that you’re not miscarrying, the fear of having one may persist. Talking to a licensed therapist or joining a pregnancy support group can be helpful during the rest of your pregnancy.
Every woman and every pregnancy is different when it comes to what a miscarriage feels like. If you believe you may be having a miscarriage, seek advice and assistance from your doctor.
In addition to consulting your doctor, it’s important to reach out to your support system. If you’d like additional support from people who understand what you’re going through, there are online and in-person support groups for both those going through pregnancy and those who have experienced a miscarriage. Please remember, you’re not alone.