One of the most visible things a miscarriage can affect is a woman's first period afterward. As with abortion, miscarriage often may delay your first period afterward due to the increased levels of hormones in your system from pregnancy.
Usually, the longer a pregnancy has advanced, the less typical the first period after a miscarriage will be.
Most women who have miscarried have a period four to six weeks later. Your period may be heavier or more painful than usual, and you may notice a strong odor.
According to the Mayo Clinic, about 10 to 20 percent of all known pregnancies result in a miscarriage. But there are likely many more women who miscarry before they recognize signs of their pregnancy, such as a missed period.
Miscarriages are difficult experiences for expectant parents and the people around them, so many people are uncomfortable talking about the subject. But if you or someone you know has experienced a miscarriage, it can be helpful to stay informed.
Most people understand that a miscarriage can cause psychological trauma for expecting parents. But it also affects a woman's body physically in different ways.
When you miscarry, your body tries to pass the contents of your uterus through your vagina. You're likely to experience severe pain or cramping in your abdomen and lower back, and may begin to pass blood through the vagina with fluid and tissue.
Some or all of these symptoms may last as little as a few days or take a few weeks to stop.
A miscarriage is different from the occasional pain and spotting some women experience during pregnancy and their menstrual period, which aren't causes for concern.
Many women who miscarry weren't aware they were pregnant. If you're not sure whether you've had a miscarriage, you can see your doctor to measure your levels of HCG.
HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, is a hormone that forms in the body during pregnancy to support fetal growth. If you've recently miscarried, it's possible for a doctor to measure this hormone in your body.
If you're healthy, you will have a period in four to six weeks. But you may notice your first period is different than normal. It may be:
- accompanied by discharge with a strong odor
- heavier than usual
- longer than usual
- more painful than usual
It can take a month or more for your body to fully recover from a miscarriage.
When you become pregnant, your body's hormones undergo major changes. They need time to return to pre-pregnancy levels before your body has another period. So in the meantime, your periods may seem unusual.
The length of your first period after a miscarriage varies depending on how long you carried your pregnancy beforehand.
If your periods were irregular before you got pregnant, they often remain irregular after your miscarriage. So it's possible it may take your body longer than four to six weeks to begin its next period.
Your first period after a miscarriage may be more painful than normal. You may also experience tender breasts. There are some things you can do to help deal with the discomfort. Some treatments include:
- abstaining from sex, which may be painful
- applying a heating pad or hot water bottle to your abdomen
- avoiding use of tampons, which may be painful
- taking ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- wearing a supportive bra without binding
It's possible for your body to ovulate, or release an egg for fertilization, as soon as two weeks after a miscarriage. But it may take six weeks or more before your body and hormone levels return to normal.
Avoid having sex for two weeks following miscarriage to prevent pain and complications. It's fine to begin using any type of contraception immediately after a miscarriage. Some require less time than others to recover from a miscarriage, especially if it happened very early in their pregnancy.
Doctors can't always determine the cause, but often miscarriages happen because of problems with the baby's development. A miscarriage also appears more likely if a woman has a genetic disorder, is 35 or older, smokes, drinks, takes drugs, or has an infection or physical problem in the uterus.
Most women who miscarry can go on to carry their next pregnancy to full term, if they choose to try again.
A miscarriage can be difficult on the mind and body. For expecting parents, a miscarriage can be an incredibly traumatic event. A woman may blame herself for the miscarriage, even though in most cases a problem with the fetus caused it.
Usually, the emotional healing of a miscarriage takes longer than the physical healing. You may feel angry and sad. It's important to give yourself time to grieve, especially before trying to get pregnant again.
Because it can be difficult to talk to others and process your miscarriage, it can be helpful to know tips for coping. Some strategies that might help include:
- joining a support group for women who have miscarried
- reducing your stress with breathing exercises, meditation, and other relaxation techniques
- seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, or reproductive counselor for support and help if you feel depressed
- taking extra time to rest and relax
Here are a few online resources where you can find support in the United States:
- Centering Corporation
- Compassionate Friends
- "From Hurt to Healing" booklet by the March of Dimes
- Journey Program of Seattle Children's Hospital
- Share Your Story Community at March of Dimes
- Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support
There's no right time to try for another pregnancy after a miscarriage. If and when you do feel ready, you can minimize your risks for another miscarriage by:
- getting regular exercise
- maintaining a healthy weight
- reducing stress
- sticking to a balanced diet
- taking folic acid to help the development of a baby's nervous system
- quitting smoking
See your doctor right away if you think you have miscarried. It's possible you will need to undergo a procedure to remove any remaining fetal tissue from your uterus.
Unless you have passed all the tissue, they may recommend you undergo a curette, called a D and C or dilation and curettage, which involves scraping the uterus with a spoon-shaped instrument called a curette. This reduces your risks of infection and will reduce the duration of any bleeding.
This procedure is done under general anesthesia, and usually you're able to go home the same day.
You should seek emergency services if you experience any of the following symptoms, as they can be signs of serious infection:
- abdominal or shoulder pain that's severe
- a very large amount of bleeding (soaking two pads an hour) or passing blood clots that are the size of golf balls
- chills or fever
- diarrhea or pain when trying to have a bowel movement
- very strong-smelling vaginal discharge
Whether your first period after a miscarriage seems unusual, you should have a checkup with your doctor within six weeks of your miscarriage. It's important for your doctor to check that you have recovered and that your uterus has returned to normal size.
Call your doctor right away after your miscarriage and initial treatment if:
- you experience multiple periods that are more painful and heavier than normal
- your period never comes
- your periods are very irregular
A miscarriage can be traumatic for an expecting parent. After a miscarriage, it takes about a month for your body to adjust back to its normal state. During that time, you may experience an unusual first period, which is rarely a sign of a problem.
It often takes the body less time to heal than the mind. You may be filled with feelings of sadness, guilt, and anger that you need to process. So if you've miscarried, be sure to get both the medical and psychological support you need to heal fully whether you decide to try to get pregnant again.
Seeing a mental healthcare provider or joining a miscarriage support group may help you through the grieving process.