What is a miscarriage?
Miscarriage is when you lose your baby before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Bleeding and cramping are common signs of miscarriage
If you were pregnant and didn't know it yet, you can have a miscarriage and think it was just your period
To tell if you’ve had a miscarriage, doctors will check your cervix (the lower part of your uterus)
Doctors will also do an ultrasound Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a safe imaging test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body. Ultrasonography doesn't use radiation (x-rays). Ultrasonography is also called... read more (moving pictures of the insides of your uterus, also called your womb)
Many women who’ve had one miscarriage get pregnant again and deliver healthy babies
However, your chances of miscarriage go up each time: the more miscarriages you have, the more likely you are to have another one
If you’ve had several miscarriages, you may want to see a doctor before you get pregnant again
Doctors can try to make your next pregnancy more successful
What causes a miscarriage?
Doctors don't always know what causes you to miscarry. Miscarriage is not caused by a sudden emotional shock, such as getting bad news. Also, minor injuries like slipping and falling do not cause miscarriage. However, major injuries like a bad car crash can cause miscarriage.
Causes in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy
A problem with your baby, such as a birth defect or an inherited disorder
Sometimes the baby has a defect that is so severe that the baby (fetus) can't live more than a month or two inside you. A severe defect causes most miscarriages in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Causes in weeks 13 through 20 of pregnancy
Often, doctors never figure out the cause of miscarriage at this stage. But sometimes they can pinpoint one of these as the cause:
Problems with your reproductive organs, such as fibroids Fibroids A fibroid is a tumor in a woman's uterus (womb). The uterus is the organ where babies grow before they are born. Fibroids aren't cancer, but they can be painful and cause bleeding and other... read more , scar tissue, a double uterus, or a weak cervix
Use of substances, like cocaine, alcohol, or tobacco
Infections, such as cytomegalovirus Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection Cytomegalovirus infection is a common herpesvirus infection with a wide range of symptoms: from no symptoms to fever and fatigue (resembling infectious mononucleosis) to severe symptoms involving... read more or rubella Rubella Rubella is a contagious viral infection that typically causes mild symptoms, such as joint pain and a rash, but can cause severe birth defects if the mother becomes infected with rubella during... read more
Certain health problems that aren’t taken care of during pregnancy, such as diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more , an underactive thyroid gland Hypothyroidism Your thyroid is a gland below the Adam’s apple in your neck. Your thyroid releases thyroid hormones. The hormones control how fast your body’s chemical functions work (metabolic rate). Almost... read more , or high blood pressure High Blood Pressure Each heart beat pushes blood through your arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your body. Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries. Without... read more
Causes of repeated miscarriages
If you have had several miscarriages, doctors will look for problems such as:
Blood that clots too easily in the woman
Abnormal chromosomes in the baby from either parent
What are the symptoms of a miscarriage?
A miscarriage early in pregnancy may just seem like a normal period. If you didn't know you were pregnant, you probably wouldn't think you were having a miscarriage.
Other times there are obvious symptoms:
Bright or dark red blood
Passing large clots and bits of tissue
At first you may have only a small amount of bleeding, similar to having your period. As the miscarriage continues, the bleeding usually gets worse. The blood may be bright or dark red. Sometimes you'll also pass blood clots. You'll have cramps that may get worse as your uterus (womb) pushes out bits and pieces of the pregnancy.
Call your doctor right away if you have any bleeding during your pregnancy. Not all bleeding during pregnancy means you're having a miscarriage. About half the time, the pregnancy continues just fine. However, your doctor needs to check to see whether you had a miscarriage or not. If you pass large clots or bits of tissue, put them in a container or wrap them in a towel for the doctor to look at.
How can doctors tell if I've had a miscarriage?
If you've had bleeding or cramping during the first 20 weeks of your pregnancy, doctors will:
Do a pelvic exam: They look inside your vagina (birth canal) to check your cervix (the lower part of your uterus where your baby comes out)—if your cervix is open, a miscarriage is likely
Do an ultrasound Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a safe imaging test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body. Ultrasonography doesn't use radiation (x-rays). Ultrasonography is also called... read more : This test uses sound waves to create moving pictures of the inside of your uterus—it can show if your baby is still alive
Do blood tests: Doctors check your levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG
How do doctors treat a miscarriage?
If the fetus and the placenta (the organ that feeds your unborn baby) are no longer in your body, you won't need any treatment. The bleeding and cramps will stop soon.
If bits and pieces of the pregnancy are still in your body, doctors might:
Watch to see if your uterus will empty itself, as long as you don’t have a fever or seem sick
Do a procedure to remove the rest of the pregnancy
If doctors need to remove pieces of your pregnancy from your uterus, they'll give you medicine to make you sleepy. The procedure you have depends on how far along the pregnancy is:
In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy: Remove pieces using a suction instrument put into your uterus through your vagina
Between 12 and 20 weeks of pregnancy: Remove pieces using surgical instruments put into your uterus through your vagina
If close to 20 weeks of pregnancy: You may be given a medicine to start labor to pass the rest of the pregnancy
How can I prevent a miscarriage?
You can't really prevent a miscarriage. If you've had some bleeding or cramping during the first 20 weeks of your pregnancy, your doctor may tell you to avoid too much physical activity and stay off your feet. But there's no proof these things help.
How can I feel better after a miscarriage?
It's normal to feel grief, anger, and guilt after a miscarriage.
Consider talking with another person if you feel sad and are grieving the loss of your baby
Remind yourself that it’s very unlikely you did something to cause your miscarriage
If you’re worried about having another miscarriage, talk to a doctor who can discuss possible tests
Remember that many women who miscarry get pregnant again and give birth to healthy babies