There aren’t many scarier experiences in a woman’s life than when she is thinking she may be having a miscarriage. Statistics tell us that around 50% of pregnancies do end in miscarriages, but most of those women have no idea they were even pregnant in the first place. The majority of miscarriages happen in the first two weeks after conception, and the woman thinks she is just having a slightly heavier menstrual cycle than normal. However, when miscarriage happens further along in the pregnancy it can be truly devastating, especially to those parents who have planned and perhaps waited for years for their baby. Many women will ask – how can I tell if I have miscarried?
Knowing if you are miscarrying can be tricky sometimes, most notably in the first trimester, because just like every woman is different, every pregnant is different. Some women even have their periods during their entire pregnancy—ew! If you are in the first trimester you’re probably hyper-sensitive about every little splotch or twinge, but it’s not necessary to rushing to the emergency room every day. There are some symptoms that are harder to rule out as normal, though. Let’s break things down a bit.
Possible Miscarriage Symptoms
- Cramping and discharge. A bit of spotting, cramping, or even a little outright bleeding isn’t necessarily an indication of a miscarriage. Many, many women have these symptoms and carry through with a normal pregnancy and have healthy babies. Some darker, brownish or clotted discharge and a bit of mild cramping is just your body expelling old material and basically “feathering the nest” for your developing baby.
- Extreme nausea and vomiting. Although “morning sickness” often turns out to be “all-day sickness,” something could be wrong if you can’t hold anything down at all, especially if you aren’t able to keep fluids in your system. Dehydration comes very fast for pregnant women, as your body needs those extra fluids to function properly. Although this isn’t necessarily a sign of a miscarriage, it could lead to electrolyte imbalance, which is dangerous, and very powerful vomiting could cause an esophageal rupture or a hernia, or even be sign of a serious infection. Early on in a pregnancy becoming dehydrated or getting a serious infection could bring on a miscarriage.
Stronger Symptoms of Miscarriage
- Copious, bright blood. A lot of blood, especially if it is bright red, needs to be checked out. If you’re soaking through a pad in less than two hours, especially in conjunction with heavy cramping (see below), it’s an almost definite sign a miscarriage is taking place. Call your doctor while you’re on the way to the emergency room or clinic. It’s best not to wait. Although there’s not much that can be done if you are indeed miscarrying, it’s better to be somewhere with support and medical help available.
- Strong, gripping cramps. Severe cramps, so strong they take your breath away suddenly or make you double over in pain, when accompanied with gushes of blood, are almost always a symptom you could be miscarrying. These are most likely the contractions which are expelling the fetus from the womb.
- Passage of tissue. If you begin passing tissue, ranging from bloody, clotted matter in the early weeks to greyish or pinkish solid tissue in later weeks, you have likely miscarried. The passage of this tissue will usually be accompanied by cramps, although they will vary in degree of painfulness.
If you are past the first trimester miscarriage is much less likely to happen. The symptoms of later-pregnancy miscarriage are pretty much identical to the ones listed above. Your doctor or midwife will ask you questions about these issues at your normal visits, but if you have any questions at all, always ask. It’s better to be safe than sorry.