Warning: This article contains some graphic descriptions of what you might see during a miscarriage.
A miscarriage requires immediate medical attention. If you think you are having a miscarriage, call your doctor or midwife for advice and support. go to the emergency department if:
- is bleeding a lot (soaking more than 2 pads per hour or passing clots bigger than golf balls)
- have severe pain in your belly or shoulder
- has a fever (temperature greater than 38 degrees Celsius)
- is dizzy, is passing out, or feels like passing out
- notices fluid coming out of her vagina that smells bad
- has diarrhea or pain when passing stools (poops)
- what is a miscarriage?
- what happens after a miscarriage
- emotional support after a miscarriage
- parenting and miscarriage
- experiencing pregnancy loss
miscarriage is a very unfortunate and sad outcome of pregnancy that takes a significant emotional and physical toll on the woman. It also happens more often than many people think. It’s important to recognize that there is no right or wrong way to feel about a miscarriage.
Despite the fact that almost one in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, what really happens and what a woman should know and do when faced with a possible miscarriage are rarely discussed.
This article aims to give you an idea of what happens and what a woman needs to know and do at the different stages of her pregnancy.
please call pregnancy, childbirth and baby on 1800 882 436 if you have any concerns or would like to discuss this further.
what can I feel during a miscarriage?
Many women miscarry early in their pregnancy without even realizing it. they may think they are simply having a heavy period. If this happens to you, you may have cramps, heavier than normal bleeding, pain in your belly, pelvis, or back, and feel weak. if you have started spotting, remember this is normal in many pregnancies, but talk to your doctor or midwife to be sure and for your own peace of mind.
Later in your pregnancy, you may notice signs such as cramping, bleeding, or discharge of fluid and blood clots from your vagina. Depending on how many weeks pregnant you are, you may pass tissue that looks more like a fetus or a fully formed baby.
In some types of miscarriage, you may not have any symptoms; the miscarriage may not be discovered until your next ultrasound. or you may just notice that morning sickness and breast tenderness have disappeared.
It’s normal to feel very excited and upset when you realize you’re having a miscarriage. it can take a while to process what is happening. make sure you have someone with you, for support, and try to be kind to yourself.
what happens during a miscarriage?
Unfortunately, nothing can be done to stop a miscarriage once it has started. any treatment is to prevent heavy bleeding or infection.
Your doctor may advise you that no treatment is necessary. this is called ‘expectant management’, and you just wait and see what happens. eventually, the pregnancy tissue (the fetus or baby, the pregnancy sac, and the placenta) will pass naturally. this may take a few days or up to 3 to 4 weeks.
It can be very difficult emotionally to wait for the miscarriage because you don’t know when it will happen. when it starts you will notice spotting and cramping and then fairly quickly you will start to bleed profusely. the cramps will worsen to the point of contractions and you will pass the pregnancy tissue.
Some women choose to take medication to speed up the process. in this case, the pregnancy tissue is likely to disappear within a few hours.
If not all of the tissue passes naturally or if you have signs of infection, you may need to have a small operation called a “dilation and curettage” (d&c). you may have to wait a while for your hospital appointment. The operation only takes 5-10 minutes under general anesthesia, and you can go home the same day.
While you’re waiting for a miscarriage to end, it’s best to rest at home, but you can go to work if you feel like it. do what feels right to you. you can use paracetamol for any pain. if you are bleeding, use pads instead of tampons.
what might you see during a miscarriage?
In the first month of pregnancy, the developing embryo is about the size of a grain of rice, making it very difficult to see. you may pass a blood clot or several clots from your vagina, and there may be some white or gray tissue in the clots. the bleeding will subside in a few days, although it may take up to 2 weeks.
at 6 weeks
Most women can’t see anything recognizable when they miscarry at this point. during bleeding, she may see clots with a small fluid-filled sac. the embryo, which is about the size of a little finger nail, and a placenta can be seen inside the sac. you may also notice something that looks like an umbilical cord.
at 8 weeks
Passing tissue may look dark red and shiny; some women describe it as resembling liver. you may find a sac with an embryo inside, about the size of a small bean. if you look closely, you might be able to see where the eyes, arms, and legs were formed.
at 10 weeks
The expelled clots are dark red and look like jelly. they may have what looks like a membrane inside, which is part of the placenta. the sac will be inside one of the clots. At this time, the developing baby is usually fully formed but still small and hard to see.
between 12 and 16 weeks
If you abort now, you may first notice water coming out of your vagina, followed by some bleeding and clots. the fetus will be small and fully formed. if you see the baby, it may already be out of the sac. it may also be attached to the umbilical cord and placenta.
16 to 20 weeks
This is often called a “late miscarriage.” You may pass large, bright red clots that look like liver, as well as other pieces of tissue that look and feel like a membrane. it can be painful and feel like labor, and you may need pain medicine in the hospital. your baby will be fully formed and will be able to fit in the palm of your hand.
You will have some crampy pain and bleeding after the miscarriage, similar to a period. it will gradually become lighter and will usually stop within 2 weeks.
Signs of your pregnancy, such as nausea and breast tenderness, will go away in the days after the miscarriage. if you had a late miscarriage, your breasts might make some milk. you will probably have your next period in 4 to 6 weeks.
Remember, it’s normal to feel very emotional and upset right now.
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