What is a Miscarriage?
A miscarriage is the loss of a baby before the pregnancy reaches 20 weeks. Many couples face this kind of pregnancy loss. About 10-20% of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. The actual percentage of miscarriages is likely higher as many miscarriages occur very early in pregnancy before the person is even aware of the pregnancy.
Over 80% of miscarriages occur within the first three months of pregnancy. After 20 weeks, miscarriages are less likely to occur and are called late miscarriages or stillbirths.
Symptoms of Miscarriage
While miscarriages are experienced differently by each person, there are some common symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Bleeding that goes from light to heavy
- Severe cramps
- Stomach pain
- Worsening or severe back pain
- Weight loss
- White-pink mucus
- Tissue that looks like blood clots passing from the vagina
- Fever with any of these symptoms
- Fewer signs of pregnancy
Contact your doctor right away if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.
While the term “miscarriage” sounds like it implies something went wrong in carrying the pregnancy, this is rarely true. Most miscarriages occur when the fetus has genetic problems. Typically, these problems are unrelated to the mother.
Other problems that may increase the risk of miscarriage are:
- Medical conditions in the mother (e.g., diabetes, thyroid disease, polycystic ovary syndrome)
- Hormone problems
- Immune system responses
- Physical problems in the mother
- Uterine abnormalities
- Drinking alcohol
- Using street drugs
- Exposure to radiation or toxic substances
Types of Miscarriage
There are several types of miscarriage – threatened, inevitable, incomplete, complete, missed, and recurrent. Learn about these types below.
bleeding is occurring, and there’s the threat of a miscarriage, but the cervix has not dilated. The pregnancy will likely continue without any problems.
bleeding and cramping, and the cervix is dilated. A miscarriage is likely to happen.
some tissue from the fetus or placenta leaves the body, but some stays in the uterus.
all the pregnancy tissues exit the body. This type of miscarriage usually occurs before the 12th week of pregnancy.
The embryo dies or was never formed, but the tissue stay in the uterus.
Recurrent miscarriage (RM):
when a person loses three or more pregnancies in a row during the first trimester. This type of miscarriage affects only about 1% of couples trying to conceive.
Coping with Miscarriage and Loss
After a miscarriage, you will likely experience a range of emotions, such as shock, guilt, sadness, and anger. You might question, “why me?” and wonder if you’ll ever be able to have a baby.
Many women who experience pregnancy loss feel guilty, wondering if there was something they could have done differently to prevent this outcome. These are all normal reactions to pregnancy loss. Just know that surviving the emotional impact of pregnancy loss is possible.
To help you in getting through this challenging time, the following may be helpful:
- Talking about your feelings can help you process the loss of your baby.
- Speaking to your medical provider may help you to understand what contributed to the miscarriage.
- Speaking to a mental health professional, such as a therapist or grief counselor, can help you deal with the grief.
- Joining a support group or bereavement group can help you to feel less alone by talking to others who have had similar experiences.
- Go to loved ones and friends for support. Share your feelings and ask for help when you need it.
- Lean on your partner for support and talk about your loss while bearing in mind that every person copes differently.
Take care of yourself by:
- Eating healthy foods
- Staying active
- Getting enough sleep
- Avoiding caffeine or alcohol
Importantly, to process the loss of the pregnancy, do something special in remembrance of your baby.
Frequently Ask Questions
Many miscarriages occur due to genetic or medical problems with the pregnancy. In these cases, there is little you can do to prevent them.
Treating pre-existing illnesses can improve the likelihood of a successful pregnancy. Similarly, it is a good idea to get as healthy as you can before trying to have a baby, including:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Preventing infections
- Avoiding smoking, alcohol, or illegal drugs
- Reducing caffeine intake
There are five stages of grief that are commonly experienced after a miscarriage. Some individuals will go through all of these stages, while others will only go through some of them or experience them in a different order:
- Denial and isolation: hanging onto hope that a miscarriage has not occurred, searching for alternative explanations, and withdrawing from social interactions
- Anger: seeking to place blame on someone else for the miscarriage
- Bargaining: praying or searching for ways to prevent another miscarriage
- Depression: believing one is just not meant to be a mom or is being punished, feeling despair or the fear of miscarrying again, avoiding reminders of pregnancy
- Acceptance: feeling the pain is more manageable and being less overwhelmed by the sadness
A study conducted by researchers at the Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Seattle and the University of Rochester found that of women who had experienced miscarriages, 33% had anxiety, and 58% experienced depression. The likelihood of experiencing these mood disorders was higher among women who had lost more than one pregnancy.
The information on this page, or elsewhere on this site, is not intended to take the place of diagnosis, treatment or informed advice from a qualified mental health professional. You should not take or avoid any action without consultation with the latter.
If you would like to talk to a counselor, please click here.
Cassoobhoy, A. (2020, July 28). Miscarriage. https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/pregnancy-miscarriage
Danielsson, K. (2020, October 6). Stages of grief that commonly follow a miscarriage.
March of Dimes. (2017, October). Dealing with grief after the death of your baby. https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/dealing-with-grief-after-the-death-of-your-baby.aspx
Office on Women’s Health. (2019, January 30). Pregnancy loss. https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/youre-pregnant-now-what/pregnancy-loss
Storrs, C. (n.d.). Pregnancy loss and postpartum mood disorders. https://www.seleni.org/perinatal-research-and-resources/2018/3/20/pregnancy-loss-and-postpartum-mood-disorders-1-8n4ax