Miscarriage & loss
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Miscarriage: what happens and why

What happens when you have a miscarriage and what should you expect as you recover?

Posted: 23 October 2010
by ThinkBaby

Miscarriage - what happens?

A miscarriage occurs when the developing baby dies in the womb. Before 24 weeks it is considered a miscarriage, with 80% of all miscarriages occurring in the first eight weeks of pregnancy. After week 24 it is considered a stillbirth. Although there are other causes, the most common is a genetic problem with the developing foetus.

Early miscarriage

Most miscarriages that happen before week nine will be over within a week from when the bleeding starts. You shouldn't need to stay in hospital unless you have very heavy bleeding or abdominal pain on one side.

Although it's unpleasant, if you notice any blood clots or tissue, try to collect them in a sterile jar to show your doctor. She may conduct an internal exam to check your cervix to see if there is a medical reason for the miscarriage. Most miscarriages at this stage are due to problems in the developing foetus.

If the bleeding stops after two weeks you can be fairly confident the miscarriage is over. But you will need to have a check up with your doctor who may want to check there are no remnants of the pregnancy left in the womb with an ultrasound. If there are, you may need a D&C.

Later miscarriage

After the third month, miscarriage may feel more like going into labour. It is likely you will have to go to hospital to deliver. This is a distressing experience and can be painful. You will be offered pain relief as with a normal labour and are likely to be given more support by the hospital staff. Find out more about late miscarriage.

Find out more about why miscarriage happens.

Incomplete miscarriage and further treatment

If you have miscarried after week nine or you're still bleeding after two weeks, the miscarriage may be 'incomplete', meaning that your uterus hasn't expelled all the pregnancy tissue.

If your doctor suspects that the miscarriage is incomplete she may book you in for a D&C to ensure that the uterus is cleared of all the pregnancy tissue and prevent infection. If you are diagnosed with an infection then you will be prescribed a course of antibiotics.

Missed miscarriage

Very rarely the foetus dies but the body doesn't get rid of the womb lining and pregnancy tissue. This is known as a missed miscarriage and affects only 1% of pregnancies. Signs of a missed miscarriage might be the disappearance of pregnancy symptoms or a simple feeling that something is wrong. There may be no signs at all, and the miscarriage may be first picked up at a routine ultrasound or check.

You may be given the choice of waiting a few more weeks for the miscarriage to complete on its own or be recommended a D&C.

Find out more:
Signs you might be having a miscarriage
Miscarriage - will it happen again?
Why miscarriage happens
Medical causes of miscarriage
Bleeding in early pregnancy
What is a D&C
What should I expect when I have a D&C?
Coping with miscarriage
How does my body recover from a miscarriage?
Trying again after a miscarriage

After a miscarriage

If you have had a miscarriage, it will take time to heal physically and emotionally. These steps may help you come to terms with your loss. You can also learn more about how your body recovers from a miscarriage and what you can do to help it.

You may also need time before you try again or you may feel ready to try again as soon as your cycle returns to normal after a miscarriage. If you have suffered multiple miscarriages or are concerned it could happen again, speak to your doctor about possible reasons why you have miscarried.

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I was wondernig whether anyone could please offer me some advice. I am around six weeks pregnant and last Friday I started to bleed. The blood was brown and very watery. On Sunday this turned to be fresh blood and almost like a 'normal' period. I had a scan on Monday and they could see a tiny 'thing' (for want of a better word) and that my lining had thickened, they also didn't think that there was much blood. Today there is very, very little fresh blood. They did another pregnancy test and that showed a faint possitive (like the one I did at home two weeks ago did, but the one my GP did a few days later showed a much darker line). I had a blood test yesterday to check my HCG levels and have to have another one tomorrow. The consultant is half thinking that I am having an ectopic pregnancy (although I haven't got the pains to suggest that) or that she has caught my pregnancy really, really early (my GP has worked out that I am about 6 weeks) she doesn't really feel that I am having a miscarriage as I am not passing clots or anything. The thing is that for a few days before I started to bleed I noticed that I didn't feel so tired anymore and that my breasts were slowly stopping to hurt and on Friday they stopped hurting altogether. Can anyone tell me whether they have had similar experience? I am convinced that I was pregnant and that somthing happend about a week ago and now I am not and what she could see on the scan is the fetus. Sorry for the long post!

Posted: 13/02/2007 at 14:34

Hi Rhianon
I am so sorry, it sounds like you have really been through the mill. I am sure other womne who have been through similar experiences will come on to this thread and share their thoughts.
I am glad you are being monitored, as whatever the outcome this time, good support and care for you is important whatever is happening to your body right now, and what can happen in the next few months.
How did you get on today?
Laura (editor) xx

Posted: 14/02/2007 at 19:20

hi rhianon,

sorry to hear about what youre going through. i notice youve not mentioned having any cramps when you had the bleeding. i think its usually about the end of week 6 into week 7 that they will be able to pick up a visible heartbeat and from the scan they will also be able to tell if the preg is growing in the correct area.
it would be a good idea to see if you could get another scan once you are closer to week 7. at 5/6 weeks its still too early for the doctors to be sure what is going on really. my preg symptoms didnt really start till about week 7/8 before that i had sore bbs that only lasted for a day or so.
hope that you find out asap what is happening because i had mc & know what its like to be in a situation like this. its difficult to cope when you dont know for sure, trying to work out whats going on.

best of luck,

Posted: 14/02/2007 at 19:43

Hi Laura
I went for another blood test today and noticed that on the plastic 'bag' that they put the blood into it said that I was being checked for an ectopic pregnacy. I still find this odd as I don't seems to have any of the classic symptoms. I stopped bleeding yesterday which as silly as it sounds is now worrying me becuase it feels a bit like the calm before the storm! I think I will ring the hospital tomorrow (although I'm sure they would call me if there was a problem) just to see if they have any results for me. Thank you so much your support on this, it feels like such an odd situation that I didn't know where to go!

Posted: 14/02/2007 at 19:48

Hi Alix
Thanks for you message and I'm really sorry to hear that you had a mc. I have another scan booked for the 27th, but hopefully I will know a bit more before then. It is hard when they can't tell you for sure what's happening and it's getting really frustrating now, but I feel quite lucky that I have been seeing my consultant for nearly 8 years and really trust him as he's been brilliant with me in the past and doesn't jump to conclusions. Hopefully I'll know more tomorrow. Thanks again.

Posted: 14/02/2007 at 19:55

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