A miscarriage, the loss of a pregnancy, can be emotionally devastating. Many women worry they could have detected miscarriage sooner and have prevented it. Though in most cases, a miscarriage can’t be prevented (it’s estimated that as many as 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage), knowing the signs of a miscarriage can not only help a woman understand what’s going on with her body but can also help her get appropriate medical care to prevent health complications from the miscarriage.
Monitor any vaginal bleeding that occurs early in your pregnancy. Though bleeding during the first few months of pregnancy is often referred to as a “threatened miscarriage,” light bleeding or spotting happens to nearly 1 in 10 women during pregnancy. Seeing brownish or light pink blood on the toilet paper after you use the bathroom warrants a call to your doctor, but isn’t a reason to panic. Heavier bleeding–that which saturates a sanitary pad within an hour–is more likely to be a sign of a threatened miscarriage and needs to be medically evaluated as soon as possible.
Save any blood clots or tissue passed during a bout of vaginal bleeding. Though unpleasant, this material can be used by your doctor to detect whether you’ve had a “complete” or “incomplete” miscarriage. An incomplete miscarriage means that you may need surgical assistance to expel all the uterine contents.
Investigate increased vaginal discharge, especially if it’s foul-smelling. Though you could simply have an infection, foul-smelling discharge can also be a sign a of “missed” miscarriage, in which the fetus has died in-utero but a woman does not bleed or otherwise expel the pregnancy. Call your doctor for a same-day appointment.
Use unusual pain as an early detection device. Abdominal or uterine cramps, pain in the lower back or a feeling of heaviness in your pelvic area, especially when accompanied with bleeding, can be signs of a miscarriage. However, some women experience pelvic pain as the ligaments loosen in reaction to pregnancy hormones. Ask your OB-GYN to perform an ultrasound to get a clearer idea of what’s going on.
Pay attention to your body’s signals and don’t ignore your instinct. In some cases of miscarriage, women will report they just don’t feel pregnant anymore or that symptoms like breast tenderness and morning sickness have abated before any other symptoms begin.
Get good prenatal care, including regular checkups with an OB-GYN or family practitioner. During these exams, your doctor will routinely check your cervix for dilation, measure the growth of your uterus and listen for a fetal heartbeat. Any abnormalities in any of these can help to detect the possibility of miscarriage early on. Some conditions, like an incompetent cervix, in which the cervix begins to open prematurely, can be corrected before a miscarriage occurs.
- Miscarriage is serious medical concern. Call your doctor immediately if you experience heavy bleeding, chills, fever or otherwise feel off. It’s better to be checked out than to risk your health.