What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage is the loss
of a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks. (After 20 weeks, pregnancy loss is
known as a stillbirth.)
See a table that shows how
miscarriage risk increases as a woman ages .
The natural miscarriage process can take days to weeks. Common signs of a
miscarriage can include vaginal bleeding; pain in the abdomen, lower back, or
pelvis; or passing fetal tissue from the vagina. Bleeding may be light or heavy
and constant or irregular. It can sometimes be hard to know whether light
bleeding is a sign of miscarriage. When bleeding is accompanied by pain,
though, the likelihood of a miscarriage is high.
What should I do if I am or might be miscarrying? What are the risks of not calling a doctor?
If you have miscarriage symptoms, call your doctor or
nurse-midwife immediately. Going without medical care or advice increases your
risk of complications. Your doctor or nurse-midwife will want to be sure that
- Are not losing too much blood or getting an
- Do not have signs of an
ectopic pregnancy, which can be life-threatening and
requires emergency surgery to remove the embryo or fetus.
- Are not
at risk of
Rh sensitization, which may be dangerous to a fetus in
your next pregnancy. If your blood type is Rh-negative and your partner's is
Rh-positive, you will need preventive treatment. For more information, see the
topic Rh Sensitization During Pregnancy.
How is a miscarriage treated?
Although there is no
treatment to reverse a miscarriage, there are several treatment options for
preventing complications. Depending on your condition, you may be able to
- Watchful waiting and close medical
observation, known as
expectant management, as the miscarriage progresses
over several days or weeks.
- Medicine to complete the miscarriage
process, known as
- Surgical treatment
dilation and curettage (D&C) or
vacuum aspiration to complete the miscarriage
If your doctor or nurse-midwife has confirmed that your first-trimester or early second-trimester miscarriage is complete and all tissue has passed from your uterus, expect the bleeding
to taper off within a week or so. Unless you develop a fever or heavy bleeding,
you will not need follow-up treatment. Your doctor or nurse-midwife may want to
see you sometime during the next month, though.
If you are miscarrying and do not have signs of infection or severe bleeding, there is little risk involved in medically supervised watching
and waiting (expectant management).
If you are miscarrying, are bleeding heavily (using one or more sanitary pads in an hour), have severe pain, or have a fever of about
100F or higher, you
are at significant risk of life-threatening blood loss or infection if you are
not treated. See a doctor immediately.
If you need more information, see the topic