Miscarriage is the unexpected end of a pregnancy within the first 20 weeks. It occurs when the fetus or embryo is unable to survive independently and dies naturally. Miscarriage is the single most common complication early in a pregnancy. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) estimates that 15 to 20 per cent of pregnancies will end in miscarriage, but some research suggests the rate is even higher. Rates of miscarriage increase with a woman’s age. Many miscarriages occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant. The risk of miscarriage is highest within the first trimester and 80 to 90 per cent of miscarriages occur within the first 13 weeks of the pregnancy.
Miscarriage is very common and it affects one in every four women. Reasons for miscarriage vary greatly. Risk factors for miscarriage include being an older parent, having had previous miscarriages, obesity, malnutrition, diabetes, thyroid problems, drug or alcohol use, and smoking or being exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke. The longer a woman is into a pregnancy, the less likely they are to miscarry.
These are the seven of the most common symptoms after miscarriage.
Bleeding is one of the most common symptoms after miscarriage, and often the only sign that many women experience. Following a miscarriage, vaginal bleeding or spotting can occur. The flow might be light or heavy, constant or sporadic. Bleeding can also occur with or without pain. A pregnant woman experiencing bleeding with pain should seek medical attention at a fertility facility.
The bleeding is often darker brown or bright red in colour. It is important to note that bleeding may be a symptom of miscarriage, but bleeding can also be experienced by many women in early pregnancy who haven’t miscarried. Bleeding during pregnancy is sometimes referred to by physicians as a threatened miscarriage. It is estimated that only half of the women who seek treatment for bleeding during a pregnancy will miscarry.
2. Pain or cramping in the lower back, pelvis or abdomen
Pain is often a sign that something is not right. While some discomfort is to be expected, when pain exceeds what you experience during menstruation, it can be a cause for concern. Pain or cramping in the lower back, pelvic area or in the stomach that is worse than ordinary menstrual cramps can be common symptoms after miscarriage.
In early pregnancy, some increased vaginal discharge is normal as changing hormone levels will affect vaginal and cervical secretions. However, should vaginal discharge come in the form of whitish-pink mucus or blood-like fluid, speak with a doctor. The same is true should you notice any tissue or clot-like material in discharge.
The fact that miscarriage is common should not minimize its emotional impact. Feelings of anxiety and guilt are common. It is understandable to feel a sense of loss or sadness about a miscarriage. It is okay, and even healthy, to grieve the loss. Should the emotional toll be too much, reach out for support from friends and family and consider counselling.
However, it is very important to remember that a miscarriage is no one’s fault. More often, miscarriage is the result of a pregnancy that simply was not viable for any number of reasons.
5. Sudden changes in pregnancy
Every pregnancy is unique but there are common stages and signs throughout. Early pregnancy often involves tell tale symptoms like nausea or morning sickness, swollen or sensitive breasts, fatigue, frequent urination, headaches, food cravings, mood swings, etc. Miscarriage can cause a sudden change in these signs of pregnancy. Nausea or morning sickness typically lasts from 2 to 8 weeks into pregnancy, when it most often subsides.
When signs of pregnancy like nausea suddenly disappear, take stock of what you are feeling. Some women who have miscarried describe suddenly no longer feeling pregnant. Pay attention to these feelings. If these symptoms change suddenly or if the change is accompanied by other signs of miscarriage like discharge and pain, take note of these changes and consult a doctor.
True contractions are very painful cramps that occur in intervals of 5 to 20 minutes. It can be difficult to distinguish between cramping and contractions. Contractions come in recurring waves and will feel differently. These are among the more extreme symptoms after miscarriage and you should seek medical consultation immediately.
7. Unique symptoms
As noted, every pregnancy is unique. Many pregnancies experience problems that they can overcome, continuing even after experiencing the symptoms listed here. Rest is very important. Take note of any symptoms and be patient. When you are concerned about something that you are experiencing, consult your doctor. Miscarriage can be detected via an ultrasound exam and there are other tests that a doctor can request.
Women who have experienced miscarriages still have a very good chance of completing a successful pregnancy in the future. After miscarriage, a normal period will return after four to six weeks. The best step toward recovery after miscarriage is to focus on rest and attending to one’s physical and mental health. This also will better prepare women for future pregnancies.
Taking folic acid, attending to health concerns and eating a balanced diet all help with recovery and future pregnancies. A couple is able to resume normal physical relations after any miscarriage-related bleeding has stopped and two weeks have passed since the event.