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Signs of Miscarriage

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Miscarriage is a painful experience that many women have to go through in their lifetime. Painful physically as well as emotionally. The most common medical term used for miscarriage is spontaneous abortion. The term “abortion”, however has very negative connotations so we prefer to use the term miscarriage, referring to the fact that the woman failed to carry the fetus to full term and results in delivery of a baby too young to be able to survive outside the uterus.

When is a Miscarriage More Likely to Occur?

Miscarriage can happen very early or a bit later during the pregnancy period. Clinical guidelines define miscarriage as loss of a fetus aged 20 weeks to 22 weeks, weighing about 500 g or less. Most miscarriages, however, occur at the first trimester before the 13th week. An estimated 50% of pregnancies result in miscarriages due to a wide range of causes but only about 15% to 20% are detected as such.
Miscarriage is a life-and-death event, yet it is not a simple yes-or-no occurrence. It can manifest in many different forms. It does not happen in a single instant but consists of a series of events that culminate in the loss of the fetus and termination of the pregnancy.

Most miscarriages occur at a very early stage, sometimes even before a woman even realizes she is pregnant, and the embryo hasn’t even had the chance to implant in the uterus aka chemical pregnancy. About 15% of pregnancies result in early miscarriage during week 1 or 2. In such cases, the woman is blissfully unaware of what happened.

What’s an Embryonic Pregnancy?

A blighted ovum aka embryonic pregnancy will inevitably end up in a miscarriage which occurs a bit later, when the woman is usually aware of her condition. What she is not aware of is that although there is a sac in her uterus, there is no embryo inside. The body eventually passes the empty sac, usually before the 8th week of pregnancy.

As the fetus grows older, the chances of miscarriage decrease. However, the emotional pain that comes with miscarriage increases with increasing fetal age.

A threatened miscarriage is actually a potential tragedy thwarted. The most common sign of a threatened miscarriage is vaginal bleeding or commonly known as “spotting”. In such cases, the doctor usually prescribes bed rest as well as medications that can prevent contractions. Many threatened miscarriages have a happy ending, resulting in a healthy baby.

What Are the Signs of Miscarriage?

  • Vaginal bleeding, which may be mild or profuse. The bleeding is due to the passing of the embryonic/fetal and placental tissue out of the body, the so-called conception products. Miscarriage is complete if all products are expelled, characterized by profuse bleeding. Miscarriage is incomplete if the body cannot get rid of all products. In such cases, bleeding may be mild. Take note, however, that vaginal bleeding or spotting does not necessarily mean miscarriage. Some women with viable pregnancy can occasionally have some light spotting.
  • Pain in the lower back, which has been described as a persistent, dull but also sharp pain.
  • Abdominal cramps and pain, which can be mild or severe. Some women describe the sensation as being similar to menstrual cramps. The cramps may actually be real contractions wherein the body is trying to expel the conception products.

The intensity, timing, and duration of the symptoms vary from woman to woman.

In the doctor’s clinic, impending, threatened, or complete miscarriage is confirmed by several tests that include manual examination, pelvic ultrasound, and blood test to check for levels of human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) hormone.

Manual examination checks the state of the cervix (dilation is a bad sign) and presence of other structural abnormalities such as tenderness and pain.

An ultrasound can check the status of the fetus, usually in terms of its size and heartbeat. The ultrasound can also detect abnormalities such as ectopic pregnancy.

The levels of HCG in the blood can indicate whether the pregnancy is proceeding normally or not.


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