Pregnancy Loss: Signs of MiscarriagePregnancy
Miscarriage or pregnancy loss is a somber topic, and not usually a favorite or popular conversation to have. However, with approximately one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage, we would all do well to be at least a little bit informed about this process. What is a miscarriage, and how can you tell if you're having one?
What is a Miscarriage?
A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss that happens before 20 weeks of gestation. It may happen before you are even aware you were pregnant, or it may happen well into your second trimester. Many miscarriages happen due to chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus and are not in any way the mother's fault. There are several different types of miscarriages, including a complete miscarriage, which is when the products of conception are no longer within the uterus and the bleeding has subsided; an incomplete miscarriage, where you have not yet passed all of the products of conception but are bleeding and cramping; and a blighted ovum, characterized by an implanted fertilized egg which doesn't ultimately develop into a fetus. These are some of the more common situations.
Signs of a Miscarriage
If you are pregnant and begin to experience any of these symptoms, it is possible that you are having a miscarriage.
- No longer having pregnancy symptoms. If you previously had symptoms such as nausea, breast tenderness, food cravings, and enhanced senses, they may go away before or during the process of miscarriage.
- Cramping. You may experience the cramps in your back or your abdomen. They might feel similar to menstrual cramps, or even more uncomfortable.
- Contractions. Contractions are more uncomfortable than cramps and usually feel like a larger area across your abdomen and back are being painfully “squeezed”. They may come approximately every 5-12 minutes or more.
- Bleeding. While some amount of bleeding may happen in up to half of healthy pregnancies, vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, especially bright red or large amounts of blood, could be an indicator of miscarriage.
- Passing tissue vaginally. During an early miscarriage, you may pass some small amounts of tissue and clots. At a later gestation, it may be a little easier to tell what is fetal tissue and what is a clot.
What Should You Do if You Have a Miscarriage?
In many cases, miscarriages happen early and soon pass after a period of discomfort and bleeding. You should get plenty of rest, sleep, emotional and practical support, and stay hydrated. However, some miscarriages require a little medical assistance to avoid excessive bleeding or infection. If you experience heavy bleeding (soaking a pad per hour) or fever and chills, you should call your doctor right away. Always feel free to call your physician or midwife at any time during pregnancy if you feel that anything may be wrong or you aren't sure about your symptoms.
Pregnancy loss is very tough for families, both emotionally and physically. Your body is basically going through labour and delivery, so it is possible to experience breastmilk leakage and postpartum depression afterwards—on top of the sense of loss and sadness that many parents feel. If you have experienced a miscarriage, seek support from your friends, a pregnancy loss support group, a mental health professional specializing in postpartum wellness, and your health practitioners.
Most of all, be kind to yourself and take it easy. It's not your fault, and it's okay for you to receive much love and support during this time. You are NOT alone.
Loree Siermachesky works as a multi-certified labour and postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years. She is well-known and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. She cares deeply for this profession and even more for her clientele, honoring them in whatever method of birth they choose, or helping them transition to new parenthood as they wish.