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This topic is about the
loss of a baby before 20 weeks of pregnancy. For information about the loss of
a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before the baby is born, see the topic
What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage is the loss
of a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks. It is usually your body's way of
ending a pregnancy that has had a bad start. The loss of a pregnancy can be
very hard to accept. You may wonder why it happened or blame yourself. But a
miscarriage is no one's fault, and you can't prevent it.
Miscarriages are very common. For women who already know they are pregnant,
about 1 out of 6 have a miscarriage.1 It is also
common for a woman to have a miscarriage before she even knows that she is
What causes a miscarriage?
happen because the fertilized egg in the uterus does not develop normally. A
miscarriage is not caused by stress, exercise, or sex.
In many cases, doctors don't know what caused the miscarriage.
The risk of miscarriage is lower after the first 12 weeks of the
What are the common symptoms?
Common signs of a
- Bleeding from the vagina. The bleeding may be
light or heavy, constant or off and on. It can sometimes be hard to know
whether light bleeding is a sign of miscarriage. But if you have bleeding with
pain, the chance of a miscarriage is higher.
- Pain in the belly,
lower back, or pelvis.
- Tissue that passes from the vagina.
How is a miscarriage diagnosed?
Call your doctor
if you think you are having a miscarriage. If your symptoms and a pelvic exam
do not show whether you are having a miscarriage, your doctor can do tests to
see if you are still pregnant.
How is it treated?
No treatment can stop a
miscarriage. As long as you do not have heavy blood loss, a fever, weakness, or
other signs of infection, you can let a miscarriage follow its own course. This
can take several days.
If you have
Rh-negative blood, you will need a shot of Rhogam.
prevents problems in future pregnancies. If you have not had
your blood type checked, you will need a blood test to find out if you are
Many miscarriages complete on their own. But
sometimes treatment is needed. If you are having a miscarriage, work with your
doctor to watch for and prevent problems. If the uterus does not clear quickly
enough, you could lose too much blood or develop an infection. In this case,
medicine or a procedure called a
dilation and curettage (D&C) can more quickly
clear tissue from the uterus.
A miscarriage doesn't happen all at
once. It usually takes place over several days, and symptoms vary. Here are
some tips for dealing with a miscarriage:
- Use pads instead of tampons. It is normal to have mild or moderate vaginal bleeding for 1 to 2 weeks. It may be similar to or slightly heavier than a normal period. The bleeding should get lighter after a week. You may use tampons during your next period,
which should start in 3 to 6 weeks.
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol)
for cramps. Read and follow all instructions on the label. You may have cramps
for several days after the miscarriage.
- Eat a balanced diet that is
high in iron and vitamin C. You may be low in iron because of blood loss. Foods
rich in iron include red meat, shellfish, eggs, beans, and leafy green
vegetables. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes, and
broccoli. Talk to your doctor about whether you need to take iron pills or a
- Talk with family, friends, or a counselor if you are
having trouble dealing with the loss of your pregnancy. If you feel very sad or
depressed for longer than a couple of weeks, talk to a counselor or your
- Talk with your doctor about any future pregnancy plans.
Most doctors suggest that you wait until you have had at least one normal
period before you try to get pregnant again. If you don't want to get pregnant,
ask your doctor about birth control options.
After a miscarriage, are you at risk for miscarrying again?
Miscarriage is usually a chance event, not a sign of an ongoing
problem. If you have had one miscarriage, your chances for future successful
pregnancies are good. It is unusual to have three or more miscarriages in a
row. But if you do, your doctor may do tests to see if a health problem may be
causing the miscarriages.
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