What to Do After a Miscarriage

About 10% to 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage (a sudden end of a pregnancy). For the most part, these are unpreventable and a natural result of the body detecting some abnormality in the fetus. As odd as it may seem, a miscarriage is a survival mechanism for the body.

Miscarriage Types graphic

Recovering from a miscarriage, however, can take time and it’s best to be prepared for both physical and emotional strain.

Detecting a Miscarriage

Bleeding and Cramping
The usual signs of a miscarriage are bleeding and strong period-type pains and cramps. The bleeding can vary from brown discharge to bright red, heavy bleeding, including blood clots. The bleeding may come and go over the course of a few days or longer and it can be difficult to know what’s going on.

Spotting or light bleeding is common in early pregnancy. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a miscarriage is happening. However, if bleeding persists, progressing from spotting to something more like a normal period, you may be having a miscarriage.

Cramping and contractions, as well as lower back pain, will likely accompany a miscarriage.

Weight Loss
One of the signs of miscarriage can be weight loss that is not the outcome of a dieting plan.

Sudden Decrease in Signs of Pregnancy
If you have had nausea, morning sickness, or tender breasts and these signs of pregnancy suddenly end, this may be a sign of miscarriage. You should check with your doctor if this occurs, just to be on the safe side.

Your doctor may perform an ultrasound to confirm the fact of a miscarriage.

Contact your doctor at the first signs of a miscarriage.

Types of Miscarriage

Miscarriages Fall into Three Categories:

Incomplete Miscarriage
Abdominal pain or back pain accompanied by bleeding and an open cervix. In this case, the miscarriage is inevitable if there is a dilation or effacement (soften, shorten, and become thinner) of the cervix. Bleeding and cramping may persist if the miscarriage is incomplete.

Complete Miscarriage
A miscarriage is called complete when the embryo or “products of conception” have emptied out of the uterus. In a complete miscarriage, the bleeding and any pain or cramping should subside quickly. This type of miscarriage can be confirmed by an ultrasound or a simple surgical procedure.

Missed Miscarriage
It’s possible for a woman to experience a miscarriage without knowing it. This happens when embryonic death has occurred but the embryo is not expelled from the uterus. First signs of this are likely to involve a loss of pregnancy symptoms. An ultrasound can determine if there are fetal heart tones.

Seeing your Doctor
If you suspect you have miscarried or may be doing so, contact your doctor and explain your symptoms. He or she may have you come in right away or, if there is nothing to worry about, they can allay your concerns.

Medical Choices After a Miscarriage

Proper medical treatment for a miscarriage depends on how and when it happened. If it occurred toward the very beginning of the pregnancy – earlier than seven or eight weeks – it’s likely the doctor will recommend letting the body empty the uterus on its own, if it hasn’t already. When this occurs it will be felt as a heavy period with strong cramping.

If the miscarriage happened a bit later in the pregnancy or there were no signs (such as bleeding or cramping) that the pregnancy was in danger until an ultrasound failed to detect a heartbeat, there may need to be a medical intervention. The doctor may advise that medication is given to cause your body to release the pregnancy tissue, which usually occurs 24 hours to several days later.

Another option is a dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure. During a D&E, the doctor uses a suctioning device to remove the remainder of the fetal or placental tissue remaining in the uterus. This is normally done as an outpatient procedure, under either local or general anesthesia. Afterward, the patient will experience mild cramping for a day or two and light bleeding for about a week.

The body heals very quickly after a miscarriage. A woman will generally ovulate two to four weeks after a miscarriage and a normal menstrual cycle will begin two weeks later.

Side Effects of a Miscarriage

Miscarriages may come with some potential side effects. Be prepared to experience the following during a miscarriage:

  • Mild to severe back pain
  • Pinkish-white mucus
  • Bright red or brown discharge
  • Weight loss

Seeking Medical Attention
If side effects get worse or won’t go away call your doctor. You want to make sure any possible infections or complications are dealt with quickly.

Physical Recovery
Once any medical procedures have been completed, you’ll need to give your body a little time to heal.

Refrain from sex and don’t put anything, such as douche or a tampon, in your vagina for the first two weeks of your recovery.

When you return to your normal activities will depend on your personal health, how you’re feeling, and how far along the pregnancy was at the time of the miscarriage. Your doctor will be able to advise you.

Recovery from a miscarriage generally takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Your period should return in 4 to 6 weeks.

Any birth control method can be used after a miscarriage, including intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Having a miscarriage can be devastating. With approximately 20% of all pregnancies ending in miscarriages, you are not alone. Knowing this may not take away your loss, but it does show that many, many other women know what you’re going through and knowledge and aid are available. Doctors know how to help you through the physical problems. Friends and family are there to be with you through emotional troubles.

Although recovery from the physical stress of a miscarriage is normally quite rapid, it may take a little time to get through the mental and emotional strain. You may not believe this right away, but you will get through this troubled period in your life. And just because you’ve had one, or even two miscarriages doesn’t mean you cannot have a child. Just keep trying.

Contact us for any questions or concerns surrounding miscarriage.