If you’re anxious during pregnancy, you might be worried about losing your baby.
Questions might swirl in your head, like:
- How do I know if something is wrong?
- What does miscarriage feel like?
- What does miscarriage look like?
- What’s the change of miscarriage by week?
In this post, we’re answering all those questions and more. To learn more about what miscarriage feels like, keep reading.
Risk of Miscarriage By Week
Miscarriage is losing your fetus before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Some research suggests 30% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Many of these miscarriages happen before the person even realizes they’re pregnant.
Some people wonder about the rate of miscarriage by week. As pregnancy progresses, your chance of having a miscarriage declines. Of all miscarriages, 85% happen during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The other 15% of miscarriages happen between weeks 13 and 20, according to Merk Manuals.
One study looked at 537 miscarriages among 4,070 women. They found that:
- The chance of miscarrying after week 5 is about 21%
- The chance of miscarrying drops to 5% after week 6
- The second half of the first trimester has miscarriage rates of about 2-4%
- The chance of miscarrying between weeks 14 and 20 is less than 1%
Symptoms of Miscarriage
Not everyone experiences symptoms when they miscarry.
Some people miscarry before they know they’re pregnant. For this reason, not everyone will recognize the symptoms of a miscarriage. They also may confuse it with a period.
Women who are further along in their first trimester are likely to notice symptoms like cramping and bleeding if they miscarry. According to Merk Manuals, about 20 to 30% of women experience bleeding during the first 20 weeks, half of them resulting in miscarriage.
Symptoms of a miscarriage include:
- Vaginal bleeding. Usually “more obvious” bleeding that is bright or dark red. However, a miscarriage during early pregnancy may only cause small amounts of blood, like spotting. Bleeding may be heavy during a late miscarriage.
- Cramps. Cramping that may be light or heavy, resembling period cramps.
- Vaginal mucus. After early pregnancy, miscarriage blood may be combined with mucus.
- Tissue. Tissue expelled from your vagina may be covered in blood and look like blood clots.
- Loss of pregnancy symptoms. A person may notice they no longer feel the usual pregnancy symptoms. For example, your morning sickness may have disappeared and your breasts may not be sensitive anymore. If you have a late pregnancy miscarriage, you may notice a lack of movement.
What Does a Miscarriage Feel Like?
Along with knowing the symptoms of miscarriage, you may be wondering, “What does a miscarriage feel like?”
What miscarriage feels like depends on the person and the week that miscarriage occurred.
If it’s so early that you didn’t know you were pregnant, miscarriage may feel like a period with cramps.
As your pregnancy matures, you can generally expect more symptoms. For example, compared to an early miscarriage, a pregnancy 7 weeks along will likely experience more cramping, bleeding and clotting.
For some people—especially those who miscarry closer to 12 weeks—miscarriage can be painful with strong cramps. You might also feel nauseated and tired. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relief medication.
While the cramping will go away, miscarriage can last over the course of weeks. Most people finish passing tissue within 2 weeks but it can take longer, sometimes up to 6 or 8 weeks. If the tissue doesn’t pass on its own and is taking longer than a few weeks, your doctor may recommend a procedure or medication (more on this later).
What Does Miscarriage Look Like?
Many people wonder “What does miscarriage look like?”
How miscarriage bleeding looks depends on your situation and how far along you are. Early miscarriages can look like a light period while later miscarriage bleeding looks heavier than a period.
Since the tissue expelled is covered in blood, it usually looks like blood clots. It can also look whitish. What you see won’t usually resemble a “baby.” Keep in mind that your baby is usually too small to recognize.
Some people won’t experience or see anything when they miscarry (for example, early miscarriage blood might be mistaken for period blood).
Does Miscarriage Require Treatment?
If you suspect you’ve miscarried, talk to your doctor or seek emergency care. A doctor can do tests to confirm your miscarriage and let you know the next steps.
For most people, the miscarriage will happen on its own and tissue will expel itself over the course of a few weeks.
Some people who miscarry may need treatment to remove the remaining tissue. Your doctor also may recommend a medication that speeds up how quickly your body expels the tissue. This medication helps your cervix soften, dilate and removes the tissue.
If the medication doesn’t remove all the tissue, your doctor might suggest a minor surgical procedure, called dilation and curettage (D&C). About 1 in 4 people need emergency D&C to remove the remaining tissue. Doctors also recommend D&C for people who are bleeding heavily.
Both D&C and taking medication can be an emotional experience. It can be helpful to have a support person by your side.
Whether or not you get miscarriage treatment, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter medication to manage your cramps, like acetaminophen (Tylenol). You can also use a warm compress. To manage bleeding and spotting, use pads rather than tampons.
If you have very heavy bleeding, a fever or feel faint, seek emergency care immediately.
Take Care Emotionally
Along with physically taking care of your miscarriage, you need to take care emotionally, too.
Miscarriage is an emotional experience for many. The first thing to know is that it’s not your fault. In most cases, miscarriage happens because the pregnancy wasn’t developing normally. It’s nothing you did wrong. Most people who miscarry can go on to have successful pregnancies.
People who miscarry may feel a range of emotions like:
- Grief- the feeling of losing someone so close to you
- Guilt– the feeling you did something wrong to cause the miscarriage
- Shame– the feeling that something is wrong with you that caused the miscarriage
- Anger– being upset that the miscarriage happened
- Anxiety– worry about what the miscarriage means for your future
While grieving a miscarriage, surround yourself with people who are supportive and who you trust. It can also help to talk to a mental health professional, like a counselor or psychotherapist.
You could also consider joining a Facebook Miscarriage Support Group or checking out this list of Miscarriage Resources by Postpartum Support International. Memorializing your baby can also be meaningful (e.g. buy a statue, plant a tree or have a memorial service).
Summary: What Does Miscarriage Feel Like?
If you’re worried about having a miscarriage, you might be wondering “What does miscarriage feel like?” Miscarriage feels differently for everyone. What you experience depends on your situation and how far along you are.
Some people who miscarry may not feel anything. This may be the case during early pregnancy before someone even knows they’re pregnant. An early miscarriage might cause cramping and bleeding, while a later miscarriage may experience the same symptoms more intensely. For example, a miscarriage at 12 weeks might have painful cramping and heavier bleeding than a miscarriage at 5 weeks.
Your doctor may recommend a medication to speed up how quickly the tissue expels from your body. If the tissue isn’t removed over the course of weeks, a minor surgical procedure may be required.
If you suspect you’ve had a miscarriage, make an appointment with your doctor or go to the emergency room to have it confirmed.
P.S. A Word of Hope
If you’ve confirmed you’ve had a miscarriage, try to have hope. Having a miscarriage can be a devastating experience, but it doesn’t mean you can’t conceive in the future.
For most people, miscarriage only happens one time. And most who miscarry have healthy pregnancies later on. Only about 1% of people have repeated miscarriages.
And when you do get pregnant again, know that there’s support along your Rainbow Baby journey. After experiencing a loss, many parents feel relieved to hear their rainbow baby’s heartbeat from home. The BabyDoppler works similarly to an ultrasound to detect the fetal heart rate and amplify it through speakers. The device is easy to use and provides comfort to the whole family.