7 Miscarriage False Alarms

Symptoms Don't Necessarily Mean Pregnancy Loss

The early stages of pregnancy can often be a time of great anxiety, especially if you are concerned about or have a history of miscarriage. But there are often symptoms or situations that people will misread as being a sign of an impending loss. 

While some of these situations do require monitoring in order to ensure a healthy pregnancy, others are perfectly normal and of no concern. Knowing the difference may help relieve some of the stress and anxiety you may be feeling.


A Low hCG Blood Test

Pregnant woman having blood test in doctor's office
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In early pregnancy, doctors will test levels of the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) over a period of days to determine whether they are rising as they should. In most normal pregnancies, the level of hCG should double every two to three days during the early part of the first trimester. This is most true when the first hCG measure is low.

By contrast, a single hCG test rarely tells you anything. If you are told that your levels are low after your first test, don't panic. It probably means that you are at the start of your pregnancy. In the end, it is how those numbers trend upward during the course of your pregnancy. If hCG levels fail to rise or drop, that could be the sign of a miscarriage.


Spotting in Early Pregnancy

49 year old woman with depression
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It's natural to be concerned about spotting in early pregnancy. You should call your doctor if experiencing bleeding of any sort. While spotting can be a symptom of a miscarriage, there are many causes for this that are perfectly normal.

During pregnancy, the blood flow to the cervix will increase significantly. As such, it is not unusual to spot after intercourse or following a vaginal exam.

In younger women, cervical ectopy (the benign protrusion of the inner part of the cervix into the outer cervix) may also result in spotting. Spotting can also occur as the placenta implants into the uterus and is considered a normal and healthy part of the pregnancy.

Even when spotting warrants investigation, it doesn't necessarily mean that there's a problem. It simply suggests that the condition is monitored closely just in case. A great many women who experience spotting in early pregnancy go on to deliver perfectly normal, healthy babies.



Severe morning stomach pain
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As with spotting, cramping can occur in normal pregnancies and are not in and of themselves a sign of a problem. Certainly, in the early stages of pregnancy, cramping may develop as the placenta implants the uterus although it is usually mild and short-lived.

Pain accompanied by bleeding is another matter and one that warrants immediate investigation. If cramping is severe, with or without bleeding, it is always best to see your doctor soon as possible.

If cramping is accompanied by severe lower abdominal or back pain, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room as this may be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy.


Pregnancy Symptoms That Disappear

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It's quite normal for pregnancy symptoms to fluctuate from day to day during early pregnancy and to sometimes disappear altogether. The loss of pregnancy symptoms such as breast tenderness, bloating, mood swings, and food cravings is not necessarily a sign of a problem, especially if you are nearing your 12th week of pregnancy. By this time, symptoms will typically ease.

If you suddenly have no symptoms at all and are concerned, contact your doctor's office.


No Morning Sickness

Riding waves of nausea
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If you have been told that morning sickness is a sign of a healthy pregnancy, you start to worry if you don't experience any of the typical symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. The absence of morning sickness symptoms does not mean your pregnancy is doomed. Around a third of women never have symptoms. Of those who do, around half will find relief by the 14th week.


An Inconclusive Ultrasound Result

Pregnancy Ultra-Sound
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It's not uncommon for an early ultrasound to raise concerns if the results fail to show what you and your doctor may have expected. In some cases, there may be no fetal heartbeat or fetal pole, or the measurements don't match up to the estimated due date.

In many cases, the estimated date is simply incorrect, and the baby is nowhere near as far along as you may have suspected. While it may be frustrating to be told to come back later to check again, you shouldn't assume the worst. In the end, all that may be required is a recalculation of the due date.


A Threatened Miscarriage

Doctor talking to pregnant patient in hospital room
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It may be a scary to hear, but a threatened miscarriage is not the same thing as an actual miscarriage. The term refers to a pregnancy in which there is some level of bleeding, but the cervix remains closed and the ultrasound shows that the baby's heart is still beating. 

Threatened miscarriage occurs in around 20% of pregnancies before 20 weeks. While most women will go on the deliver their babies without incident, as many as one in seven will experience further complications following a threatened miscarriage.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Barnhart KT, Guo W, Cary MS, et al. Differences in Serum Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Rise in Early Pregnancy by Race and Value at Presentation. Obstet Gynecol. 2016;128(3):504-511. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000001568

  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Bleeding During Pregnancy.

  3. Flaxman SM, Sherman PW. Morning Sickness: A Mechanism for Protecting Mother and Embryo. Q Rev Biol. 2000;75(2):113-148. doi:10.1086/393377

  4. Whitworth M, Bricker L, Neilson JP, Dowswell T. Ultrasound for fetal assessment in early pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(4):CD007058. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007058.pub2

  5. Ahmed SR, Alsammani MA, Al-Sheeha MA, Aitallah AS, Khan FJ. Pregnancy Outcome in Women With Threatened Miscarriage: A Year Study. Mater Sociomed. 2012;24(1):26-28. doi:10.5455/msm.2012.24.26-28

Additional Reading
  • Simkin, P. and Ancheta, R. The Labor Progress Handbook (Third Edition). New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

By Krissi Danielsson
Krissi Danielsson, MD is a doctor of family medicine and an advocate for those who have experienced miscarriage.