What to Do If You're Having a Miscarriage

Having a miscarriage or another form of pregnancy loss is often confusing, emotionally devastating, and frightening. You are worried about your baby, your fertility, and perhaps your own health. That makes for a lot of stress. When you add to this the long waiting periods often required in early pregnancy between some tests to ensure or confirm the miscarriage diagnosis, it can be a very troubling time.

If you believe you are having a miscarriage, call your healthcare provider. They will likely want you to come in to be seen and/or can advise you on how to manage your symptoms. In the meantime, rest, use sanitary pads to soak up vaginal bleeding, and take ibuprofen for pain, as needed. If possible, your doctor may recommend saving any fetal tissue you pass, so that it can be tested to determine the cause of the miscarriage.

Be sure to reach out to loved ones for emotional support, as well. If you are bleeding excessively and/or are in intense pain, contact your doctor right away or go to the emergency room. Learn more about what to do if you are having a miscarriage.

Stopping a Miscarriage

An early first trimester miscarriage can rarely be stopped. However, if you are not sure yet if a miscarriage has occurred, your doctor may suggest bed rest, pelvic rest (no tampons, douching, or sexual intercourse), or progesterone supplements.

In most cases, though, there is nothing you or your doctors can do to stop a miscarriage. Typically, a first trimester miscarriage is due to chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus that make the pregnancy unviable. This means you did nothing wrong and there was nothing you could do to prevent the miscarriage.

Treatment for a Miscarriage

Young Couple Consoling Each Other
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Once you know that your pregnancy is no longer viable or that you are actively miscarrying, you will have various treatment options. You might be offered a dilatation and curettage (D&C), which is a surgery to remove the contents of the uterus. You may also be offered the opportunity to have a natural miscarriage.

Both of these treatments, D&C and natural miscarriage, including waiting to decide, have their benefits and risks. Be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife about which is best for your situation.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Early Ultrasound
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The treatment for an ectopic pregnancy (also called a tubal pregnancy) will vary depending on how far along you are into your pregnancy, whether the fallopian tube has ruptured, whether you are already bleeding, and your obstetrical history. You may be offered a non-surgical treatment if you qualify. There are also surgical options, some of which may result in the loss of your fallopian tube.

Physical Recovery

Female doctor discussing with patient in clinic
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Your physical recovery will depend on what type of treatment you had. Your practitioner can help guide you in your expectations. You will want to ask questions like:

  • Do I need Rhogam? If you are Rh- then you may need to have a Rhogam shot after your miscarriage or pregnancy loss. This may not be needed if your partner was also Rh- or your baby was Rh-. If this information is not known, Rhogam is usually given.
  • How long will I bleed? Many women will bleed for about the same amount as a period, followed by a longer period of spotting. This spotting can last up to six to eight weeks for some women. Typically you will bleed longer the longer you have been pregnant. 
  • How will I know if I have an infection? Signs of infection can include a fever, vaginal discharge with a foul smell, severe pain, and redness around any incisions.
  • What amount of pain and cramping is normal? Cramping is usually confined to a very intense few hours to a couple of days depending on the length of gestation and if you have had medication to help speed the process along or required surgery. Your doctor will give you advice on coping with pain.
  • When will my period return? This too will depend on how long you've been pregnant and how your pregnancy ended.

Is It an Emergency?

Always call your doctor if you ever have concerns or questions. Be sure to check in if you have these symptoms. They could be signs of an infection or a complication such as an incomplete miscarriage. If you are unable to reach your healthcare provider, go to an emergency room.

  • Bleeding with pale, clammy skin, lightheadedness, or an increased heart rate
  • Fever over 100 degrees F
  • Heavy bleeding (soaking through two pads per hour for two hours or more)
  • Severe or sudden pain

Emotional Recovery

A Woman Making Decisions
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It is important to note that everyone grieves and heals differently after a pregnancy loss. For some people, physical and emotional recovery happens fairly quickly; others feel a very deep, lasting sense of loss and longing.

It can be difficult to tell others about your miscarriage, including your other children. You should expect that some people won't know what to say to you, which may lead result in them saying things that are hurtful to you. You may also benefit from therapy. Give yourself space, time, and grace as you heal emotionally.

7 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. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Early pregnancy loss.

  2. Neilson JP, Gyte GM, Hickey M, Vazquez JC, Dou L. Medical treatments for incomplete miscarriage (less than 24 weeks)Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(1):CD007223. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007223.pub2

  3. Taran FA, Kagan KO, Hübner M, Hoopmann M, Wallwiener D, Brucker S. The diagnosis and treatment of ectopic pregnancyDtsch Arztebl Int. 2015;112(41):693–705. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2015.0693

  4. Feier C. Clinical emergency medicine algorithms: vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy (less than 20 weeks)West J Emerg Med. 2008;9(1):47-51.

  5. Promislow JH, Baird DD, Wilcox AJ, Weinberg CR. Bleeding following pregnancy loss before 6 weeks' gestationHum Reprod. 2007;22(3):853–857. doi:10.1093/humrep/del417

  6. March of Dimes. Bleeding and spotting from the vagina during pregnancy.

  7. Volgsten H, Jansson C, Svanberg AS, Darj E, Stavreus-Evers A. Longitudinal study of emotional experiences, grief and depressive symptoms in women and men after miscarriage. Midwifery. 2018;64:23-28. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2018.05.003

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.