What to Do If You're Having a Miscarriage

Having a miscarriage or other form of pregnancy loss is often very confusing 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 for couples.

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 many cases, though, there is nothing you or your doctors can do to stop a miscarriage.

Treatment for a Miscarriage

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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, 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

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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:

  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • How will I know if I have an infection?
    Signs of infection can include a fever, a foul smell to the discharge, severe pain, redness around any potential incisions, etc.
  • 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-. This information is not known, Rhogam is usually given.
  • 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.

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

Emotional Recovery

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It is important to note that everyone grieves and heals differently after a pregnancy loss. For some people, 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 people won't know what to say to you, which will usually lead to them saying things that they shouldn't. You may also benefit from therapy.

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