Miscarriage Signs and Symptoms

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Your body changes quickly in early pregnancy. Most of these changes are completely normal and not a sign that there's anything wrong with you or your baby. However, some symptoms can be signs of a pregnancy complication or even a possible miscarriage. 

Most Common Signs of Miscarriage

Knowing the most common signs and symptoms of a miscarriage (detailed below) is helpful. However, remember that experiencing more or more of them does not necessarily mean that you are losing your pregnancy. In fact, while vaginal bleeding is a potential sign of miscarriage, it is also not unusual for it to occur in pregnancies that are successfully carried to term.

Still, talk with your doctor if you are having any concerning symptoms in early pregnancy, particularly pain or vaginal bleeding. Also note that pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding could also indicate other serious complications of early pregnancy, such as an ectopic pregnancy.

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, speak to your healthcare provider immediately to get a professional's opinion on your specific situation. Try not to diagnose yourself as it may lead to unnecessary worry.

Vaginal Bleeding

If you are having a miscarriage, you will have vaginal bleeding at some point during the process. The bleeding may start off as light staining, but will then become quite heavy. The heavy bleeding during a miscarriage happens because the pregnancy separates from the wall of your uterus. Pregnancy tissue and bleeding from the lining of your uterus pass out through your cervix and vagina.

Lighter vaginal bleeding or spotting can be an early warning sign of a miscarriage. Sometimes, it is the first and only symptom you may have. But remember, not all vaginal bleeding in pregnancy is due to miscarriage.

For some women, a miscarriage can be diagnosed before any vaginal bleeding occurs. This can be very confusing. It happens when the fetus has stopped growing but you happen to see your doctor before any bleeding begins. Also, some women can experience bleeding unrelated to a miscarriage.

Typically, a miscarriage that doesn't present with vaginal bleeding is diagnosed after you are 10 weeks into your pregnancy when your doctor has started checking for a fetal heartbeat.

Pelvic Pain 

The pelvic pain associated with a miscarriage is similar to menstrual cramps. However, it is usually much more intense than your regular period pain. Usually, the pain associated with a miscarriage is the worst during the time of your heaviest vaginal bleeding.

Mild cramping in early pregnancy can be normal as your uterus is increasing in size. But it can also be a sign of a problem with your pregnancy, especially if you are also having some amount of vaginal bleeding.

Decreased Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Many pregnant people will experience some common symptoms in the first few months of pregnancy. Most of these symptoms—especially morning sickness, fatigue, and breast tenderness—are caused by the hormonal changes. Not all women will experience them. If you do, you can typically expect them to go away rather abruptly during your second trimester as your hormonal changes level off.

However, if you are still in your first trimester (less than 12 weeks pregnant), the hormone levels that cause these symptoms should still be rather high. So, if you abruptly lose the unpleasant symptoms of early pregnancy, it could be a sign of a miscarriage.

Less Common Signs of Miscarriage

These symptoms may be more typically associated with miscarriages after 13 weeks, which are much less common than earlier miscarriages.

Low Back Pain

It is possible that you can feel the pain of uterine cramping in your lower back instead of in your lower abdomen or pelvis. This is especially true if you have a retroverted uterus. If you are having pain in your lower back, it could be a normal sign of early pregnancy. But it can also be a sign of a miscarriage, especially if you are also having some vaginal bleeding.

Increased Vaginal Discharge

Increased vaginal discharge in early pregnancy is typically not associated with a miscarriage. However, if your vaginal discharge is mucous-like and blood-tinged, it is more worrisome.

Hormonal changes increase vaginal and cervical secretions, and this is completely normal during pregnancy. It is important however to be sure that you are not having any other symptoms related to the discharge like vaginal itching, pain, or a foul odor. These symptoms could suggest a vaginal infection or bacterial imbalance. 

Leaking Amniotic Fluid

Leaking amniotic fluid is not a common sign of a miscarriage, but it is a definitive one. Ruptured membranes are associated with a miscarriage later in your second trimester. It is most typically a sign of an incompetent cervix, which is one cause of second-trimester miscarriages.

Other Conditions

Many of the signs and symptoms of a miscarriage are shared by other common findings and/or complications of early pregnancy. Some of these conditions look like a miscarriage but are related to other conditions.

Bleeding Associated With Normal Pregnancy

Some types of bleeding are normal in pregnancy. Your healthcare provider can help to determine if one of these normal issues is causing you to bleed.

Implantation Bleeding

Vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy can be caused by the embryo attaching itself to the wall of your uterus. This is called implantation bleeding, and is typically characterized by light spotting, and is not a cause of concern.

Postcoital Bleeding

The hormone changes of pregnancy cause changes in your cervix that make its surface more likely to bleed when it is touched. This commonly happens after sex. However, a pelvic exam or a transvaginal ultrasound probe could cause bleeding for the same reason.

Subchorionic Hematoma

Sometimes there can be some bleeding between your uterus and the placenta in the early first trimester. A clot can form called a subchorionic hematoma. This usually goes away on its own and does not disrupt your pregnancy.

Abnormal Pregnancy

Certain issues related to abnormal pregnancy can cause bleeding and/or pain. These include ectopic pregnancy and molar pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is when an embryo implants outside of the uterus, making it unviable. Bleeding in pregnancy and not hearing a fetal heartbeat can be signs of a molar pregnancy.

Urinary Tract Problems

Pelvic pain in early pregnancy can be a sign of a urinary tract infection. Urinary tract infections are fairly common in pregnancy. Low back pain could be a sign of kidney stones, a less common urinary problem in pregnancy.

A Word From Verywell

Since many of the signs and symptoms of a miscarriage can also be present in a normal pregnancy, it is important to discuss any concerning symptoms you have with your doctor. If you are diagnosed with a miscarriage, know that pregnancy loss is, sadly, very common. It can be a heartwrenching experience, so give yourself grace as you heal emotionally and physically.

13 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.
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By Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisholm, MD, is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist with more than 20 years of clinical experience. She has taught at both Tufts University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, and she is currently on the Clinical Advisory Board of the International Association of Premenstrual Disorders.