Miscarriage Signs and Symptoms

Your body changes a lot and rather quickly in early pregnancy. It is important to pay attention and notice any changes you may be experiencing. It's also important to know that most of these changes are completely normal and not a sign that there's anything wrong with you or your baby. That said, some can be signs of a pregnancy complication or even a possible miscarriage

Common Signs & Symptoms of a Miscarriage

Knowing the most common signs and symptoms of a miscarriage is helpful, but remember that experiencing any of them does not necessarily mean that you are losing your pregnancy. Should any of these apply to you, bring it to your doctor's attention immediately to get a professional's opinion on your specific situation. Though it may be easy to go there, try not to diagnose yourself. Your worry may be valid, but it may not.

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 just spotting can be an early warning sign of a miscarriage. Sometimes it is the first and only symptom you may have. It is important to talk to your doctor about any vaginal bleeding you have while you are pregnant. But remember, not all vaginal bleeding in pregnancy is a sign of a 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 see your doctor before any bleeding begins. 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.

Note, though, that some women can experience bleeding unrelated to a miscarriage (see below).

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.

A Decrease in Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Most women 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 of early pregnancy. Not all women will experience these symptoms. But 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 or less than 12 weeks pregnant, your hormone levels that cause these symptoms should still be rather high. If you abruptly lose the unpleasant symptoms of early pregnancy, it could be a sign of a miscarriage.

Less Common Signs & Symptoms 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 That Can Look Like a Miscarriage

Many of the signs and symptoms of a miscarriage are shared by other common findings and/or complications of early pregnancy.

Bleeding Associated With Normal Pregnancy

  • Implantation BleedingVaginal bleeding in early pregnancy can be a normal finding related to the embryo attaching itself to the wall of your uterus.
  • Subchorionic Hematoma: Sometimes there can be some bleeding between your uterus and the placenta in the early first trimester. A clot can form. This usually goes away on its own and does not disrupt your pregnancy.
  • 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.

Abnormal Pregnancy

  • Ectopic PregnancyVaginal bleeding and pain, common symptoms of a miscarriage, are also the most common symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. 
  • Molar PregnancyBleeding 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.

When to See Your Doctor

You should talk with your doctor if you are having any concerning symptoms in early pregnancy. If you are experiencing any pain or vaginal bleeding in particular, you should be evaluated by your doctor immediately. Although common signs of a miscarriage, pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding could also indicate more serious complications of early pregnancy.

A Word From Verywell

Since most of the signs and symptoms of a miscarriage can also be present in a normal pregnancy, it is important to discuss any symptoms that you find concerning with your doctor. If you are diagnosed with a miscarriage, listening to your doctor's advice and taking good care of yourself both physically and emotionally will help you recover very well from an early pregnancy loss.

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Article Sources

  • American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology. (2015). ACOG practice bulletin no. 150: Early pregnancy loss. Obstet Gynecol. 125(5):1258-67.