Pregnancy Symptoms After Miscarriage

Hormones and emotional trauma can both play a part

It is one thing to be faced with the reality of a pregnancy loss. It is entirely another thing to have a miscarriage yet still experience the physical symptoms of pregnancy. This can be confusing and upsetting.

Unfortunately, this is a reality that many women are forced to endure as the hormone levels that fostered fetal growth slowly return to normal. In some cases, the symptoms may persist for weeks and even get stronger than what was experienced before the miscarriage.

Symptoms

Miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week of gestation. Between 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, usually before the 12th week and most often as a result of a chromosomal defect that made the pregnancy non-viable from the start.

Every miscarriage is different, as are the symptoms you can experience. Vaginal bleeding or spotting is common, as are lower abdominal pain, cramping, back pain, absent periods, and the passing of tissue or clots.

But, even beyond these common symptoms, some women will experience symptoms that readily accompany pregnancy. These symptoms can be so profound in some women that it can seem like the miscarriage didn't even occur. They may include:

  • Swollen breasts with pronounced vein
  • Darker and larger areolas
  • Tender nipples
  • Morning sickness, including nausea and aversion to food
  • Abdominal enlargement with increased firmness
  • Increasing fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Increased urination
  • Excessive salivation
  • Bloating and gas
  • Dizziness

There is often no rhyme or reason as to the appearance of these symptoms. While it may seem logical that earlier miscarriages are less prone to these symptoms than miscarriages that occur later, it's not always true.

Even more heartbreaking are reports that women who experience a later pregnancy loss will sometimes feel kicking or abdominal stirrings. The causes for these sensations can be many, with hormones and emotions playing a central role.

Causes

Doctors believe that pregnancy hormones play a role in causing morning sickness, breast soreness, tiredness, and other standard symptoms of early pregnancy. After a miscarriage, your hormones will not return to pre-pregnant levels right away, so there can be a period of time that you will still feel pregnant, even if you have just had a dilation and curettage (D&C).

Because some pregnancy hormones remain in the blood for one to two months after a miscarriage, even after a conclusive miscarriage diagnosis, it's possible that you will continue to have nausea and other pregnancy symptoms for some time, especially if your miscarriage happened later in the first trimester.

Beyond hormones, grief plays a role in persistent pregnancy symptoms, particularly those that last for weeks or months. It is not that you are "crazy" if this happens; unresolved grief can manifest with physical symptoms that are no less real or impactful.

False pregnancy symptoms (pseudocyesis) can occur when an emotional trauma amplifies the physical symptoms of pregnancy following a miscarriage. Fetal movement, kicking, and contractions are just some of the sensations experienced.

In situations like these, a doctor will recommend psychological support, including therapy, to help deal with the emotional trauma you may still be struggling with.

Duration of Symptoms 

The main hormone responsible for the symptoms of early pregnancy is human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). The level of this hormone in the blood of pregnant women varies from woman to woman, as well as on the number of weeks of gestation of the miscarried fetus. Therefore, the exact length of time that it takes for hCG to disappear from a woman's body after a miscarriage will also vary.

In general, hCG will return to zero in women who miscarried very early in pregnancy compared to someone who miscarried later.

The average time that it can take for hCG to disappear completely is between nine and 35 days, according to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry.

For most women, hCG levels will probably fall to zero within about two weeks. If you are still having trouble with persistent nausea or vomiting longer than that, call your doctor, as there may both other causes for these symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

After a miscarriage, it can take a while to fully recover physically, and sometimes even longer when it comes to the emotions that result from a miscarriage. Depending on how far along the pregnancy was when a miscarriage happened, it can take ​a few weeks to a month, or even longer, to make a full recovery.

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