What to Do If You Think You're Having a Miscarriage

There are various symptoms you may not know to look out for

Worried young woman

Shuji Kobayashi / Taxi / Getty Images

Miscarriage is usually defined as a pregnancy loss prior to 20 weeks gestation, though it is most common in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. It is believed that about 10% of pregnancies will end in miscarriage, sometimes even before you've taken a pregnancy test. In the early weeks of pregnancy, it can be helpful to be familiar with the signs of miscarriage, so you know when to call your doctor.

Common Signs of Miscarriage

Common signs of miscarriage include:

It's important to know that experiencing one of these common signs isn’t necessarily an indicator of impending miscarriage. In fact, some of these symptoms can be experienced by women who go on to carry the pregnancy to term. For example, up to one in four women experience some bleeding in their first trimester of pregnancy. In any case, it's important to be aware of these common signs and to contact your provider should you experience one or more.

There are also some women who miscarry who experience no initial signs. Instead, their miscarriage might be diagnosed at a regular prenatal appointment. A missed miscarriage, as this is often called, is usually discovered during an ultrasound, which may be performed if your doctor or midwife does not hear a heartbeat with a fetal Doppler by pregnancy weeks 12 to 14.

What to Do

If you are experiencing any of the above signs of miscarriage or other warning signs in your pregnancy, you should contact your doctor or midwife. They will advise you if there is anything you need to do.

One of the hardest parts of pregnancy is the "wait and see" approach, but, unfortunately, there is really nothing that can be done if you are experiencing a threatened miscarriage, which simply means that you are having signs that you may be having a miscarriage, such as bleeding without cervical dilation.

While many women who experience a threatened miscarriage go on to have successful pregnancies, it's important to still be mindful of your symptoms and know what to watch for.

If you're experiencing a threatened miscarriage, you may be advised to do any or all of the following:

The advice and treatment plan your doctor gives you will serve to monitor your health and progress and, if you do miscarry, help you recover from the loss. As devastating as it may be, you cannot stop a miscarriage that’s already in process.

Progesterone for Threatened Miscarriage

A 2019 study in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at whether or not vaginal progesterone treatment given during weeks 12 to 16 of pregnancy to women experiencing vaginal bleeding could increase the likelihood of having a live birth. However, researchers didn't consider the treatment to be more effective than a placebo, as the success rates were not significantly higher.

Diagnosing a Miscarriage

In addition to threatened and missed miscarriage, you may also experience other types of miscarriage including complete miscarriage, which means the pregnancy is completely over and your uterus is empty, or incomplete miscarriage, which means that your baby has died but your uterus still contains parts of the placenta. Incomplete miscarriage may require a procedure known as a dilation and curettage, or D&C.

Your doctor can diagnose miscarriage with one or more of the following tests:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Ultrasound
  • Fetal heart rate monitor
  • Blood test (hCG)

Be sure to ask any questions you have about your pregnancy and the symptoms you're experiencing. In certain cases, it may be best to head straight to the emergency room if you suspect you are having a miscarriage, not just for the health of the baby, but also for yours.

Seek immediate emergency care if you experience any of the following:

  • Unusually heavy bleeding and soaking through menstrual pads very quickly
  • Severe abdominal pain or dizziness
  • Symptoms of shock, such as confusion or agitation

Experiencing a Miscarriage

If you have a natural miscarriage, you may experience bleeding for several days. You may also be asked to come in to see your practitioner. If you have medical intervention, either in the form of medication or a D&C, you will also bleed, but the length of time will vary depending on the stage of your pregnancy and the type intervention.

Either way, you will need some time for physical and emotional recovery. Many people forget this and try to rush back to their everyday lives. Be sure to take some time to relax and ease back into your regular routine. Your doctor or midwife will explain what physical limitations you need to be aware of.

Call your doctor if you experience prolonged bleeding, abdominal pain, or fever.

Life After a Miscarriage

Most women who miscarry go on to have a healthy pregnancy in the future. Though life continues after a miscarriage, don't assume that there won't be a grief process or mourning for your baby.

It's completely normal to experience a wide range of emotions after a miscarriage. Take time to grieve and seek support. Many women find comfort talking to other mothers who experienced a miscarriage. Read books on pregnancy loss or join a support group. Above all else, be kind to yourself. Many people say well-intentioned but sometimes hurtful things after you've had a miscarriage. Remember that your feelings, whatever they look like, are justified.

You can usually return to having normal sexual relations once you have stopped bleeding, which is an indication that your uterus has healed. Know that you and your partner may or may not be emotionally ready. If you plan to try to conceive again, talk to your provider and follow their advice.

A Word From Verywell

If you're experiencing any of the common signs of miscarriage, don't hesitate to contact your doctor. They are there to support you during and after your pregnancy. It's always best to maintain good communication with your provider, even your symptoms don't end up being a medical emergency and you go on to have a successful pregnancy and healthy baby. It's also important to remember that if you do have a miscarriage, it's not because of something you did wrong.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy 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. Updated August 2015.


  2. Hasan R, Baird DD, Herring AH, Olshan AF, Jonsson Funk ML, Hartmann KE. Association between first-trimester vaginal bleeding and miscarriageObstet Gynecol. 2009;114(4):860–867. doi:10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181b79796


  3. Condous G. Ultrasound diagnosis of miscarriage: new guidelines to prevent harmAustralas J Ultrasound Med. 2011;14(4):2. doi:10.1002/j.2205-0140.2011.tb00127.x


  4. Ahmed SR, El-Sammani Mel-K, Al-Sheeha MA, Aitallah AS, Jabin Khan F, Ahmed SR. Pregnancy outcome in women with threatened miscarriage: a year studyMater Sociomed. 2012;24(1):26–28. doi:10.5455/msm.2012.24.26-28


  5. Coomarasamy A, Devall AJ, Cheed V, et al. A Randomized Trial of Progesterone in Women with Bleeding in Early Pregnancy. N Engl J Med. 2019;380(19):1815-1824. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1813730


  6. Merck Manual Professional Version. Spontaneous Abortion (Miscarriage). Updated June 2019.