Miscarriage Overview

Miscarriage Warning Signs

Severe back pain can be a sign of miscarriage.
Severe back pain can be a sign of miscarriage.
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There are often warning signs before a miscarriage actually occurs. It is important for pregnant women, as well as those planning to get pregnant, to know the most common of them.

  • Bleeding can range from mild to severe and can be brown or bright red in color. In some cases, women may have several bouts of bleeding. But it doesn't always mean that a miscarriage will soon follow. Up to 30 percent of all pregnancies involve some level of bleeding. In fact, studies have shown that as long as there is fetal cardiac activity, approximately 96 percent of pregnancies in which the mother experiences vaginal bleeding between seven and 11 weeks do not miscarry [source: American Pregnancy Association].
  • Mild to severe back pain and cramping is another common warning sign. The location of the cramps can vary widely and can be felt on one or both sides or in the middle of the abdomen. They usually occur in the lower abdomen but can move to the lower back.
  • Both mucus and clotlike vaginal discharge are symptoms of a miscarriage. The mucus is usually white to pink in color. Again, this is not necessarily a sign of inevitable miscarriage, but any tissue that passes through the vagina should be saved in a sterile container and brought to the doctor's office for examination.
  • Oftentimes, one of the first warning signs of a miscarriage is a decrease in pregnancy side effects. This can mean weight loss, absence of nausea or breasts that are no longer tender. A word of caution should be used here -- some of these symptoms, like weight loss in early pregnancy, may be normal for some women. But any woman experiencing these symptoms should consult her doctor.
  • Contractions are extreme pains that usually occur every five to 20 minutes.

If a woman does experience one of these symptoms, her doctor will usually perform an examination to determine how the pregnancy is progressing. This exam can consist of an internal pelvic examination, an ultrasound and blood tests. The internal exam is performed to establish if the cervix is dilated. If it isn't, the pregnancy usually continues. But if the cervix is dilated, a miscarriage is normally inevitable. An ultrasound can find a fetal heartbeat and assess if the fetus is developing normally. Finally, blood tests can determine if pregnancy hormones are still at the expected levels.

J­ust as there are many warning signs of a miscarriage, there are many different types of miscarriages. We'll discuss them in our next section.