Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
UI Maternity Care
What is a miscarriage?
Miscarriage, or spontaneous abortion, is the loss of a pregnancy before the fourth month. The main symptoms are: Bleeding from the vagina. Cramping of the uterus. Passage of blood clots or tissue from the vagina.
How often does a miscarriage occur?
Miscarriage is far more common than most women realize. About 15 out of 100 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Most of those miscarriages occur in the first three months of pregnancy.
Why does a miscarriage occur?
Most of the time we cannot find a cause. Over half of all miscarriages happen because the baby is not normal. We do know that miscarriage is NOT something which the mother has caused to happen. There is no treatment which can prevent a miscarriage once it has started.
How will I feel when I go home?
Normal symptoms which follow a miscarriage include:
Bleeding - The type of bleeding may vary. You may stop after a few days or you may bleed on and off for several weeks. The bleeding should become less in amount each day and change from bright red to pink with more mucous. It is normal to pass small quarter size clots. Keep in mind that when you lie down blood collects in your vagina. When you stand up this may pass in a large gush.
Cramping - Minor low abdominal cramping is normal after a suction procedure. This will be more likely if you have had children. You may take two aspirin or Ibuprophen (Tylenol) every four hours.
Nausea - Nausea and some vomiting may occur with a suction procedure. This is fairly common and should pass within a few minutes.
Grief and anger - These feelings are very common after a miscarriage. Some women feel guilty and try to think of a reason which could explain the miscarriage. It is important for you to be aware that neither you nor your partner caused the miscarriage. You should also know that having one miscarriage does not mean that the next pregnancy will have the same result.
Breast tenderness - You may experience breast tenderness or fullness. Breasts may leak milk from time to time for a few weeks. Wear a bra with good support. Avoid breast stimulation. Use breast pads if necessary. For breast soreness use ice packs for 20 minutes every 2-3 hours. Take Tylenol or Ibuprophen if necessary.
You may find it helpful to talk to a friend or family member about your feelings. This is a time when you and your partner need support and care from those close to you. Many people who have had a miscarriage find a support group helpful. Your nurse may know of a support group in your area which includes other couples who have had a pregnancy loss.
Symptoms which are not normal after a miscarriage.
- Bleeding which is more than a normal period.
- Soaking one maxi pad in one hour would be too much bleeding.
- Fever above 100o F or 38o C.
- Vaginal discharge which smells foul or looks infected.
- Low abdominal pain or tenderness lasting more than 24 hours.
- Large clots or tissue.
If these symptoms occur call a doctor or nurse.
Taking care of yourself after a miscarriage. Take your temperature by mouth (under the tongue) every afternoo between 4 pm and 8 pm for one week. Leave the thermometer in your mouth for five minutes. Call us if it is 100o F (38o C) or above. Avoid intercourse, douching or tampons for at least two weeks. This is to prevent infection. You may take a tub bath or shower as you wish. Slowly resume normal activities. You may return to work as instructed by your physician. If your blood type is Rh negative you will be given a shot of Rhogam to prevent problems with Rh disease. You will be given an appointment to return for an examination. At that time, your doctor will discuss birth control, when you may attempt another pregnancy, and how you are coping with your pregnancy loss.
Reading you may find helpful.
Borg, Susan and Lasker, Judith. When Pregnancy Fails, Beacon Press, Boston, 1981.
Freidman, Rochelle and Gradstein, Bonnie. Surviving Pregnancy Loss, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1982.
Ilse, Sherokee and Hammer Burns. Miscarrieage: A Shattered Dream, Linda Wintergreen Press, Maple Plains, MN 1985
Peer Review Status: Internally
Peer Review Date: 2004