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Miscarriage — pregnancy loss before the twentieth week — is surprisingly common. What should every woman know about its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and aftercare?

Miscarriage can be defined as any spontaneous pregnancy loss before the twentieth week. Though it is a difficult, painful event, miscarriage is not at all uncommon. Research reveals that between 10 and 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. If we included very early pregnancies, the figure might even be as high as 50 percent.

One in four women will experience a miscarriage, and some suffer from repeated pregnancy loss. Because miscarriage is a startlingly frequent occurrence, all women of reproductive age should be familiar with its basics. This article will cover the symptoms of miscarriage, as well as its diagnosis, any treatment that might be needed, and how to care for yourself after a pregnancy loss.

Miscarriage: Why?

The risk of miscarriage is greatest during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and chromosomal abnormalities within the baby are the most common cause of pregnancy loss within this period. Other causes of miscarriage include hormonal problems, injury during pregnancy, maternal age, and lifestyle factors such as smoking and drinking.

In most cases, there is nothing a woman who experiences a miscarriage could have done to prevent it.

The specific cause is not usually explored, unless a woman suffers multiple miscarriages. We do know that the risk of miscarriage increases with age, and that a woman who has already had a miscarriage has a slightly increased risk of suffering another one.

Miscarriage Symptoms

Medical professionals will class miscarriages in accordance with the stage during which they occur as well as other circumstances. There are however, essentially two different categories all women should be aware of: miscarriages that progress naturally and have symptoms, and "missed miscarriages" which do not progress naturally and have no clear symptoms.

The first type of miscarriage comes with some obvious symptoms:

  • Bleeding from the vagina, including tissues

  • Abdominal pain, often in a rhythmical fashion — as one would expect with labor

  • A sudden lack of previously experienced pregnancy symptoms

It should be noted that mild vaginal bleeding during pregnancy can be caused by problems other than miscarriage too, including a sensitive cervix or placenta previa (placenta covers the cervix). Fairly heavy, often clear red bleeding that comes with pain and involves passing tissues usually indicates a miscarriage. It is also important to be noted that normal vaginal discharge is slightly clear and whitish and it is perfectly normal during pregnancy.  

Any pregnant woman experiencing heavy abdominal pain, even without bleeding, should see her OBGYN, or even head to the ER.

Read More: Miscarriage Facts Every Woman Should Be Familiar With

Keep in mind that ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo implanted outside of the uterus, has similar symptoms as miscarriage. Ectopic pregnancy can easily become life-threatening. As such, it requires immediate treatment. Women who have symptoms of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy will receive an ultrasound scan to confirm the diagnosis. 

In the case of a missed miscarriage, the fetus passes away but does not begin to leave its mother’s body. Some women will notice sudden weight loss or a decrease in pregnancy symptoms, while others will not have any symptoms. Missed miscarriages are usually diagnosed during routine prenatal appointments, where the healthcare provider will not notice any signs of a fetal heartbeat.

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