If you had a miscarriage and didn't know that you were pregnant, it can be difficult to tell if it was a health scare or an actual miscarriage.
In the first trimester of pregnancy, signs of miscarriage can be difficult to interpret, as cramping and light bleeding are often actually signs that you are pregnant. When you don't know that you're pregnant, then these can also just feel like symptoms of your period and not miscarriage symptoms.
It's important to call a doctor as soon as you can if you're worried that this is what's happening, as they will be able to help you figure out if you are in the early pregnancy stages and experiencing a miscarriage, or if your symptoms are caused by something else. Here, we've put together some signs that might help you work out what has happened and what you need to do next.
Please remember that if you are ever worried about changes in your body, during pregnancy or not, it is vital to speak to a health professional.
What Causes Miscarriage?
There are many reasons that miscarriages happen, and a lot of the time it is not possible for a doctor to identify what the cause of the miscarriage actually is.
Around four in 100 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and although it is rarely spoken about openly, it is something that a lot of women go through at some point in their life. There are many different types of miscarriage: early, late, and a missed miscarriage (also known as an ectopic pregnancy).
An early miscarriage occurs at the beginning of pregnancy. It usually happens when the embryo has not implanted into the uterine wall by week six or seven of pregnancy. The only way to tell if this was your case is to have tests done on the tissue from your miscarried pregnancy. If it is shown that there were genetic problems then you can also try to have tests done on your future children's DNA as they are born. You can have these tests done at the same time or later in a future pregnancy.
A missed miscarriage usually happens when the embryo is outside the uterus but has not implanted into the uterine wall. Many women are left unsure whether this was their first (or following) miscarriage or whether it was an ectopic pregnancy. If you miss a miscarriage, tests will be done to work out if there is a problem with any future pregnancies. For example, you may be offered tests to see if you have endometriosis (a condition that causes tissue to grow in other areas of your body). These tests are not always possible though as sometimes surgery may have been needed for complications in an ectopic pregnancy and this cannot always be reversed after surgery.
Finally, an 'unexplained' miscarriage happens when there is no known medical problem and your doctor can only say that it was a result of either a chromosomal abnormality in the egg or sperm (a form of genetic disease) or an untreated infection such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis. If you had a miscarriage but didn't know that you were pregnant, this could be due to any of these reasons. Miscarriages can also happen after having had surgery or following treatment with high doses of hormones (such as estrogen).
A miscarriage could be due to placental problems within women that mean that the baby is unable to get the nutrients that they need to grow as normal.
Miscarriages can also be caused by chromosome problems regarding the baby. This can happen at conception, where the baby either receives too few or too many chromosomes and is unable to develop normally, resulting in pregnancy loss. For most women, this is a one-time thing and does not mean that it will cause more miscarriages in the future, or that there is any issues with either partner.
A miscarriage may be a completely chance occurrence, and will often be a one-time thing. However, there are some things that may mean women are at higher risk of pregnancy loss.
If a woman is under the age of 30, there is a one in 10 chance of the pregnancy ending in a miscarriage. If she is between 35 and 39, then the risk is around two in 10. Over the age of 45, the risk is far higher of a miscarriage, with over a half of pregnancies ending in miscarriage. Women may be more likely to experience a miscarriage if they are obese, drink alcohol, use drugs, smoke, or drink a lot of caffeine.
Later in pregnancy, there are many other reasons that you might be bleeding during pregnancy or risks that could cause a miscarriage. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, infections, and even food poisoning. It is important to make sure you know the risks and precautions you will need to take to best protect your baby.
Signs Of A Miscarriage
There are a few miscarriage signs you can look out for, but it is important to note that the symptoms are not always a definite sign of miscarriage, and could either just be a sign of your pregnancy or something else altogether.
Abdominal cramping is one of the main symptoms you should look out for and can range from mild to strong pain. Back pain can also be a common sign that is associated with miscarriage. This is usually caused by the embryo detaching from the uterine wall.
You might experience some bleeding during pregnancy loss. Brown spotting is often a normal sign of pregnancy in the first trimester, but bright red or heavy bleeding is a cause for concern, and you should seek medical advice as soon as you can.
If you are experiencing a miscarriage, you may be able to tell because you are passing clots and are not on your period, or the blood clots that you are passing are larger or more than your usual period clots. These might contain blood and also fetal tissue, and if you are able to get to a doctor quickly, they will be able to do a blood test and test the clots to work out if they were a miscarriage symptom or not.
You may also be experiencing a miscarriage if you see pinkish vaginal discharge that is lighter than a period, or experience a sudden loss of any pregnancy symptoms like tender or sore breasts or morning sickness.
If you are concerned that you might be having a miscarriage, then it is important to take a pregnancy test as soon as possible. Doctors can perform more sensitive tests than the store-bought kind, so you may even choose to go straight to your doctor to get a clearer understanding of what is causing the pain or bleeding, or other symptoms.
If you were pregnant and had a miscarriage, your doctor will perform tests on the tissue from the pregnancy to work out what caused it. Some of these tests will look at the tissue from later in the pregnancy to see if there were any genetic abnormalities. In most cases, they will also check your blood for infections and other health problems which might make it more likely for your baby to have birth defects or other problems during pregnancy.
What To Do If You're Worried
Worried that you might be experiencing some of the signs of miscarriage in the first trimester?
If you think you are pregnant and are worried that you are experiencing pregnancy loss, then the first thing that you should do is take a home pregnancy test. The results of the test will tell you whether or not you are still pregnant. If the pregnancy test says negative, this means that your body is not currently showing signs of pregnancy such as morning sickness and a missed period. This does not mean that you have lost the baby, but it may only be one of several possibilities. If you have bleeding in your uterus or vagina then you should talk to a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
If you don't think, or know for certain that you are pregnant but you are feeling the symptoms of a miscarriage, then you should also book an emergency appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.
At your appointment, your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and may also perform an ultrasound examination to determine if you are still pregnant. The ultrasound examination will be able to tell if a miscarriage is occurring but it does take time to see the results of a scan.
If you aren't able to get an immediate appointment with your doctor, contact them through telephone or seek out another healthcare professional for help. There are other clinics that can help, such as hospital emergency rooms or public health departments that don't require an appointment and have walk-in services available such as Planned Parenthood and many abortion clinics across the United States.
If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at our guide to how many days after your period you can get pregnant or all about the 11 week ultrasound.
The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.