What to do if you think you’re having a miscarriage

Experiencing the symptoms associated with miscarriage can be overwhelming and cause fear or panic, but it’s important for women to try to stay as calm as possible. Common physical symptoms of miscarriage include abdominal cramping, abdominal pain, lower back pain, and vaginal bleeding, which can range from spotting to heavy. Many of these symptoms can occur for other reasons during early pregnancy, so it’s best not to jump to conclusions. However, never hesitate to contact your healthcare provider if you are feeling something that doesn’t feel normal. Being familiar with these symptoms will help you know when you should take the following steps.

Call a provider

A woman’s healthcare provider can perform certain tests that confirm whether or not she’s experiencing a miscarriage. The earlier these results come in, the faster the provider can treat whatever is going on, whether it’s a miscarriage or something else. These tests might include a pelvic exam, a blood test, or an ultrasound.

Ask a friend or family member for a ride to the provider’s

It’s unsafe for anyone to drive if they’ve been bleeding extensively. After the appointment it also might not be safe for her to drive herself home, depending on any procedures or medications that she undergoes or takes, and also on her emotional state at the time. Having a driver will make the situation much more manageable.

Notice the amount and duration of bleeding or spotting

Being able to describe the amount of vaginal bleeding a woman has experienced could be helpful for the provider to form a diagnosis. Bleeding that increases or stays bright red over time might indicate a problem, so if possible, women should try to notice these details and report them to their provider.

Having a miscarriage (or a miscarriage scare) can be so shocking and stressful that it’s understandable if women can’t remember to do certain things while it’s happening. This is completely understandable, but if possible, it can be beneficial for women to ask their provider if they think she should try to save any fetal tissue during the miscarriage. This might sound surprising, but fetal tissue that comes out with vaginal bleeding can be tested in a lab to help identify if there was a particular cause of the miscarriage. While not all women will be able to differentiate between vaginal bleeding and fetal tissue, if possible, it is helpful to save any of this tissue in a clean container and bring it with you to your appointment. 

Think about comfort and cleanliness

Women will probably need pads or panty liners to control the bleeding during a miscarriage. Tampons should not be used during a miscarriage, as they increase the risk of infection. They might also want to get bed liners for the bleeding, or a hot water pad for cramps. A provider might prescribe pain medication if the cramping or pressure is intense.

Moving forward after a miscarriage diagnosis

Women should abstain from sex for a period of time after a miscarriage, usually anywhere from two to four weeks. When the bleeding stops, she’ll have blood drawn to determine if her pregnancy hormone levels have returned to zero. This helps her provider know when the miscarriage is complete.

Once a provider confirms that the miscarriage is safely complete, the woman can begin to heal from her loss. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve; there’s also no set date for when a woman should start feeling better after her pregnancy loss. What’s most important is that she feels safe to grieve however she feels most comfortable, and also, that she has the support of friends, family, and her provider to help her through this difficult time.

Thinking about the possibility of miscarriage is difficult, but pregnant women can benefit from knowing the warning signs of certain situations that may happen during pregnancy. Just like fire drills and CPR training are valuable, knowing what to do during a possible miscarriage helps women get faster treatment if the situation ever arises.

  • OBOS Pregnancy and Birth Contributors. “Miscarriage in the first trimester.” OurBodiesOurselves. Our Bodies Ourselves, Apr 9 2014. Web.
  • “Miscarriage.” PlannedParenthood. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., 2016. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Miscarriage: Symptoms and Causes.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Jul 20 2016. Web.
  • Robin Elise Weiss. “I’m having a miscarriage: What to do if you’re having a miscarriage.” VeryWell. About Inc., Jun 8 2016. Web.

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