First of all, if you’re asking What does a miscarriage look like? or What does a miscarriage feel like? because you’re worried you could be having a miscarriage, pick up the phone and give your doctor a call. Bleeding during pregnancy isn’t always a cause for concern, but it’s best to put your mind at rest.
No two women experience miscarriage in the same way, whether physically or emotionally. Just as we can’t tell you how you will respond emotionally to pregnancy loss, we can’t tell you that you will definitely experience certain symptoms during a miscarriage.
However, in this article, we’ll explain what a miscarriage can look like and feel like, and how long it can last.
Table of Contents 📝
- What happens during a miscarriage?
- What does a miscarriage look like and feel like?
- How long does a miscarriage last?
- How do I know if I had a miscarriage or my period?
- Can you have a miscarriage without symptoms?
- Your experience of miscarriage
What happens during a miscarriage?
A miscarriage is your body’s response to a pregnancy that ends suddenly, of its own accord, within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
When a pregnancy ends, your body needs to remove the tissue that has developed in your uterus, and that’s when you may see some vaginal bleeding. Sadly, once the miscarriage has begun, it can’t be stopped.
In the vast majority of cases there’s nothing you can do to prevent a miscarriage (that’s right, it’s not your fault). Most miscarriages happen because of “chromosomal abnormalities” – a genetic problem that occurs when the cells of the embryo are dividing.
It’s estimated that miscarriage happens in about 1 in 4 detected pregnancies, and that around 85% of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. With so many women experiencing pregnancy loss, we really need to talk about it more.
What does a miscarriage look like and feel like?
The symptoms of miscarriage will be different depending on your individual situation and how advanced your pregnancy is.
At an early stage of pregnancy, miscarriage bleeding can start with light spotting and become heavier, or it may be heavy from the start. The blood might look pinkish, bright red, or brown. You may also feel some cramping.
Symptoms can be similar for a later miscarriage, but the bleeding may be heavier with more noticeable blood clots or pieces of tissue. Cramps can be more intense, and you might also experience contractions.
How long does a miscarriage last?
Again, this depends on the stage of pregnancy. For an early miscarriage, you might have just a few hours of heavy bleeding followed by a few days of spotting. With a miscarriage later in pregnancy, you could experience 1 to 2 weeks of bleeding, although it may stop and start.
How do I know if I had a miscarriage or my period?
With early pregnancy loss (a miscarriage at 5 weeks or earlier), it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a miscarriage and a late period. Because length of pregnancy is calculated from the first day of your last menstrual period, week 4 or 5 of pregnancy falls around the time you’d normally expect to get your next period.
It’s likely that many women experience early pregnancy loss without ever knowing they were pregnant. However, it can be an upsetting thing to go through if you’re actively trying to conceive. Just because it happened early, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.
But how can you know if your bleeding is due to a miscarriage or period? The general rule is that the symptoms will be more intense if you’re experiencing an early miscarriage rather than your period:
- Heavier bleeding that lasts for longer than your normal period
- Blood that is an unusual color
- Blood clots that you don’t normally have
- More painful cramps
Can you have a miscarriage without symptoms?
In some cases – and this can be particularly tough to go through – it’s possible for your pregnancy to end without you realizing. Sometimes called a “missed miscarriage”, a miscarriage without symptoms means that you don’t have the physical symptoms of miscarriage that we looked at above, but sadly the embryo in your uterus has died.
A miscarriage without symptoms might only be detected during an ultrasound scan, when the baby’s heartbeat can’t be found. In this situation, your doctor may suggest waiting for the physical process of miscarriage to start on its own, or they may recommend medication or surgery to help the process along.
Your experience of miscarriage
Going through miscarriage, whatever the stage of your pregnancy, can be a difficult experience. You might feel sorrowful, shocked, angry, or a whole host of other emotions – or you might not feel much at all. There’s no single “right” response here.
Whether you want some quiet time alone to reflect or you want to cry on a friend’s shoulder, do whatever you need to do to get through this. And remember, we’re here for you, always.