Frequently Asked Questions About Miscarriage

What is a miscarriage and how will I know if I have had one?

A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss before 20 weeks of pregnancy. After 20 weeks it is considered a stillbirth. Signs and symptoms of miscarriage include heavy bleeding, cramping, and loss of pregnancy symptoms. Only your doctor can confirm whether you have actually had a miscarriage.

What are the chances of having a miscarriage?

Approximately 15 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Often the cause of the miscarriage is not determined. Most occur during the first trimester.

I think I am miscarrying, when should I call my doctor?

Any time you have bleeding during pregnancy you should call your doctor. If you are having painful cramping, bleeding, or pass any tissue you should call your doctor.

My doctor told me that I was having a miscarriage but I still feel pregnant. Is this normal and how does my doctor know that I have miscarried?

If you have not had a D&C done, you may still feel pregnant until your hormones return to pre-pregnancy level. You may still feel pregnant for a few days to a week after you miscarry. Emotionally it may take longer to stop feeling pregnant. If you continue to have pregnancy symptoms you should talk to your doctor.

Two ways that doctors diagnose miscarriage are by checking quantitative beta-HCG levels and by doing an ultrasound. In early pregnancy beta-HCG levels should double every two to three days. One blood test is not enough to determine miscarriage. Your doctor may order two to three beta-HCG tests to see if your levels are rising appropriately. Even if they are rising slowly there is cause for concern. Slow rising HCG levels usually result in miscarriage or can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. Another way doctors diagnose miscarriage is by doing an ultrasound. Your doctor will look for a viable fetus and check your measurements to see if they are consistent with your due date. Your doctor may also do an internal pelvic exam to determine whether your cervix is closed.

Is there anything my doctor can do to stop me from miscarrying?

Unfortunately, in most cases by the time you have started to notice bleeding the baby has already passed. Once a woman has begun to miscarry it is very unlikely that her doctor can stop it.

Could I have done anything to prevent my miscarriage?

Most likely there was nothing you could have done to prevent a miscarriage. Most miscarriages are the result of random genetic defects, which could not be prevented. However, if you have had more than one miscarriage your doctor may run tests for other possible causes such as immune disorders, hormone disorders, or illness.

What is a D&C?

D&C stands for dilation and curettage. The procedure involves dilating the cervix and scraping the lining of the uterus. Your doctor may order a D&C if you have had an incomplete miscarriage.

How long does a miscarriage take and how much bleeding will I have?

It is normal to have bleeding for about a week to two weeks. Some women will continue to have some spotting for a week or longer after they miscarry. You may have bleeding that is similar to a heavy period. You may also pass tissue or small clots. Your doctor may ask you to collect any tissue that is passed for testing. If you are bleeding more than one pad an hour call your doctor right away.

How long will it take for my period to return?

Under normal circumstances, you can expect your period to return four to six weeks after having a miscarriage.

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