Miscarriage is the term used to describe losing a pregnancy within the first 20 weeks and it is sometimes referred to as “spontaneous abortion.” Between 10 and 20% of pregnancies that are known will end in miscarriage and over 80% of these occur prior to 12 weeks.

Experts believe that 50% to 70% of miscarriages occurring during the first trimester are due to random events such as chromosomal abnormalities within the fertilized egg. This usually means that the sperm or egg didn’t have the right amount of chromosomes so the egg couldn’t develop normally once fertilized. When your doctor tells you that you are going to miscarry, what should you do next? What happens after a miscarriage? Also how can you take care of yourself after the loss?

What to Do After Knowing You Are Going to Miscarry

If you ever notice miscarriage symptoms such as cramping or bleeding while pregnant, you should contact your doctor immediately. He will examine you and check whether the bleeding originates in your cervix as well as check your uterus. Sometimes he will do an additional blood test to see your levels of hCG (the pregnancy hormone) and then repeat this test in several days to make sure the levels are rising correctly.

Your doctor might suggest bed rest with the hope of lowering your chances of a miscarriage although there is no proof this will help. Your doctor might also suggest waiting to have sex until after the cramping and bleeding pass. Although sex won’t cause miscarriage, some experts do recommend abstaining in case of these symptoms.

What Happens During Miscarriage?

If you are miscarrying, you may experience light cramping and bleeding for several weeks. Although you can wear pads, don’t use tampons. Acetaminophen will help with the pain. Most of the time during a miscarriage the cramping and bleeding will worsen right before you pass the tissue that is sometimes referred to as “the products of conception” which includes the embryonic or fetal tissue as well as the placenta. This will appear grayish with possible blood clots.

What Happens After a Miscarriage?

Let the Tissue Pass Naturally or Seek Medical Procedure

You and your doctor will decide which route to go with if you still haven’t passed the tissue. In cases where your health isn’t at risk, you can usually simply wait to let the tissue pass. Over half of the women who find out their pregnancy isn’t viable will spontaneously miscarry in a week or less. Other times you will wait for a specific period of time and then have a procedure.

Sometimes your doctor will recommend using medication to encourage the tissue to leave faster, but this can lead to side effects like diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea. In some cases, you may still need surgery to have the tissue removed.

Some women will be in too much physical or emotional pain to wait for the passing of the tissue. In this case your doctor can remove it with dilation and curettage (D&C) or suction curettage. Your doctor will recommend removing the tissue immediately if other serious factors such as infection or significant bleeding are at play. Some doctors will also recommend having the procedure done in the case of multiple miscarriages to test for genetic causes.

Physical Recovery

You will experience menstrual like cramps for a day or so afterwards and then light bleeding for one to two weeks. Don’t use vaginal medications, douche, swim, or have sex for a few weeks until after the bleeding stops.

Get medical attention if you show signs of infection, have excessive pain, or bleed heavily. In some cases, you might be going into shock and if you feel lightheaded or week, go to the ER immediately in an ambulance.

How to Cope with the Loss

Each woman will react differently to her miscarriage. Some women will find it helpful to start working on a new pregnancy while others can’t even think about it for months. Talk with your partner and examine both of your feelings. If you are overwhelmed, talk to a therapist.

Experiences and Advice of Other Moms in the Process

Case 1:

“When it happened to me, my doctor let me decide if I wanted to have a D&C or let the baby naturally pass. She gave me a few days to decide. I was already 14 weeks so my baby was large and it caused horrible pain. My doctor told me that I could wait two or three weeks to let the baby pass naturally. I was also going to have weekly appointments to check for infection. If the baby doesn’t pass, then they need to do a D&C to avoid infection as this could cause scarring and stop you from having kids in the future.

After the baby passed, the doctor did an ultrasound to make sure all the tissue came out and I wasn’t at risk of infection. I kept bleeding with a flow was similar to a heavy period, but with clots and bad cramps for two weeks.

Case 2:

“I measured around 9 weeks when my natural miscarriage started. The spotting started June 13th and then bad cramps came and I passed the tissue on the 16th. The cramps were intense and in total it took three hours for it to pass. Then I bled heavily for six days and spotted for six more. My doctor didn’t have me do an ultrasound, but I did do a home pregnancy test yesterday to double check. Always ask your doctor to check everything passed so you don’t have any problems.