What to Do If You Think You Are Having an Early Miscarriage

Know the Symptoms, When to See a Doctor, and More

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Early miscarriages are, unfortunately, common experiences. Estimates vary on exactly how common they are, but nearly all suggest that at least 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in an early miscarriage. Still, it can be an incredibly difficult situation—both physically and emotionally—to handle. This quick guide will help you get through it. 

Symptoms of Early Miscarriage

If you have recently had a positive pregnancy test, the symptoms of early miscarriage include vaginal bleeding, possibly some cramping, and the eventual loss of pregnancy symptoms.

These symptoms can occur for reasons other than miscarriage, however. So if you experience any of them, you should not automatically assume that you're having a miscarriage. 

When to See a Doctor

Even though it can be an emotionally awful experience, an early miscarriage isn't always a medical emergency. You should always go to the emergency room if you are having very heavy bleeding (think: soaking through a menstrual pad in under an hour) or if you're having symptoms of ectopic pregnancy. But in other cases, just call your regular doctor.

For a very early miscarriage, you may not need to visit a doctor at all. If the bleeding begins within a day or two of getting a positive pregnancy test and looks like a slightly heavy menstrual period, you may wish to just repeat the pregnancy test in a few days. A negative pregnancy test would mean that you are no longer pregnant. You would most likely not require any kind of treatment after this kind of a miscarriage (which is often termed a chemical pregnancy—one that occurs before an ultrasound reveals a gestational sac).

But you should always see a doctor whenever you're in doubt over whether you need one. If you have any questions about the experience, your doctor should be able to answer them and offer you advice.

If you think you are having a miscarriage and more than a week has passed since your missed menstrual period, the best course of action is to call your family practitioner or OB/GYN (assuming you have no emergency symptoms).

Your doctor will be able to order hCG blood tests and/or an early ultrasound in order to give you an idea of what's going on and potentially offer you a D & C or misoprostol, if appropriate.

Note that doctors are not able to stop an early miscarriage that is in progress; they can only make sure that your own health is not in danger as a result of the miscarriage and offer you advice about how to move forward.

Aftermath of an Early Miscarriage

An early miscarriage can shake you to your core, especially if it is your first one. Feeling that way is totally normal. After all, no woman ever expects to have a miscarriage after she gets a positive pregnancy test. Suddenly losing the pregnancy can be traumatic, especially if you had been trying to get pregnant. Be sure to give yourself permission and time to grieve the miscarriage as much as necessary. Talk to your doctor about when it is okay to try again after the miscarriage


March of Dimes, "Miscarriage." Quick Reference and Fact Sheets. Jun 2005. Accessed 20 Aug 2008.

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