What Does Hemorrhage Mean in Relation to a Miscarriage?

Learn the Difference Between Normal and Excessive Blood Loss

woman with stomach pain
Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The word "hemorrhage" refers to an abnormally heavy blood flow. A miscarriage (a pregnancy loss that occurs before week 20 of gestation) tends to involve vaginal bleeding that is heavier than a typical menstrual period. However, bleeding that is heavy enough to soak through a menstrual pad in under an hour may be a sign of hemorrhage and should be evaluated by a medical practitioner.

If you are concerned that your bleeding is too heavy, or if you have a loved one who is experiencing a miscarriage and you are concerned that she is showing signs of excessive blood loss, seek medical attention right away.

Bleeding Due to a Miscarriage

During a miscarriage, the bleeding and the painful abdominal cramps (the other major symptom of miscarriage) tend to occur the most when you are passing the placenta and the sac through your vagina. This process can usually take anywhere from 60 minutes to a few hours. If you are not able to pass those tissues naturally by yourself, a doctor can help remove it by using a medical procedure called dilation and curettage (often referred to as a D&C).

Following the miscarriage, you may bleed a little bit over the next two weeks or so, but the amount of blood should gradually decrease. Your normal menstrual cycle should return within roughly six weeks.

Remember, for most healthy women, there is a 15% to 20% chance of miscarrying, on average. The odds may be higher if you are age 35 or older, and most miscarriages happen during the first trimester (the first 12 weeks of pregnancy).


Causes of Miscarriage

The majority of miscarriages are caused by random chromosomal problems. If the cells in the fetus contain too many chromosomes, too few of them, or if they have structural abnormalities, a miscarriage may occur. Miscarriages may also happen due to a blighted ovum (when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus but never becomes a baby), drugs, alcohol, smoking, and possibly excessive caffeine intake during pregnancy.

Sometimes a mother's own health conditions can also contribute, such as lupus, thyroid disease, diabetes, infections, and hormone problems. 

If you're not sure whether you had a miscarriage, a doctor can use an ultrasound, pelvic exam, and a blood test (to measure your level of human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG) to answer that question. 

If You've Had a Miscarriage

A miscarriage can be extremely painful both physically and emotionally. It's natural to feel depressed, confused, and angry after the fact, and talking with other women who have also been through it may help you cope. Ask your doctor for more information or visit online forums such as SupportGroups.com.

After a miscarriage, it's important to wait a little while—doctors generally recommend six weeks to two months— before trying to conceive again. You need to wait until your hCG level has returned to a pre-pregnancy level of zero, and you have to wait until you've had a normal menstrual cycle again. Also, make sure that you're ready psychologically to try again.

It's normal to feel upset, so give yourself time to grieve.  


Bleeding and Spotting from the Vagina During Pregnancy. March of Dimes. Accessed Feb 27, 2010. 

"Miscarriage: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention." American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2015).

Continue Reading