Am I Having a Miscarriage?

Bleeding and cramping are two key signs

Woman sleeping with hot water bottle
Nils Hendrik Mueller/Getty Images

Despite what most people think, it's not always easy to tell whether you are having a miscarriage.

For instance, some women wonder whether abnormal periods might be very early miscarriages. And for women who know they are pregnant, miscarriage symptoms can be challenging to interpret, as signs like vaginal bleeding or cramping may not always be present right away. Bleeding and uterine cramping too can be present in normal pregnancies, as well as ectopic pregnancies.

Likewise, other clues suggesting a potential miscarriage, like a sudden disappearance of pregnancy symptoms, may be subtle and not so obvious to a woman.

With that, here are three pointers for how to best figure out whether your miscarriage symptoms mean pregnancy loss.

Of course, speaking with your doctor if you are concerned about a miscarriage is paramount. Your physician can help you figure out whether your symptoms mean a miscarriage by using objective diagnostic tests such as hCG blood tests and an ultrasound.

Know the Symptoms of Miscarriage

First, be sure that you are indeed having miscarriage symptoms before you worry too much. Two major symptoms of a miscarriage are vaginal bleeding and abdominal cramping.

It's important to note that the presence of these symptoms is not a slam dunk indication that a woman is indeed miscarrying. For example, mild abdominal cramping during pregnancy is rarely anything to worry about.

 Brown spotting can also occur in normal pregnancies, although you still should call your physician. Heavy and red vaginal bleeding is a more concerning symptom.

Other potential signs and symptoms of a miscarriage include:

  • A pinkish vaginal discharge
  • Passing clots, which may contain blood mixed in with fetal tissue
  • A sudden loss of pregnancy symptoms (for example, morning sickness or sore breasts)

This last sign can be tricky, as some pregnancy symptoms do naturally disappear or fluctuate as a pregnancy progresses. For instance, nausea and morning sickness often calm down naturally mid-pregnancy or sooner, and this disappearance may seem sudden to some women.

All in all, it's best to not put too much stock in this sign—but then again, follow your gut and talk to you doctor if you feel like something is just not right. 

Take a Pregnancy Test

If your pregnancy test is negative and was previously positive, you can likely assume you had a miscarriage. But, if your test is positive, your pregnancy may still be viable. In this case, you will need to check with your physician to find out for sure.

It gets tricky here because you could be miscarrying even though your pregnancy test is positive. This may occur because your pregnancy hormone level (your hCG level) has not decreased enough to make a pregnancy test negative.

Of course, if your pregnancy test is negative and you were not sure whether you were pregnant in the first place, it's impossible to tell whether or not your abnormal bleeding was a miscarriage.

In this instance, it's best to report your experience to a doctor if you are worried. 

Also, note that in early pregnancy, it's best to not try to figure out whether you are miscarrying by taking multiple pregnancy tests regularly to see if the line gets darker and darker.

Home pregnancy tests cannot accurately judge how your hCG levels are rising and the darkness of the line can vary based on the time of day and amount of water you've been drinking.

Have Patience

The wait for test results can be agonizing, but sometimes a physician cannot determine immediately whether one set of test results means miscarriage.

You may have to wait for a follow-up ultrasound to find out if the baby is still developing or for a repeat hCG blood test to see if your hCG levels are rising or falling. Your physician will want to be sure of the answer before confirming a diagnosis of pregnancy loss.

A Word From Verywell

In the end, worrying about a miscarriage is an understandable feeling when you are pregnant, especially if you have experienced one before. The best thing you can do is contact your doctor if signs or symptoms of a miscarriage arise, and try to remain calm until you know the true answer. 

Finally, please note that this list assumes you are concerned about first-trimester miscarriage symptoms. If you are in a later stage of pregnancy and worried about miscarriage, your first step should always be to call your physician.

Sources:

American Pregnancy Association. Miscarriage. 

Sapra KJ, Buck Louis GM, Sundaram R, Joseph KS, Bates LM, Galea S, Ananth CV. Signs and Symptoms Associated With Early Pregnancy Loss: Findings From a Population-Based Preconception Cohort. Hum Reprod. 2016 Apr;31(4):887-96.

Continue Reading