What Does an Early Miscarriage Look Like?

Signs and Symptoms of Miscarriage

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Signs and symptoms of an early miscarriage (or chemical pregnancy) would generally be spotting or vaginal bleeding similar to a menstrual period, and possibly some abdominal cramping. The bleeding might have more clots than a menstrual period; the clots would look like tiny lumps in the vaginal discharge.

If you have had a positive pregnancy test and are now having miscarriage symptoms, call your doctor for advice.

Your doctor will most likely run some diagnostic tests (such as serial hCG blood tests or an early ultrasound) to determine whether or not you are having a miscarriage. Bleeding in pregnancy does not always mean a miscarriage, but your doctor should be able to figure out what is going on after analyzing the results of the tests.

Remember that bleeding or spotting accompanied by severe abdominal pain or dizziness could mean an ectopic pregnancy, so treat these symptoms as an emergency.

Was My Late Period Really an Early Miscarriage?

It is possible that your late or heavy period was a very early miscarriage or chemical pregnancy, but it's also possible that it wasn't. Your period can come a few days late or be a little heavier for many reasons, and the only way to know whether it was a miscarriage is if you took a pregnancy test.

Even if it was a miscarriage, however, note that this doesn't mean that anything is wrong with you.

Somewhere between 15% and 30% of all conceptions end in miscarriage, and most the time, this is due to non-recurring chromosome problems in the sperm or the egg -- not an underlying health problem in the mother.

What Causes Early Miscarriage?

About 3 of 4 miscarriages occur during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Most miscarriages result from fatal genetic abnormalities in the fetus. In other words, fetal chromosomal abnormalities that are incompatible with life precipitate miscarriage. Specifically, the baby may have either too many or too few chromosomes. These chromosomal abnormalities occur at conception and are no fault of either the mother or the father. Conception is ineffably complex, and, unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong.

Here are some other causes of miscarriage:

  • hormone problems
  • immune system issues
  • infection
  • uterine abnormalities
  • medical conditions experienced by the mother such as diabetes
  • drug use
  • smoking

Women aged 35 and older are more likely to experience miscarriages. Furthermore, women who have had multiple miscarriages are at higher risk of future miscarriages.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Miscarriage?

Miscarriage usually is accompanied by bleeding and pain. Please note, however, that just because you bleed a little during the first trimester, doesn't necessarily mean that you're having a miscarriage. Nevertheless, any bleeding during pregnancy must immediately be brought to the attention of your OB-GYN for evaluation.

Bleeding during miscarriage may be either heavy or light.

This bleeding can also be continuous or intermittent. Furthermore with miscarriage, blood clots--representing products of conception--can pass from the vagina.

Pain experienced during miscarriage can present as belly pain, pelvic cramping, or a dull ache. The quality of pain experienced during miscarriage depends on the individual.


Menstruation: A Journey Through Your Cycle. American Pregnancy Association. Accessed: July 11, 2009.

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