Symptoms and Signs of Miscarriage

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 8/10/2021

Doctor's Notes on Miscarriage

Miscarriage (also termed a spontaneous abortion) is the spontaneous end of pregnancy before the fetus can survive. Signs and symptoms of a miscarriage are vaginal bleeding (from small amounts to severe bleeding with blood clots and products of conception being passed out of the vagina such as tissue and/or a nonviable fetus) and abdominal pain that may radiate to the lower back, genitals, buttocks, and cramping. Most miscarriages usually occur before 20 weeks of pregnancy. The late signs and symptoms include the reduction of and ending of signs of pregnancy such as nausea, breast swelling, and abdominal enlargement.

Miscarriage is caused by separation of the fetus and the placenta from the uterine wall. Examples of underlying causes of the fetal/placental separation are as follows: abnormal fetus (usually during the first three months of pregnancy), chronic or acute illnesses of the mother such as high blood pressure, diabetes, acute infections like German measles, fibroids, abnormal placental growth and development, and drug use like alcohol abuse and cocaine use.

The risk of miscarriage increases with a woman's age, especially if she becomes pregnant and is older than 35 years of age.

What Is the Treatment for a Miscarriage?

After being diagnosed as having a miscarriage, there are several treatments available. You and your doctor should discuss what treatment is best for you. The treatments are as follows:

  • Allow expulsion of the non-viable embryonic tissue and associated tissues to occur naturally (may take 3-4 weeks).
  • Medically induce expulsion (oral or vaginal medical method). The medication functions within about 24 hours to expel tissues from the uterus.
  • With suction dilation and curettage (D&C), the doctor dilates your cervix and surgically removes tissue in the uterus.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.