Symptoms and Sign of Miscarriage

Dr. Paul MacKoul, MD

May 10, 2023

Sign of Miscarriage

A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy. Most miscarriages happen in early pregnancy before many women know they are pregnant. Most often, they are a result of a health condition.

The most common signs of a miscarriage are vaginal bleeding and cramps. Bleeding can vary from light to heavy. You may also pass clots or brown discharge.


Bleeding is the most common sign of miscarriage. It can range from spotting to heavy bleeding. This type of bleeding occurs during the first trimester and is usually related to fetal chromosomal abnormalities.

Chromosomal abnormalities cause about 85 percent of all miscarriages during the first trimester. These chromosomes determine your baby’s physical characteristics, including sex and hair color. Some health conditions, such as antiphospholipid syndrome and lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus), increase your risk for miscarriage.

Sometimes the fetus is already dead when you begin to experience heavy bleeding. This type of miscarriage is called an inevitable miscarriage, and it can’t be stopped once it starts. Other times the fetus, the placenta and excess uterine lining are expelled from the body without bleeding. This is called a missed miscarriage. It can be diagnosed by measuring your hCG levels, checking the cervix for weakness, doing an ultrasound to look for a gestational sac and listening for fetal cardiac activity.

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain high up in the belly is a common sign of miscarriage. It may worsen if you exercise and can feel like angina or a heart attack. It is important to see your doctor when you have these symptoms. They will want to run some tests to ensure the fetus hasn’t died or there isn’t another problem.

Some women have a miscarriage without any bleeding. This is called a missed miscarriage. The fetus dies, but the tissues stay in the uterus. This is more common in the first trimester.

A doctor can use dilation and curettage (D& C) to remove any tissue from your uterus after a miscarriage. This is done in the hospital; you will have a local anesthetic. You will have a period again 4 to 6 weeks after a miscarriage.

Abdominal Discomfort

If you have pain in your lower abdomen that isn’t relieved by sitting or lying down, it may indicate a miscarriage. This can also be a sign of infection or an enlarged uterus.

A miscarriage occurs when your fetus or embryo spontaneously expels itself from the uterus before 20 weeks of pregnancy. The miscarriage causes bleeding and abdominal discomfort. It’s often difficult to know how far along you were in your pregnancy when this happens.

Sometimes a miscarriage isn’t recognized until you go to the doctor for heavy bleeding and a physical exam. A missed miscarriage can occur up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy. In this case, a healthcare practitioner will use an ultrasound machine to look for fetal cardiac activity and cervix opening. They will also take blood tests to see the levels of pregnancy hormones in your body. The doctor may need to perform a procedure called dilatation of the cervix and curettage of the uterus (often abbreviated as D& C) to remove any remaining tissue from your uterus.

Back Pain

Back pain is a common pregnancy symptom, and it can be mild or severe. It may come on suddenly or slowly and last a few days to a few weeks. If back pain is continuous and occurs daily, contact your healthcare provider.

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, available at chemists and supermarkets, can help with discomfort. Resting and avoiding strenuous activities can also reduce pain. In some cases, the doctor may recommend a back brace or cortisone injections to numb the area that is causing the pain.

If you have back pain that does not improve with home treatment, the doctor may want to run some tests to determine if the pain is coming from bones, muscles, nerves or another cause. These might include blood and urine tests and an ultrasound test. They may also ask for tissue samples from your body to see if you had a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (such as a blighted ovum). Other treatments that the doctor might try to control the pain include: