Miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks gestation.
An estimated 25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage.
The actual number is likely to be much higher.
Many miscarriages occur very early, often before a woman knows she is pregnant (early pregnancy loss).
Miscarriage is a very emotionally and physically difficult time; the fear of the unknown can make the experience even worse.
What does miscarriage bleeding look like?
Most women know there can be vaginal bleeding during most miscarriages but they might not know exactly what to expect.
Miscarriage bleeding varies a great deal between women and we don’t know why.
This article will help you to understand what blood looks like when a miscarriage occurs.
Remember, if you’re concerned or worried about the amount or the color of the blood loss, contact your healthcare professional immediately.
Early pregnancy bleeding
Vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy is always worrying. However, vaginal bleeding doesn’t always mean a threatened miscarriage.
Spotting means intermittent bleeding. It can be very light vaginal bleeding (light spotting) or a bit heavier. It can be caused by implantation of the embryo, by breakage of some blood vessels that nurture the inner layer of the uterus, or by sexual intercourse. Spotting usually lasts a couple of days and the color of the blood tends to become lighter as it resolves.
If sexual intercourse is the cause of your bleeding you might find the article Pregnancy Sex Positions – 7 Ideas For Pregnant Couples helpful.
This is another type of bleeding that isn’t related to miscarriage. The egg selects the sperm that fertilizes it and fertilization usually happens in one of the uterine tubes. It can take up to 12 days for the embryo to implant itself in the inner layer of the uterus.
If you’ve had a positive pregnancy test or have maybe noticed early pregnancy symptoms, to experience bleeding a few days later can be very frightening.
Read more about implantation bleeding in Implantation Bleeding – Everything You Need To Know.
Of course, bleeding is one of the most common symptoms of miscarriage and you’re right to be worried if you experience bleeding during pregnancy.
Depending on which stage of pregnancy you’ve reached, the miscarriage bleeding might vary.
What does blood look like during a miscarriage?
The most common sign of a miscarriage is bleeding. It can be accompanied by cramping in the lower back or abdomen.
The earliest bleeding can vary in appearance. Some women will have a brownish discharge. Others might notice a clear fluid with a pink tinge.
It might stop and start (spotting) before settling into a heavier flow of bright red blood.
This flow might suddenly become quite heavy and can come as a shock, especially if the earlier spotting happened over a few days. Usually, this heavy bleeding lasts from a few hours up to 1 or 2 days.
Most early miscarriages look like heavy menstrual periods. If it’s a very early miscarriage – before 4 to 5 weeks – then there might be no visible tissue or large blood clots.
However, from 6 weeks, it’s likely larger clots will be visible. They can be quite firm and, depending on how many weeks gestation you are, there might be many of them.
When miscarriages happen after 6 weeks, there could be an identifiable fetus and placenta, which will be greyish in color. This can be quite confronting and you should be told this is likely so you can be prepared, especially if you are in the final weeks of your first trimester.
Some care providers will suggest you collect blood clots with fetal tissue, so they can be sent for analysis, particularly if you have had more than one or two previous recurrent miscarriages.
This isn’t always possible and you shouldn’t feel pressured to do so. Do what you feel you should do.
Remember, miscarriage symptoms will taper off after the pregnancy tissue has passed, and the bleeding will usually stop after 1-2 weeks.
If you have any concerns about the color or amount of blood you are passing, contact your care provider immediately.
How do I know if it’s a miscarriage or just bleeding?
Miscarriage bleeding is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as cramping in the abdomen or lower back.
If you have experienced pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness or breast tenderness, they might suddenly stop.
Contact your care provider if you feel there’s heavier bleeding than you’d expect or if you think you might need some kind of medical treatment. Your healthcare professional will be able to give you individualized advice.
Can you bleed heavily and still be pregnant?
Heavy bleeding is one of the most definite signs and symptoms of miscarriage. However, there have been cases where there’s been heavy bleeding and no pregnancy loss. This is one of the many reasons in favor of what is called ‘expectant management. It means just letting nature follow its course.
Heavy bleeding becomes lighter bleeding until eventually the bleeding stops. The menstrual period doesn’t come back and when the woman seeks help and gets an ultrasound scan she finds there’s a developing baby growing healthily in her womb.
How long does miscarriage bleeding last?
As we always say, ‘Every woman is different’. So is every pregnancy and every miscarriage. Even if you’ve had repeated miscarriages, the bleeding might have been different in each one of them.
When a woman has a missed miscarriage in the first 12 weeks (the baby’s heartbeat has stopped but she hasn’t had any bleeding or pain) the baby will eventually pass naturally through the birth canal. When the bleeding starts in a missed abortion, it usually lasts just a few hours. When the spontaneous pregnancy loss happens simultaneously with the bleeding it will last around the same time as one of her periods. The amount of blood will feel like a very heavy period
When the miscarriage happens in the second trimester of pregnancy, the bleeding might last a bit longer than in an early pregnancy loss. In the second trimester of pregnancy, the placenta is already fully formed and the pregnancy loss can mean very heavy bleeding.
If this happens, go to the emergency department. Treating miscarriage when there’s a fully formed placenta will require medical intervention, including a surgical procedure and/or a blood transfusion.
You can read more about this in Late Miscarriage – Signs And Treatment.
Continuous, bright red bleeding with sharp lateral abdominal pain might be indicative of a burst fallopian tube, caused by an ectopic pregnancy. Even if you can’t see any tissue loss and the blood loss seems insignificant, get medical help, as there might be internal bleeding that can put your life at risk.
Read more in Ectopic Pregnancy | Symptoms, Signs And Treatment.
Do I need to see a doctor after an early miscarriage?
This really depends on your own judgment. The very vast majority of early miscarriages will happen without any need for intervention. Many women, especially after a recurrent miscarriage, prefer to avoid medical professionals as they feel it interferes negatively with their grieving process. Other women feel more comfortable when they’ve been checked over by a healthcare professional. Only you can make that decision.
‘When death encounters life, time stops. Things move slowly in that space. The fast speed of hospitals inhibits the need to go deep and feel, acknowledge, and honor’, says midwife Carlota Albardonedo.
Midwife Julia Pollard reflects further about miscarrying: ‘Our bodies and intuition can tell us so much more than we give ourselves credit for. A miscarriage is a powerful moment where, if one quiets their mind and turns deep inwards, they can connect into a well of wisdom and knowing, instead of looking outward for someone else to save or inform them. Sure, there will be some women who after connecting with their bodies and babies will have a knowing that outside help is needed but, for many, it will be a time of surrender and trust that can carry them fully through the grief of loss, coming out stronger on the other side’.
What does miscarriage tissue look like?
If the miscarriage happens in the first six weeks of pregnancy, tissue is quite microscopic, so the vaginal discharge will be similar to a heavy period. You might pass the odd medium size blood clot but there are no really noticeable differences from your menstruation.
When a later miscarriage happens, you might be able to identify a tiny baby and placenta. They’re grey in color. Research shows that, although distressing for some, many women feel this helps them with their grieving process.
You might find the following articles helpful:
A: If you don’t want to feel confused or uncertain by getting a barely visible line on a pregnancy test kit, then you need to use a pregnancy test kit that can detect even a small amount of hCG in urine. Also, avoid testing until at least day one of your expected period.
A: The best way to conceive a boy is to have intercourse the day before ovulation occurs in your body. This could allow the faster male sperm to have a better chance at being first to penetrate the egg.
A: Infants often start talking from 11 months and up to 14 months of age. They usually say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ first. They might also say a different first word if they hear something spoken often enough.
A: Black tea is best avoided during pregnancy. This is because black tea contains caffeine, which has been found to cross the placenta when consumed by a pregnant woman. Excess caffeine consumption may result in your baby having a low-birth-weight.