Miscarriage can be a disappointing and frightening experience for expectant mothers. Many women are unaware of the symptoms of miscarriage and may not even realize that the pregnancy has terminated until their next visit to the obstetrician. This can lead to serious health problems and may even put the woman’s life at risk. Knowing and understanding the signs of miscarriage can ensure that proper treatment can begin immediately and that the health and safety of the mother is protected throughout this difficult time.
While not all vaginal bleeding is indicative of fetal distress or impending miscarriage, any bleeding that goes beyond occasional spotting should be reported to the obstetrician immediately. In most cases, the expectant mother should be seen in the doctor’s office as soon as possible. In some cases, miscarriage can be prevented by quick action, so seeking medical attention as soon as possible is vital to ensure the health and safety of both mother and baby. No treatment can stop a miscarriage once it has begun, but if vaginal bleeding is the only sign, bed rest and progesterone treatments may be able to delay the process until the baby is old enough to survive outside the womb.
Cramping and Pain
While leg cramps and backaches are a normal part of pregnancy for many women, persistent lower back cramps can be an early sign that miscarriage is imminent. These cramps are usually reminiscent of menstrual cramps, and with good reason; the same mechanism is used to expel uterine material during both menstruation and miscarriage. Women who experience these cramps during any stage of pregnancy should contact their primary care physician immediately in order to determine if miscarriage is likely or if it may already have begun.
Unusual vaginal discharge is one of the primary signs that miscarriage is occurring; typically this discharge is of an unusual color, texture, or consistency. The discharge may be grayish in color or consist of thick blood clots and may persist over several days. Pain may or may not accompany this discharge. At the first sign of strange discharge, women should contact their obstetrician and be seen in the office in order to determine its cause and any possible course of treatment.
Causes of Miscarriage
Abnormalities in the fetus or in its attachment to the uterine wall are the most common causes for miscarriage. Serious physical injuries during pregnancy can also cause the woman to miscarry her unborn baby; these can result from car accidents, accidental falls, or other significant physical damage to the mother. Exposure or buildup of toxic substances is another major precipitant for miscarriage; certain chemicals can seriously damage the baby’s developing systems. Viral and bacterial infections can pose a significant threat to unborn babies as well. Finally, women who have a history of previous miscarriages are at higher risk and typically require additional monitoring in order to carry a child to term.
Treatments After Miscarriage
Many doctors will prescribe a round of antibiotics after a miscarriage in order to protect the mother’s vulnerable immune system. Additionally, if any material remains within the uterus the doctor may perform a dilation and curettage, or D&C, procedure that removes the remainder of the tissue from the uterine walls. In most cases, women suffer no lasting physical effects from a miscarriage and can often try to get pregnant again within a few months of the event.
Some women experience serious depression after a miscarriage. Grieving for the lost child is normal, but if the depression becomes chronic or leads to suicidal ideations, women should seek the help of a counselor, physician, or psychiatrist in order to help them cope with their loss. Statistics show that 80% of women who have suffered a miscarriage carry their next pregnancy to full term, so the prognosis is good. By dealing with the aftermath of miscarriage honestly and supportively, couples can strengthen their relationships and prepare themselves for another try at a new arrival in their family.