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Spontaneous Miscarriage

What is a spontaneous miscarriage?

A spontaneous miscarriage is the loss of a fetus within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

What increases my risk for a miscarriage?

The cause of your miscarriage may not be known. The following may increase your risk:

  • Age 35 years or older

  • Genetic defects in the fetus

  • Poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, or sexually transmitted infections

  • Certain medicines taken early in pregnancy

  • Drinking too much alcohol or caffeinated drinks

  • Smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke, or drug abuse

  • Abnormalities in the uterus

What are the signs and symptoms of a miscarriage?

  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding during the first trimester of your pregnancy

  • Pain or cramping in your abdomen or back

  • Discharge of bloody liquid or tissue from your vagina

How is a miscarriage diagnosed?

  • Blood tests are used to check to see if you are still pregnant.

  • A pelvic exam is done to check the size of your uterus and to see if your cervix (bottom part of your uterus) has dilated (opened).

  • A pelvic ultrasound may be done to see if there is tissue left in your uterus (womb).

How is a miscarriage treated?

  • Dilatation and curettage (D&C) is done to remove the tissue left in your uterus. The D&C may also be needed to control bleeding or to keep you from getting an infection.

  • Surgery may be needed if healthcare providers cannot control the bleeding.

What can I do to care for myself after a miscarriage?

  • Use sanitary pads if needed. You may have light bleeding and then spotting for 8 to 10 days. Do not use tampons. Use sanitary pads instead. This will help prevent a vaginal infection.

  • Rest as needed. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.

  • You may have sex when you feel ready. Stop if it causes pain. If you do not want to get pregnant again, ask your healthcare provider which type of birth control is best for you.

  • Emotional support can help you manage your feelings. A miscarriage may be difficult emotionally. You may feel grief for the loss. You may feel angry or blame yourself, even if there was no known cause. It may be helpful to talk to a friend, family member, or counselor about your feelings. You may also feel worried that you could have another miscarriage. Talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. He may be able to help you take steps to reduce the risk of another miscarriage.

Where can I find more information?

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    P.O. Box 70620
    Washington , DC 20024-9998
    Phone: 1- 202 - 638-5577
    Phone: 1- 800 - 673-8444
    Web Address:

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have foul-smelling drainage coming from your vagina.

  • You have heavy vaginal bleeding (soaking 1 pad or more each hour).

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.

  • You have severe abdominal pain.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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