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Threatened Miscarriage

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2023.

What is a threatened miscarriage?

A threatened miscarriage occurs when you have vaginal bleeding within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. It means that a miscarriage may happen. A threatened miscarriage may also be called a threatened abortion.

What causes bleeding or spotting during pregnancy?

The cause of your bleeding or spotting may not be known. The following are possible causes of vaginal bleeding during pregnancy:

  • Polyps, fibroids, or cysts in the uterus
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Infection
  • Where or how the placenta is attached to your uterus (womb)
  • A problem with your fetus (unborn baby)
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Ectopic pregnancy (the fetus is growing outside of the uterus)

What are the signs and symptoms of a threatened miscarriage?

  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding
  • Pain or cramping in your abdomen or lower back

How is a threatened miscarriage diagnosed?

Tell your healthcare provider when your bleeding started. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests may show infection, check your level of pregnancy hormone, or give information about your overall health.
  • A pelvic exam checks the size of your uterus. A pelvic exam also checks your cervix for dilation (opening).
  • A pelvic ultrasound shows pictures of the fetus and finds his or her heartbeat. A pelvic ultrasound also looks at your reproductive organs and monitors the amount of bleeding.

How is a threatened miscarriage managed?

The following may help you manage your symptoms and decrease your risk for a miscarriage:

  • Do not put anything in your vagina. Do not have sex, douche, or use tampons. These actions may increase your risk for infection and miscarriage.
  • Rest as directed. Do not exercise or do strenuous activities. These activities may cause preterm labor or miscarriage. Ask your healthcare provider what activities are okay to do.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You feel weak or faint.
  • Your pain or cramping in your abdomen or back gets worse.
  • You have vaginal bleeding that soaks 1 or more pads in an hour.
  • You pass material that looks like tissue or large clots.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have trouble urinating, burning when you urinate, or feel a need to urinate often.
  • You have new or worsening vaginal bleeding.
  • You have vaginal pain or itching, or vaginal discharge that is yellow, green, or foul-smelling.
  • 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 healthcare providers 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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