How to Determine Miscarriage

Miscarriage (or spontaneous abortion), occurs when a pregnancy fails to progress prior to 20 weeks of gestation. Miscarriages are relatively common, impacting up to 25 percent of recognized pregnancies. Every woman’s body handles miscarriage differently. Although miscarriage symptoms are often clear, it can be difficult to determine if you had a miscarriage, since some symptoms also occur in healthy pregnancies. Always follow your physician’s advice if you think you have suffered a miscarriage.

Analyze your pregnancy symptoms.

  • If you have had a miscarriage you may notice an ease in morning sickness, reduction in swelling and tenderness of the breasts, and a general feeling of no longer being pregnant. In healthy pregnancies, early symptoms often subside on their own at about 13 weeks, which is also the time miscarriage risk decreases. Symptom occurrence and severity varies in every pregnancy. Loss of symptoms should not be the only measure used to determine whether a miscarriage occurred, but a sudden change prior to 13 weeks warrants a call to your physician’s office.

Check for vaginal bleeding.

  • Light spotting, and even moderate bleeding, can occur in healthy pregnancies. Heavy bleeding with clotting may indicate miscarriage. Notify your physician any time you experience bleeding during pregnancy.
  • According to the American Pregnancy Association, 50 to 75 percent of miscarriages are chemical pregnancies, meaning they occur shortly after implantation. Often, the woman does not realize she was pregnant and she experiences bleeding at the time her normal monthly period is due. Bleeding may be heavier than normal and cramping may be more severe.

Assess aches and pains to determine whether they are related to normal pregnancy changes, or are abnormal.

  • Occasional twinges or aches in your abdomen, pelvic area and back are often the result of your body adjusting to accommodate your growing fetus. If pain is severe, persistent or occurs in waves you may be miscarrying, especially if the pain is coupled with bleeding.

Visit your doctor’s office, emergency room, or the labor and delivery area of your hospital for a definitive answer as to whether you miscarried.

  • Depending on how far your pregnancy has progressed, the physician will use blood tests, pelvic exam or ultrasound to check the viability of the pregnancy. There usually is no way to save a pregnancy prior to 20 weeks if a miscarriage is occurring, or has occurred. Your physician may need to remove remaining fetal tissue using a procedure called dilation and curettage. She will also provide referrals for grief counseling and high-risk pregnancy services if they are needed.


  • In most cases, an imminent miscarriage cannot be prevented, and has nothing to do with the health or lifestyle of the mother. Pregnant women should take prenatal vitamins and avoid drugs, tobacco and alcohol, but even women who are diligent about maintaining healthy pregnancies are not immune to miscarriage.