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Miscarriage is a pregnancy loss from natural causes before the 20th week of gestation. It is a very common occurrence, and many women have early miscarriages before they even realize they are pregnant. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss. Estimates are that at least 10 to 25 percent of recognized  pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Most miscarriages occur in the first trimester.

Signs and symptoms of miscarriage

Most women experience symptoms before or during miscarriage. Some common symptoms are:

  • vaginal bleeding, including spotting
  • cramping or abdominal pain
  • losing fluid or tissue through the vagina
  • mild to severe back pain (often worse than normal menstrual cramps)
  • weight loss
  • white-pink mucus from the vagina
  • contractions (very painful contractions or cramping that occurs every five to 20 minutes)
  • sudden decrease in signs of pregnancy

Although most women having a miscarriage will experience bleeding or spotting , many women who bleed during pregnancy do not lose their baby. If you are spotting or bleeding, contact your health care provider immediately.

Will I need treatment after a miscarriage?

Many women who have a miscarriage will not need treatment; however, if your body is unable to complete the process of miscarrying, you may need treatment with medication or a surgical procedure.

Can I prevent miscarriage?

Most miscarriages are not preventable. Most are due to an abnormality of the chromosomes that occurs through random chance at the time of conception. Although you may not be able to prevent miscarriage, there are some steps you can take before and during pregnancy to be as healthy as you can, which may help you have a successful pregnancy.

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet, avoiding processed foods, sugar substitutes, “junk food” and anything else your doctor recommends limiting.
  • Exercise regularly, but make sure your exercise routine is doctor-approved.
  • Take steps to manage your stress, such as yoga, meditation, relaxation exercises, massages or anything else that helps you feel more centered and content.
  • Take folic acid supplements daily.
  • Do not smoke, and if you do smoke, get help quitting.
  • Don’t take illegal drugs or alcohol when attempting to get pregnant or during pregnancy.

Once you’re pregnant, you’ll want to continue caring for yourself and your body.

  • Don’t smoke or spend time around smoke.
  • Keep your abdomen safe, and avoid contact sports and activities that increase your risk of injury.
  • Don’t drink alcohol.
  • Don’t take any medications or supplements – even over-the-counter drugs – without getting permission from your doctor.
  • Avoid X-rays, radiation, chemicals, toxins and other environmental hazards.
  • Take steps to stay healthy, and try to limit your exposure to people with infectious diseases.
  • Ask your doctor which vaccines are recommended during pregnancy and follow recommendations.

Getting help

Whether you just learned you were pregnant or you were further along in your pregnancy, losing a child to miscarriage can be devastating. It’s important for you to find healthy ways to cope with your loss. Women all grieve in different ways when they experience miscarriage, and there is no right or wrong way to handle losing a pregnancy. We encourage you to talk about it with your partner, family, friends, a social worker, your doctor, a grief counselor, or anyone you feel comfortable talking with. When you share your experience, you will likely find that many women have gone through something similar and are happy to help you through it.

Some women and their families find it helpful to do something special to remember their baby. Have a memorial service, plant a tree, create something especially for your baby—whatever works for you.

Whatever you do, give yourself permission to grieve and feel whatever you feel. Anger, sadness, hopelessness, uncertainty, guilt and grief are all perfectly normal and understandable emotions.  

You may also find it helpful to find a support group. Many hospitals have pregnancy loss support groups, and there are countless groups on the internet where women and their partners can get help and talk with others who have experienced miscarriage. Some websites that might help you are: