How Do I Know If I've Had a Miscarriage?

What Your Healthcare Provider Will Do

If you have signs of a miscarriage, your healthcare provider will perform a pelvic exam and listen for a fetal heartbeat. He or she may also want to do an ultrasound, which emits high-frequency soundwaves that reveal an image of the fetus on a monitor.
If it appears there are some problems, it doesn't necessarily mean you will lose your baby. There are five types of miscarriages. These include:
  • Threatened miscarriage. If you have vaginal bleeding (with or without mild cramps) but your cervix is closed and a fetal heartbeat is heard, this is called a "threatened miscarriage." In this situation, the fetus is still alive. Vaginal bleeding may resolve and the pregnancy may continue to term. However, if there is ever any more bleeding, make sure to contact your healthcare provider right away. Research has shown that about half of threatened miscarriages end in pregnancy loss.
  • Inevitable miscarriage. If you have increasing bleeding, no heartbeat is heard, and your cervix is dilated, or if your membranes have ruptured (your water broke), then a miscarriage is occurring. This is called an "inevitable miscarriage." There is no chance of the pregnancy continuing if these things have occurred.
  • Incomplete abortion. A miscarriage/abortion is considered incomplete if some of the pregnancy tissue has come out of the uterus, but some has remained inside. In this case, treatment may be necessary to remove the remaining tissue.
  • Complete miscarriage. Your healthcare provider will also do a pelvic exam to see if any fetal tissue is traveling through the cervix. If this is the case, then you are in the process of having a miscarriage. If all of the tissue comes out of the uterus, it is considered a complete miscarriage and no further treatment is needed.
  • Missed abortion. If a pregnancy has ended but the tissue remains in the uterus, it is called a missed abortion. In some cases, the tissue eventually comes out of the uterus on its own. In other cases, treatment is needed to complete the miscarriage. This may involve medication or procedures to remove the tissue.
(Click I Have Had a Miscarriage -- What Happens Next? for more information on how a miscarriage is treated and ways to deal with what follows.)
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Miscarriage Information

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