Defined as the non-medical, spontaneous termination of a pregnancy before 20 weeks gestation, miscarriages represent approximately 50% of all lost pregnancies.
Physically, the experience of a miscarriage (as with pregnancies) varies widely from woman to woman. It is believed most miscarriages occur before a woman even misses her period, making the experience of these unknown miscarriages relatively easy on the heart and body.
However, if you happen to fall into the other percentage (10–25%) of women who know they are pregnant, a miscarriage represents an abrupt physical and emotional shift. For most women experiencing a wanted pregnancy, the moment that test is positive, life changes forever. Daydreams about the future begin (if they haven’t already), and even though we may know “it’s still early,” our hearts and heads rush to embrace a life that now centers around baby and family. We may start talking to the baby, or make lists of names; we will wonder about who to let in on our wonderful secret and when.
And then we start to notice symptoms that we find disquieting. Perhaps in the form of lower abdominal pain, maybe some bleeding or spotting; we may even notice we have passed some unusual looking tissue. Along with these physical signs, our emotions run all over the place: fear, worry, sadness, even denial. We may rush to our doctor or we might delay making the appointment in dread of what it could all mean.
No matter how you get to the result or realization, the confirmation that you are miscarrying is, for the majority of women with a wanted pregnancy, devastating. This news will trigger a storm of feelings and thoughts—everything from agonizing about if you are somehow responsible for the miscarriage, to feeling like the world as you knew it, is ending. Along with the emotions and spinning thoughts, comes the physical reality itself: the passing of the pregnancy. Depending on how far along you are and how your own body handles a miscarriage (which you can’t know until you go through one), symptoms range from mild to strong. In general, miscarriages feel like a very painful, heavy and/or uncomfortable period. Unlike a period, however, you can expect to pass fetal tissue which can be disturbing if you are not expecting it. Along with cramping and bleeding, fetal tissue is passed vaginally and is described as greyish in color and membranous in texture. In short, you will know what it is, because it will be unrecognizable in comparison to what you see when you have your period.
If you suspect you are miscarrying or have any concerns about your pregnancy, no matter how early, be sure to call your maternity health care provider and seek their counsel. If it turns out that you are indeed going to miscarry, gather your support system around you – don’t isolate yourself in this experience; you will need your partner, friends and family to help carry you through. Give yourself time to heal and take whatever comfort you can from knowing that you did nothing wrong and that you are far from alone. Take advantage of any external support systems available to you in your community and when advised by your care provider, try, try again.[ref]