What Is Miscarriage Bleeding?

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Vaginal bleeding is a common sign of miscarriage. It can range from light spotting or brownish discharge to heavy bleeding and bright red blood or clots. The bleeding may come and go over a few days. However, light bleeding during the first three months of the pregnancy is also common and not necessarily a sign of a miscarriage.

Bleeding in early pregnancy is common, occurring in about 15 to 25 in 100 pregnancies.

Pregnancy loss that happens in week 20 of pregnancy or earlier is called a miscarriage. Besides bleeding, other symptoms of a miscarriage include cramping and pain in your abdomen, pink vaginal fluid, dizziness, and discharge of tissue through the vagina. It’s important to call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of a miscarriage.

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Purpose

Miscarriage bleeding, or bleeding that occurs with pregnancy loss, is a part of the reproductive process. During pregnancy, a mother gains about 1.5 liters of blood. Some of this additional blood is spread throughout the mother’s body to support additional strain and expected blood loss during delivery. One liter of this gain is in the uterus and placenta alone.

The amount of miscarriage bleeding that can occur depends on your health, medical history, and how far into the pregnancy you are. All the tissue in the uterus—the thickened uterine lining, placenta tissue, and fetal tissue—is expelled.

In some cases, tissue from the pregnancy can be left behind. This is called an incomplete abortion and can lead to complications.

Importance

The process of bleeding and expelling tissue from a lost pregnancy is important because tissue that is left behind can cause miscarriage complications for the mother and future fertility problems.

Bleeding can last up to a few weeks, and your healthcare provider will offer suggestions for care after a miscarriage. These may include:

  • Avoiding sexual intercourse for one to two weeks
  • Not inserting anything into the vagina, like a tampon, for one to two weeks
  • Receiving counseling and mental health support
  • Using birth control if you don’t want to become pregnant again right away

Risk Factors

A number of factors can increase your risk of a miscarriage. About 50% of miscarriages in the first trimester happen because of abnormalities in the baby’s genes. This is more common in mothers who are older than age 35.

Other risk factors for pregnancy loss and miscarriage bleeding include:

  • Prior miscarriage
  • Infection
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Thyroid disease
  • Stress
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Environmental toxins
  • Subchorionic hemorrhage

Complications

On rare occasions, pregnancy losses happen because the pregnancy develops outside the womb. This is known as an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies are potentially serious as there’s a risk you could experience internal bleeding.

Another complication that can occur after miscarriage is retained fetal tissue—when fetal tissue or other products of conception remain in the uterus after a miscarriage. It can take weeks for all of the tissue from a pregnancy to be expelled from the uterus, and sometimes tissue still remains behind. Although it’s not necessarily an emergency procedure, your healthcare provider may also recommend you take action to be sure that all the tissue is expelled.

Having a miscarriage can increase the risk of having a future miscarriage. Most mothers—87%—go on to have successful pregnancies after a miscarriage, but sometimes additional miscarriages can occur.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does miscarriage bleeding last?

Every person is different, but miscarriage bleeding can last around two weeks. This is the time it takes for your body to expel tissue and excess blood from the pregnancy. If you need medical or surgical assistance to remove tissue, the bleeding could last longer.

When should you be concerned about bleeding after a miscarriage?

If bleeding becomes very heavy or you experience other symptoms like lightheadedness, you should seek medical attention right away.

How long does a miscarriage take once bleeding starts?

The heavy bleeding and passage of the pregnancy may occur in the first hours, but bleeding may continue for a few weeks after.

How do you stop bleeding after a miscarriage?

Bleeding will stop on its own once the body has released all of the tissue and blood from the pregnancy. You may require medical or surgical assistance if your body doesn’t clear all the tissue on its own.

How much bleeding is normal during a miscarriage?

It can be different for everyone and depends a lot on the stage of your pregnancy at the time of the miscarriage.

Summary

Bleeding can occur in light or heavy amounts after a miscarriage. It is the process through which the fetal tissue and blood are expelled from your body, and it may last for about two weeks. Note that it’s also common to have bleeding in the first trimester, so bleeding does not mean you definitely had a miscarriage. If you have vaginal bleeding and are concerned about a miscarriage, talk to your doctor.

A Word From Verywell

A pregnancy loss can occur with or without bleeding. It can be difficult to determine if your bleeding is a normal part of pregnancy or the result of pregnancy loss. Your healthcare provider will need to perform tests to confirm whether a miscarriage is occurring, and may monitor you to make sure you have expelled all of the pregnancy tissue.

If you are facing pregnancy loss, be sure to discuss what to expect with your healthcare provider, and be sure to establish a good support system.

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