I had been pulling weeds in my backyard when the cramping began. At first I thought that maybe I had overdone it and just needed a little rest. I was about ten weeks along with my fifth child and had never experienced any cramping during the first trimester. As I reclined on the couch, the cramping grew more intense. Soon I was bleeding and calling my doctor’s office. After speaking with the nurse it was determined that I was experiencing the signs’ and symptoms’ of a miscarriage in the first trimester.
The Cause of Miscarriage in Pregnancy
Miscarriage in pregnancy affects many women each year. It is the loss of a developing baby. Miscarriage usually occurs within the first trimester between the thirteenth and twentieth week of pregnancy. Miscarriage occurs later in pregnancy often due to developing abnormalities in the fetus or extreme trauma to the Mother. Miscarriage due to trauma is often caused by an unforeseen event, such as a car accident.
Miscarriage is caused by a variety of different medical conditions. One of them is chromosome abnormality; where the fetal tissue does not have enough chromosomes to continue normal development. Other causes include abnormalities in the uterus as well as hormonal, immunological and environmental factors. Women over the age of 35 are at a higher risk to experience a miscarriage.
Because miscarriage usually occurs so early in pregnancy, many women do not realize that they are experiencing a miscarriage. Often what is really a miscarriage is just thought of as a heavier period with painful cramps. The following tips will help you determine if what you are experiencing is indeed a miscarriage.
Is it a Miscarriage or a Period?
Each woman’s menstrual cycle is different; some woman experience a regular period while others have irregular periods’ that are difficult to predict. If you are regular, be sure to track your period on a calendar so that you can be aware if you are having a period or possibly a miscarriage. If you consistently experience irregular periods, talk to your medical professional about what can be done to help regulate your cycle. Irregular periods are actually quite common and are often caused by a hormonal imbalance that can be corrected through lifestyle changes and hormone drug therapy.
A late period is a good indicator that you might be pregnant. A home pregnancy test will measure the amount of the hormone hCG in your body. hCG is one of the first hormones present in the body after conception and is critical to the successful development of a baby. If you have missed your period and suspect that you might be pregnant, wait one week before taking a home pregnancy test to ensure that the test will be accurate. You can also visit your medical professional to have a blood test. Knowing whether or not you are actually pregnant will help you understand if you are experiencing a miscarriage or just another period. You can find a pregnancy counselor in your area online through Epigee
Signs and Symptoms of Miscarriage
Spotting or slight bleeding during early pregnancy is normal for many women. The key in identifying a miscarriage lies with the condition of the cervix. If you experience bleeding and a medical professional determines that your cervix is open or dilated, you are indeed experiencing a miscarriage. Consult a medical professional immediately regarding any bleeding during the course of your pregnancy.
A miscarriage usually begins with cramping and light bleeding that will progress to more painful cramps with heavy bleeding that may include clots. The cramping occurs in the abdominal area where the uterus is located and will be similar to regular labor pains. The bleeding may start out as light brown or pink and progress to a dark red color with fetal tissue or clots passing through the cervix.
During miscarriage, the cramping is painful and may spread across the lower abdominal area going into the lower back and affecting the upper legs. Talk to your medical professional about over the counter pain relievers that may help relieve your pain.
Should you have concerns regarding any changes in bleeding or cramping during a miscarriage, be sure to consult a medical professional immediately. Heavy bleeding and/or intense pain that is localized in one area is a strong indication of a more serious medical condition.
Clotting during a miscarriage is normal and the uterine muscles will cramp to remove as much of the fetal tissue as possible. Your medical professional may request that you save some of the fetal tissue for testing. Bleeding usually lasts one to two weeks with the cramps lessening as the fetal tissue is expelled.
At ten weeks or earlier the body should be able to expel all of the fetal tissue naturally. Beyond ten weeks, a surgical procedure known as a D and C is required to remove all of the fetal tissue from the womb.
D and C stands for Dilation and Curettage. A medical professional will dilate the cervix and then remove all of the tissue from the womb with a surgical instrument or suction. General anesthesia can be used during the procedure to minimize pain. Prescription pain pills or over the counter pain relievers recommended by your medical professional are often recommended to relieve pain after a D&C.
Physical and Emotional Recovery: The Five Stages of Grief
Physical recovery from a miscarriage varies depending on the amount of complications. Recovery time for a natural miscarriage (no D&C) without complications is usually one to two weeks. A miscarriage that requires a D&C or has complications will take longer. Healing takes time. Be patient with yourself during your recovery. After having a miscarriage it is normal to go through a grieving process over the loss of your developing baby. The five natural stages of grief are:
1. Denial which is often accompanied by numbness or a detached feeling.
2. Anger toward the circumstances that are beyond your control.
3. A feeling of persistent sadness accompanied by tears and emotional outbursts.
4. Acceptance of the loss and a lessening of the sadness. This is a tricky stage as some people, upon reaching this stage, start to feel guilty about feeling better. It is important that if you do have feelings of guilt during the healing process to consult a mental health professional to help you overcome those feelings so that you can ultimately feel better and reach the final healing stage.
5. Final healing occurs when you have worked through the denial, anger and sadness to reach a point where you have accepted the loss and are able to continue with normal day to day activities and hobbies. At this stage, you should really feel better and be able to enjoy life again.
Should the grief process become prolonged or overwhelming, be sure to consult a mental health professional for appropriate treatment.
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Consult Your Medical Professional
If you suspect you are experiencing a miscarriage, please consult a medical professional immediately. A medical professional can diagnosis a miscarriage and determine if a more serious medical condition is present. A medical professional can also determine the cause of a miscarriage and recommend treatments that may help prevent miscarriage during the course of future pregnancies.
Find answers to pregnancy questions at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
For more information on complications associated with miscarriage and pregnancy visit this link to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Read more about the grieving process and how to cope with the loss of your baby at Health Politics with Dr. Mike Magee