Jan. 15, 2013 at 1:22 PM ET
A miscarriage is the loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy—most occurring during the first 12 weeks. Miscarriages occur in about 15 percent of recognized pregnancies. About 85 percent of women who miscarry go on to have a healthy pregnancy the next time. Get support from women who have also experienced pregnancy loss, as well as the expert answers you need as you cope with miscarriage.
1. How do I know if I'm having a miscarriage?
Symptoms of miscarriage vary. For some women, the first warning sign of miscarriage is a feeling that they aren't pregnant anymore (for example, breast tenderness may disappear). A woman who is miscarrying may experience minimal to severe cramping—or may not—and often has bleeding, ranging from light to heavy, sometimes accompanied by clotting. Some women describe the pain of miscarriage as similar to labor.
2. When should you contact your care provider?
If you think you're having a miscarriage, you should contact your care provider and schedule an ultrasound to check the baby. It's important to contact your care provider immediately if you have pain, cramping or heavy bleeding; if you have signs of blood loss, such as weakness, dizziness or light-headedness; if you have a fever or any discharge with an odor; or if the bleeding persists for 3–5 days.
3. Why did this happen to me?
It is normal to question "why" or even feel responsible somehow, despite the fact that very few miscarriages are actually caused by some environmental factor or maternal activity.
4. How long will it take to miscarry?
Generally a woman will experience bleeding, which may be light or heavy, with or without cramping and/or clots. The process may take a few hours or several days. If you pass any tissue (or clots), try to save them and show to your doctor for further confirmation and/or testing.
5. How long will the bleeding last?
If the miscarriage is complete, bleeding may last about a week, two at the most. You may experience some minor cramping for a few days after the loss. This can be relieved by OTC medications. The bleeding may vary in color from pinkish to dark red and should never be heavier than the heaviest day of a period. If you are soaking more than a pad or tampon an hour or if heavy bright red bleeding lasts longer than two weeks, notify your care provider. It is possible to miscarry without much, if any, bleeding or cramping, as the embryo can be reabsorbed.
6. When will my period return?
Following an uncomplicated miscarriage, most women who had regular cycles will have a period within four to six weeks following the completion of the miscarriage.
7. How long will it take me to recover?
Emotional recovery from a pregnancy loss may take many months. It is not unusual for a woman to recall the pain of a miscarriage into her old age. Physical recovery can depend on the length of the pregnancy, whether or not complications have occurred and whether there is any remaining tissue. In an uncomplicated miscarriage, physical recovery may take only one to two weeks.
8. When can we start trying again?
How long you decide to wait is a personal decision, made after discussing your situation with your care provider. In an uncomplicated miscarriage, you will probably ovulate two to four weeks after the loss. Experts often recommend waiting at least one cycle before trying to conceive again. Taking time to heal emotionally as well as physically after a miscarriage is a wise choice. Hormonal balance may be affected by your emotions, and waiting until you have recovered may also help you approach your next pregnancy with less anxiety.
9. How can I support my partner?
Supporting your partner while you yourself may be grieving the loss of a son or daughter of your dreams can be very difficult. You need emotional support as well. Try to talk to your partner about the loss. While it will bring up fresh memories, it is best to communicate openly about your wide range of feelings, including any sense of guilt, blame or fears.
10. How can I memorialize my baby?
Many parents want to find a way to help hold on to the memory of the baby they lost. You may want to gather together mementos, such as an ultrasound picture of your baby, your baby's footprints, a picture of the baby, a lock of hair (if available), or other items that help you feel close to your baby as you move through the grieving process. Learn more from the March of Dimes.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.