What happens to my body during a miscarriage?
Most women have some vaginal bleeding during a miscarriage (although some women don’t have any symptoms).
The amount of bleeding you have will usually depend on how many weeks pregnant you are and what was recently seen on your scan. If it is an early miscarriage, it may be like a heavy period for the first day or so, and go on for a week or two afterwards. It should lessen and may become brown.
It’s best to use sanitary towels rather than tampons, which can increase the risk of infection.
If you feel faint, go to A&E. It is a good idea to ask someone to take you.
Your pregnancy hormones
These will begin to fall, although the rate varies from woman to woman. Once your bleeding stops, your hormones should gradually return to normal. You may be monitored by your local Early Pregnancy Unit to make sure this is happening, so you may be asked to do a pregnancy test after 3 weeks.
Your other pregnancy symptoms, such as feeling sick or tender breasts, will also fade away.
As well as the sadness you may feel about what’s happening, this change in hormone levels can also affect your emotions. You may feel very tired, get upset very easily or experience mood swings.
Some women also experience breathlessness, anxiety and sleep problems, including difficulties going to sleep or sleeping a lot.
When a pregnancy is lost, the womb contracts to expel the pregnancy tissue. You’ll probably have some cramps (like strong period pains) in your lower stomach on the day of your miscarriage and then milder cramps or aches for a day or so afterwards. Paracetamol should help with these cramps.
Other side effects
Sometimes how you feel may depend on how your miscarriage was managed. For example, if you had medical management, you may experience temporary side effects such as:
- feeling sick or vomiting
- skin rash.
Your doctors will talk to you about side effects you may have.
If you have surgical management, you will have either a local or general anaesthetic. Side effects of local anaesthetic should not last long and may include:
- feeling sick and vomiting
- shivering and feeling cold
- confusion and memory loss
- bladder problems
- bruising and soreness.
Side effects of general anaesthetic may include:
- blurred vision
- twitching muscles
- continuing numbness, weakness or pins and needles.
If you have a general anaesthetic and were asleep during the surgery, the after-effects shouldn’t last for more than a day after your operation. You should be told who to contact if they don't.
If you normally have regular periods, your next period will usually happen around 4–8 weeks after a miscarriage. However it may take several months to settle into a regular cycle.
You will ovulate before then, so you may be fertile in the first month after a miscarriage. We recommend using contraception if you’re having sex and don’t want to get pregnant again.
You should avoid having sex until all your miscarriage symptoms have gone.
When to ask for help
Contact your GP, Early Pregnancy Unit or the hospital where you had your care or NHS 111 if you have:
- heavy vaginal bleeding or bleeding that lasts a long time
- smelly vaginal discharge
- tummy pain.
If you also have a raised temperature (fever) and flu-like symptoms, you may have an infection of the lining of the womb (uterus). This is not very common and can be treated with antibiotics. These symptoms can also mean that there is still some tissue from the pregnancy in your womb.
If you also have a temperature (fever), have lost your appetite and are vomiting, this may be due to damage to your uterus. You may need to be admitted to hospital.
Your emotional health after a miscarriage
Losing a baby can be heartbreaking. Your feelings and emotions are your own and no-one can tell you how you should or shouldn’t be feeling. There is no right or wrong way to feel about pregnancy loss.
Everyone is different. Some women and couples come to terms with what happened within a few weeks, for others it takes longer.
Taking the time you need to grieve may help you move on and think about the possibility of trying again, if that’s what you want to do. There is support available if you need help.
North Bristol NHS Trust. Miscarriage. https://www.nbt.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/legacy/attachments/Miscarriage_NBT002479.pdf (Last published June 2017. Review due June 2019)
Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (2016) Early miscarriage https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-early-miscarriage.pdf
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Medical Management of miscarriage https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/gynaecology/medical-management-of-miscarriage.pdf (Last published October 2019 Next review due: October 2022)
NHS Choices. Local anaesthesia. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/local-anaesthesia/ (Page last reviewed: 23/07/2018. Next review due: 2/07/2021)
NHS Choices. General anaesthesia https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/general-anaesthesia/ (Page last reviewed: 23/04/2018. Next review due: 23/04/2021)
NHS Choices. Miscarriage. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Miscarriage/ (Page last reviewed: 01/06/2018. Next review due: 01/06/2021)