Identifying a Threatened Miscarriage

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
While many women may have some idea of the symptoms of a miscarriage, a threatened miscarriage may be more difficult to understand. In a miscarriage, a pregnancy ends before a woman reaches her 20th week. Common signs include cramping, belly pain or vaginal bleeding.

A threatened miscarriage, on the other hand, means a woman has vaginal bleeding but the pregnancy is not over. In medical terms it’s described as a “threatened spontaneous abortion.” When this happens there are two outcomes. In most cases, the bleeding stops and a normal pregnancy continues. In other situations, though, a threatened miscarriage turns into a miscarriage.

Did I cause the threatened miscarriage?

In most cases the answer is no. Remember, too, if a threatened miscarriage develops into a miscarriage, you probably did not cause that either. In most cases, a miscarriage occurs because the pregnancy has not been normal from the start.

What symptoms should I be aware of?

When it comes to a threatened miscarriage, you should expect vaginal bleeding. In some cases, women may also experience belly pain. Keep in mind, though, there are certain conditions other than a threatened miscarriage that may result in vaginal bleeding during the first half of your pregnancy.

Should I call someone?

If you’re pregnant and having vaginal bleeding or belly pain, it’s important that you call your nurse or doctor immediately. Sometimes, bleeding during a pregnancy may be a sign of an emergency.

What kinds of tests should I expect?

Your doctor will first want to talk to you about any symptoms you’re having and conduct an exam. They’ll check your baby’s heartbeat in one of two ways. In the first, a fetal Doppler monitor is placed on your belly, allowing you to hear your child’s heartbeat through sound waves. An ultrasound, on the other hand, uses sound waves to make pictures of your baby and the inside of your body. Using an ultrasound shows your child’s heartbeat.

There’s also a test that measures how much “hCG”, a pregnancy hormone, is in your blood. You may have to have this same test repeated in a few days.

How do you treat a threatened miscarriage?

Treating a threatened miscarriage is difficult and there really aren’t very many reliable treatments out there. You doctor may recommend if you’re having vaginal bleeding that you avoid having sex or lie down in bed. Unfortunately, however, there’s no proof this can actually prevent a miscarriage.
In the meantime, your doctor will keep tabs on you until either your pregnancy begins growing normally after the bleeding stops, or you have a miscarriage or some other condition affecting your pregnancy. In this case, your doctor will help guide you on what you should do in the future.


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