How Long Do You Bleed After a Miscarriage?

Bleeding and Other Symptoms of a Miscarriage: What to Expect and What to Do

Losing a wanted pregnancy due to a miscarriage is always emotionally devastating, and there is no single time frame or piece of advice that can be offered to ease the sorrow of women who are experiencing it. However, when it comes to the most common physical symptoms of a miscarriage—bleeding and discomfort—there is a degree of consistency. The length of time a woman experiencing a miscarriage can expect to bleed varies depending upon the gestational age of the baby and whether she chooses to let her body complete the process naturally or opts for a medical procedure. Any time frame from a few days up to two weeks is typical.

Knowing what to expect and what to do, along with understanding what is going on physically, is very helpful when you're going through a miscarriage. On a practical level, it helps to know when you can expect to resume your regular activities, and on an emotional level it can be somewhat comforting to know that the biological side of pregnancy loss does have a definite end point.

(Note: Miscarriage is the term for losing a baby before 20 weeks gestation. The loss of a baby after 20 weeks is considered a stillbirth.)

What Are the Physical Symptoms of a Miscarriage?

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A woman having a miscarriage will generally experience bleeding, ranging from light spotting to a very heavy flow of blood, along with passing of blood clots and tissue fragments. Other symptoms include vaginal discharge, cramping in the abdomen and/or lower back ranging from mild to severe and sometimes breast pain or engorgement.

During a miscarriage, the body expels the placenta and fetal tissue. A typical miscarriage might start with spotting or lighter bleeding, which becomes considerably heavier over the following hours or days. At its peak, the bleeding might be enough to soak a maxi pad within an hour, and the cramping can be very painful. After the heaviest bleeding stops, you might experience lighter bleeding that tapers off in a few days or as long as two weeks. A very early miscarriage might involve only a few hours of bleeding.

When Should You See a Doctor?

Whenever you're pregnant and experiencing bleeding, you should call your doctor immediately and describe all your symptoms. They will generally advise you to come in for an appointment to confirm the miscarriage, which can be done through blood tests, a pelvic exam and/or an ultrasound. If you're in your first trimester, there's nothing that can be done to stop a miscarriage after it has begun. It is still important, however, to consult with your doctor for the following reasons:

  • Bleeding does not always mean miscarriage. It's possible to experience bleeding and still be pregnant. In fact, some women bleed throughout pregnancy and still carry their baby to term. 
  • Your doctor might offer you medication to bring about the end of the miscarriage in a short time, or a medical procedure called dilation and curettage (D&C), which involves dilating your cervix and removing all the tissue manually. 
  • You will likely need a followup appointment to confirm that all the fetal tissue has been fully released. If the miscarriage does not complete this process naturally, there can be serious complications. 

If you experience extremely heavy bleeding for more than a few hours, or if you have a fever, chills, weakness or a tender abdomen, call your doctor immediately or go to the ER. These symptoms can indicate hemorrhaging or an infection, both of which require immediate medical attention.

What Should You Do During a Miscarriage?

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After consulting with your doctor, you might opt to let a miscarriage progress naturally. There is little to do but wait, but the following tips will help you feel more comfortable:

  • While you're experiencing heavier bleeding, it might be best to stay at home close to a bathroom and call in sick to work. 
  • Use maxi pads, not tampons, and place old towels underneath you while in bed. 
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication to ease cramps. If they're ineffective, ask your doctor for prescription painkillers.
  • Rest, stay hydrated and ask your partner or a loved one to stay with you if you wish.