The most common symptom of miscarriage is vaginal bleeding. This can vary from light spotting or brownish discharge, to heavy bleeding and bright red blood. The bleeding may come and go over several days.
Light vaginal bleeding is common during the first trimester of pregnancy (the first 12 weeks), so having this symptom does not necessarily mean that you have had a miscarriage. However, it's important that any vaginal bleeding is investigated straight away.
If you have vaginal bleeding, contact your maternity team or early pregnancy unit at your local hospital.
If you have vaginal bleeding or other symptoms (see below) in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and you haven't registered with a midwife or early pregnancy unit yet you should contact your GP, or call NHS 24 on 111 if your GP surgery is closed.
Other symptoms of a miscarriage include:
- cramping and pain in your lower abdomen
- a discharge of fluid from your vagina
- a discharge of tissue from your vagina
- no longer experiencing the symptoms of pregnancy, such as feeling sick and breast tenderness.
When to seek urgent medical help
On rare occasions, miscarriages happen because the pregnancy develops outside the womb. This is known as an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies are potentially serious because there is a risk that you could experience internal bleeding.
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include:
- heavy vaginal bleeding (soaking more than one sanitary pad every hour)
- persistent and severe abdominal pain
- pain in your shoulder tip
- feeling very faint and light-headed, and possibly fainting.
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy usually appear between weeks 5-14 of the pregnancy.
If you experience any of the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, visit your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department immediately. If you are unable to travel, you can call up and get advice from NHS 24 on 111.
Read more about ectopic pregnancies.
Vaginal bleeding can also be caused by a molar pregnancy. This is a pregnancy that has not developed normally, resulting in a mass of abnormal cells within the womb instead of a baby. A molar pregnancy is usually identified during the first ultrasound scan, at 10-16 weeks of pregnancy.
Read more about molar pregnancies.
Last updated: 01 April 2014
- Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.
- Discharge is when a liquid, such as pus, oozes from a part of your body.
- Ectopic refers to a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb, most commonly in the fallopian tubes.
- Nausea is when you feel like you are going to be sick.
- Pain is an unpleasant physical or emotional feeling and your body's way of warning you it has been damaged.
- Body tissue is made up of groups of cells that perform a specific job, such as protecting the body against infection, producing movement or storing fat.
- The uterus, or womb, is a hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman where a baby grows during pregnancy.
Continue to next section: Causes of miscarriage