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Am I having a miscarriage?

A miscarriage can occur suddenly or over several days or even weeks. Sometimes there are symptoms, but sometimes there aren’t. Unfortunately, once a miscarriage has begun, there is nothing you, your doctor, or other health professionals can do to stop it from happening.

Common signs of miscarriage may include:

Illustrated icon of 4 droplets indicating bleeding

Vaginal Bleeding

The most common first sign of miscarriage is vaginal bleeding, which may be light or spotting through to heavy bleeding. About 1 in 4 women will experience bleeding during their first trimester. Not all bleeding signals an impending miscarriage. However, if you experience any bleeding during your pregnancy, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Illustrated icon of a female experiencing abdominal cramping

Lower abdominal pain or cramping

Like vaginal bleeding, most women will experience lower abdominal pain or cramping. While some women experience severe cramping, others will feel pain similar to period / menstrual cramps.

Illustrated icon of a female body with question marks around the abdominal area indicating a questioning of pregnancy signs

Reduced intensity of pregnancy symptoms

Some women also say they no longer ‘feel’ pregnant. As a result, their nausea may have stopped or reduced, or their breasts are no longer tender. These symptoms do not necessarily signal a miscarriage as they are often reduced or go away after the first trimester.

Illustrated icon of a abnormally coloured vaginal discharge in the colours of grey, green, yellow, and brown

Abnormal discharge of fluid or tissue from your vagina

Vaginal discharge that is yellow, green, red, brown, or grey, accompanied by a strong smell and itching, may signify an infection or complications with your pregnancy.

In a miscarriage beyond six weeks, the expelled tissue may not be discernible from large blood clots. The tissue may be white, grey, or brown, visible with the clots.

Signs of ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilised egg implants outside the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes (95%).  As the fertilised egg begins to grow in the fallopian tube it can burst or severely damage the tube, resulting in internal bleeding which must be treated immediately.  Ectopic pregnancies are considered a medical emergency as they can be life threatening.  Unfortunately, an ectopic pregnancy cannot be moved into the womb and therefore can’t be saved.

  • Late or missed
  • Positive pregnancy
  • Unusual vaginal
  • Shoulder tip
  • Pain in abdomen
    or lower back
  • Pain in one side
    of abdomen
  • Bowel or bladder
  • Dizziness, fainting
    or collapsing

Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy can begin as early as 4 weeks and up to, or even later than, 12 weeks pregnant.  If you experience some or all of these symptoms it is important you see your doctor or specialist for a check-up straight away. Symptoms can include:

  • Missed or late period and a positive pregnancy test
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding (ongoing bleeding that may be red or brown/black and watery or could be on/off and lighter or heavier than usual)
  • Shoulder tip pain (where your shoulder ends and your arm starts)
  • Pain and cramping in the lower abdomen or lower back
  • Persistent or intermittent pain on one side of the lower abdomen
  • Bowel or bladder problems (diarrhoea, pain when you urinate or open your bowels, sharp shooting vaginal pain)
  • Dizziness, fainting, or collapsing
  • Sudden, severe pain in the lower abdomen (if the fallopian tube bursts)

Detailed information about ectopic pregnancy, including the signs and symptoms can be found on The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust site (UK) or the Better Health Channel (Australia).

What if I don’t have any symptoms?

Sometimes there are no signs or symptoms of miscarriage. For example, a type of miscarriage called a ‘missed miscarriage’ is common, and you may not even realise it has happened until you go for a routine antenatal appointment. In this case, your doctor or specialist will likely order blood tests and an ultrasound to confirm the miscarriage.

What should I do if I am concerned I might be having a miscarriage?

If you are concerned that you are having a miscarriage, call your doctor or specialist for advice and support. If you cannot get in contact with your doctor or specialist, you may need to attend your local hospital’s emergency department. It is important to remember that it could be a long wait time in the emergency department if you are assessed as low risk (i.e., you are not bleeding heavily, in strong pain, or feeling extremely unwell).

You can also call one of the health information hotlines:

  • Health Direct – 1800 022 222 – Open 24/7
  • Pregnancy, Birth and Baby – 1800 882 436 – Open 7am to midnight (AEST)
Illustrated icon of a heart

Please remember that it is highly unlikely that you have done anything to cause a miscarriage and that once a miscarriage has begun, there is nothing you, your doctor, or other health professionals can do to stop it from happening.

Last Updated: February 21st, 2023