Signs of Early Pregnancy & Miscarriage


Any woman who has ever been pregnant will tell you that the first few months of pregnancy can be stressful. It can be helpful to know what signs and symptoms are due to normal pregnancy as well as those that need medical attention.

Early Signs of Pregnancy

According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), the most common early signs of pregnancy include (but are not limited to) implantation bleeding, delay/difference in menstruation, swollen or tender breasts, fatigue or tiredness, nausea or morning sickness, backaches, headaches, frequent urination, darkening of areolas and food cravings.

If you have any of these symptoms, take a pregnancy test at your earliest convenience.

What is a Miscarriage?

A miscarriage (or the medical term, spontaneous abortion, SAB) is the term for when a pregnancy ends naturally within the first 20 weeks of gestation. It is the most common type of pregnancy loss and 10 to 25 percent of all confirmed pregnancies will result in miscarriage, according to the APA.

Causes of miscarriage can vary from hormonal problems, infections or problems with the mother’s health, the mother’s lifestyle (smoking, drug use, malnutrition), incorrect implantation in the uterus, the mother’s age and any trauma that occurs during pregnancy.

Sex, moderate exercise and working outside the home are not proven to increase the chance of miscarriage.

There are three recognized different types of miscarriage: a blighted ovum, an ectopic pregnancy and a molar pregnancy.

Blighted Ovum (Anembryonic Pregnancy)

A blighted ovum (also known as anembryonic pregnancy) occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall but for some reason, the embryo doesn’t develop. The woman’s body will miscarry on its own due to a high level of chromosomal abnormalities. This typically occurs early in the pregnancy, however the woman may discover that she has all the signs of pregnancy before her body flushes the uterine lining causing a heavier than normal period.

According to the APA, this is the cause of approximately 50 percent of first trimester miscarriages and is “usually the result of chromosomal problems.”

Molar Pregnancy

In some cases, there are problems when the sperm fertilizes the egg. These problems can cause the placenta to be abnormal—called a molar pregnancy. These pregnancies rarely involve a growing embryo and this genetic error causes abnormal tissue to grow within the uterus. It grows more quickly than a normal fetus and looks like a collection of “grape-like cell clusters,” according to the APA.

These are rare and occur in one out of every 1,000 pregnancies.

Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the lining of the uterus, typically in the fallopian tube, the tube running from the ovaries to the uterus. The egg is not in a position to grow normally because the fallopian tubes aren’t designed to hold the embryo.

This type of pregnancy occurs in one out of 60 pregnancies.

Warning Signs of Miscarriage

Contact your health care professional if you have any of these symptoms: mild to severe back pain, unusual weight loss, white-pink mucus discharge, contractions every five to 20 minutes, brown or bright red bleeding with or without cramping, a bloody discharge of tissue coming from the vagina or a sudden decrease in symptoms of pregnancy.

Symptoms of a molar pregnancy include vaginal spotting or bleeding, nausea and vomiting, development of rare complications like thyroid disease, early preeclampsia (high blood pressure), increased hCG levels and lack of fetal movement or heartbeat.

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy can also involve sharp or stabbing pains in the pelvis, abdomen, shoulder or neck that appear and disappear and vary in strength, vaginal bleeding, gastrointestinal problems, weakness, dizziness or fainting. This can be a life-threatening emergency and if you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.

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