Miscarriage refers to the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks after conception. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that up to 25 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. The majority of miscarriages occur within the first few weeks after conception and the resulting bleeding is often mistaken for an ordinary menstrual period. In many of these cases the woman may not even know she was pregnant.
Early Warning Signs
There are some early warning signs of an impending miscarriage the most common being unusually strong pain in the lower back or abdomen, spotting or bleeding, or the passing of other tissue or fluid from the vagina. A woman who knows she is pregnant should consult with there doctor if she begins to experience lower back or abdomen pain that is more intense or last longer than her normal menstrual cramps.
Although most pregnant women will experience some bleeding during their pregnancy, any vaginal discharge of pink-tinged mucus, clot-like tissue passing from the vagina, or brown or bright red bleeding are signs that may indicate the onset of miscarriage and warrant contacting the doctor or midwife.
It is possible for the baby to stop developing early in the pregnancy before the onset of such symptoms as cramping or bleeding. The attending physician or midwife may notice a lack of growth of the uterus or may not be able to hear the baby's heartbeat. In these instances additional tests may be ordered to determine if a miscarriage has already occurred.
In some cases an impending miscarriage is accompanied by an infection of the uterus called a septic miscarriage. This infection is typically accompanied by chills, fever, body aches, extreme fatigue, vaginal bleeding accompanied by a thick, bad-smelling discharge and abdominal pain. These symptoms require urgent medical attention or the mother risks serious damage to her reproductive organs including her ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus.
Although some miscarriages are the result of the mother's medical condition such as diabetes or hormonal problems, most miscarriages occur because the baby is not developing normally. A blighted ovum, molar pregnancy or chromosomal problems that arise as the cells divide can all lead to a spontaneous miscarriage. Routine exercise, sexual activity and work do not typically lead to miscarriage.