The Lowdown on Bleeding and Miscarriage

Could bleeding and spotting indicate a miscarriage?
Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

The first trimester really rocks your world. First there's excitement (or fear), then there's anticipation (or dread). Then we move on to worry (or relief) before we scoot over to excitement again, then sometimes on to disappointment and grief. And that's all because you're watching every single new pain or symptom, concerned that spotting or cramping could signal a miscarriage

The really frustrating thing is there's not a whole lot we can do to control anything that happens in those first months except follow the rules of healthy living and hope for the best.

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First trimester bleeding is pretty common, but doesn't always mean a miscarriage is on its way. About 20 to 30% of women bleed a little in early pregnancy, and only half of those go on to miscarry. Approximately 15 to 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, though many happen before women even know they're pregnant.

Common causes for bleeding are: hormone changes, implantation bleeding and cervical irritation. If you experience bleeding, your doctor or midwife will run blood tests and do ultrasounds to determine if it's "normal" bleeding or miscarriage—and you may just have to wait and see which way it's going to go. 

RELATED: Spotting While Pregnant: What's Normal, What's Not

Many doctors/midwives will tell you to "try not to worry about it. It's normal." While that may be true, we all know that any amount of bleeding is scary, normal or not. We worry that pink stripe on the toilet paper is going to turn into heavy flow, cramps and a miscarriage.

I practically gave myself toilet paper burns when I experienced a little spotting with a couple of my pregnancies. I had to keep "checking" to see if there was more. One time, it went away on its own despite my obsessive wiping. Another time, I had a miscarriage. Again, I don't think the toilet paper had anything to do with it, it just kept me up to date as to which way things were going.

RELATED: 5 Miscarriage Myths

The reality is, worrying won't change the inevitable. If you're going to miscarry, you're going to miscarry. Yeah, that sucks—but instead of "trying not to worry" my advice is: go ahead and experience worry. Worrying is what parents do. Worry gets a bad rap like it's an indulgent and unnecessary emotion. Yeah, well, if we're allowed to experience joy and sorrow, it seems like we ought to be allowed to "do" the unpopular emotions like anxiety and worry too.

I don't advise curling up in a ball and allowing your worry to consume you. There's no sense letting it entirely rule your world. Most of us have lives that can't be shut down while we wait out those first vulnerable weeks and months. Give it some time and attention, share it with your family and friends and allow them to comfort you.

It's OK to be afraid of losing something so valuable, especially when there's nothing you can do to control it. Then, go on about your life and know that if it's meant to be a healthy pregnancy, then it's meant to be.

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