How does your body recover from a miscarriage?

What physical effects should you expect after having had a miscarriage? What should you be careful about? And when will your periods return?

woman sitting with head down

We’re so sorry for your loss. We know how devastating it is to lose a baby. And how wrong it seems, really, to think about recovery. But it does help to have some idea about how your body will feel, and heal, in the next few weeks and months – even if, right now, you’re not sure your emotional and mental health will ever recover.

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How fast or slowly your body recovers from miscarriage depends largely on many weeks pregnant you were when it happened – and whether you had any further complications or surgical procedures once the miscarriage started. As a general rule, the earlier on in your pregnancy it was, the quicker your body will be able to physically recover.

If you miscarried in the 1st 6 weeks of pregnancy…

This is small comfort to you, we know, but this is the most common time for a miscarriage to happen – and actually, before the arrival of pregnancy tests that could tell you you’re pregnant before you missed a period, many women who miscarried at this stage of pregnancy would probably not have know they were pregnant and simply thought there were having a heavy period.

Your body should return to normal very soon after your bleeding has stopped (which should be within a week, or possibly 2) and, depending on your cycle, your periods should return within about 6 weeks.

If you miscarried in weeks 7 to 12… 

If you suffer a miscarriage in the 2nd half of your 1st trimester, you are more likely to pass clots of blood and recognisable pregnancy tissue. And you’re more likely to feel cramping pains. You may have vaginal bleeding for up to a week, or possibly longer, after the miscarriage. This is usually a similar flow to your regular menstrual bleeding.

If stronger pain and bleeding continue for more than a couple of days, then your miscarriage may be incomplete (meaning that there may still be pregnancy tissue left in your womb). If this happens, you need to call your doctor or your Early Pregnancy Unit, as you may need medication or even a simple surgical procedure (SMM) to remove any remaining tissue and stop further bleeding. If you do need SMM, you will be advised to avoid sex (and tampons) for a couple of weeks.

Depending on your cycle, your periods should return within 6 to 8 weeks.

If you miscarried in your 2nd trimester…

An early 2nd trimester miscarriage may be very similar to a miscarriage in the 2nd half of the 1st trimester but the further along in this 2nd trimester you are, the more likely you are to have experienced unpleasant contractions and a delivery.

After a 2nd trimester miscarriage, you may have vaginal bleeding for a few weeks, though it shouldn’t continue to be heavy after the 1st few days, and some abdominal cramping is also common.

If pain and cramping continue to be heavy, or if they intensify, then you should contact your doctor right away in case your miscarriage is incomplete (meaning that there is still pregnancy tissue left in the womb).

If this happens, you need to call your doctor or your Early Pregnancy Unit as you may need medication or even a simple surgical procedure (SMM) to remove any remaining tissue and stop further bleeding. If you do need SMM, you will be advised to avoid sex (and tampons) for a couple of weeks.

Depending on your cycle, your period should return within 8 weeks.

With a miscarriage in the 2nd trimester, physical things that may be harder to cope with include the continued existence of any pregnancy bump and tender breasts.

Continuing to look pregnant after a miscarriage can be extremely upsetting but, unfortunately, no one can tell you for certain how soon your pre-pregnancy shape will return. This seems to vary from woman to woman, with some finding it happens within a few days and others having to wait it out for several weeks.

You may also find your breasts may be swollen and tender and may even produce some milk, which can be very distressing. Make sure you have a supportive bra (natural cotton ones are least likely to irritate) and use nipple pads to keep your nipples as dry as possible to prevent discomfort and chafing.

Is there any danger of infection after a miscarriage?

Yes, you are more susceptible to vaginal infection than usual following a miscarriage.

But you can lower the risk by using sanitary pads rather than tampons for any post-miscarriage bleeding (wait to use tampons again until your 1st post-miscarriage period arrives).

It’s also wise not to have sex until after the bleeding has stopped and not to visit public swimming pools, Jacuzzis and similar public settings where the water may carry infections.

If you develop a fever, chills or start feeling strong pain, then you may have an infection and you should contact your doctor without delay.

Is it normal to feel so utterly exhausted?

It absolutely is. It’s incredibly common to feel tired, lose your appetite and have difficulty sleeping after a miscarriage. Pregnancy loss can be an enormous emotional strain, and emotional strain can drain you physically too.

Your physical recovery is very much tied up with your emotional recovery and it’s important that you’re kind to yourself and look for support. Give yourself time to deal with any feelings of grief, shock, guilt (even though, of course, none of this is your fault) and distress.

When will I be able to try to conceive again?

This depends a great deal on the stage of pregnancy you were at when you miscarried – and the circumstances of your miscarriage. And your doctor is usually the best person to seek advice from about this.

Your doctor may recommend that you wait 2 or even 3 cycles before trying for a baby again, to let your mind and body recover. On the other hand, your doctor may see no reason why you can’t start trying again as soon as you feel up to it emotionally.

Some women will feel that they need time to grieve the loss of a pregnancy before trying again, but many hope that a subsequent pregnancy will help them put the loss behind them.

If you do want to start trying again straightaway, it’s a good idea to wait until you have your 1st period, so you have a good idea of your due date if you do manage to conceive quickly.

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