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Should I Go to the Emergency Room for Possible Miscarriage / Pregnancy Bleeding?

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Updated November 21, 2007

Question: Should I Go to the Emergency Room for Possible Miscarriage / Pregnancy Bleeding?

Spotting or bleeding in pregnancy is understandably scary. Upon first sight of vaginal bleeding in pregnancy, or any other miscarriage symptoms, many women drop everything and head to the emergency room. But is this the best course of action?

Answer:

Early pregnancy bleeding is very common and does not always mean that a miscarriage is happening. That said, it can be a symptom of miscarriage and, sadly, emergency room doctors can almost never stop a miscarriage that's in progress -- particularly in the first trimester.

By the time vaginal bleeding or other miscarriage symptoms appear, the developing baby has usually already passed away -- often because of unpreventable issues such as chromosomal abnormalities. In these cases, all the emergency room doctors can do is confirm that the mother's life is not in danger; they can make sure she is not hemorrhaging and does not have an ectopic pregnancy threatening rupture).

In the meantime, the experience of visiting the emergency room can be stressful with long wait times and care by often overworked personnel who are unfamiliar with the specifics of your situation.

Most of the time, the best thing to do if you are experiencing miscarriage symptoms in the first trimester is call your regular medical practitioner's office for guidance. Your normal OB/GYN will probably ask you to come in for an office visit; he or she will have access to your medical history and will be best able to determine whether or not you are having a miscarriage through diagnostic tests.

Sometimes, however, going to the emergency room is definitely the best course of action. These include the following situations:

  • Unusually heavy bleeding (soaking through a menstrual pad in under an hour)
  • Severe abdominal pain on either side of the lower abdomen or dizziness
  • Symptoms of shock, such as agitation, confusion, or bluish lips and fingernails
  • Your regular doctor has advised you to go to the emergency room.

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