Despite what most people think, it is not always easy to tell whether or not you have had a miscarriage. Some women wonder whether abnormal periods might be very early miscarriages. And for women who know they are pregnant, miscarriage symptoms can be hard to interpret -- signs may not always be present and the common symptoms do not always mean a miscarriage.
Below are some pointers for how to figure out whether your miscarriage symptoms mean pregnancy loss. Remember: Your doctor is the best resource if you are concerned; this article is not intended as medical advice.
Know the symptoms of miscarriage. First, be sure that you are indeed having miscarriage symptoms before you worry too much. Some symptoms are more concerning than others. Mild abdominal cramping is rarely anything to worry about. Brown spotting can also occur in normal pregnancies, although you may still want to call your doctor. Heavy and red vaginal bleeding is a more concerning symptom.
Calculate your last menstrual period. If you are not sure whether or not you were pregnant, knowing your last menstrual period can give you the best idea of whether or not your period was late. If you had a positive pregnancy test, knowing your last menstrual period will help in interpreting your symptoms.
Take a pregnancy test. If the test is negative and was previously positive, you have had a miscarriage. If the test is still positive, your pregnancy may still be viable but you will need to check with your doctor to find out for sure.
If your pregnancy test is negative and you were not sure whether or not you were pregnant, it's impossible to tell whether or not your abnormal bleeding was a miscarriage. Report your experience to a doctor if you are worried, but your doctor may not be able to tell you with certainty whether you were pregnant either.
Call your doctor. If you are having miscarriage symptoms and are sure you're pregnant, such as if your pregnancy test was positive, your doctor can help you figure out whether your symptoms mean a miscarriage by using diagnostic tests such as hCG blood tests and ultrasound.
Have patience. The wait for test results can be terrible but sometimes doctors cannot determine immediately whether or not one set of test results means miscarriage. You may have to wait for a followup ultrasound to find out if the baby is still developing or for a repeat hCG blood test to see if your hCG levels are rising or falling. Your doctor will want to be sure of the answer before making any diagnosis of pregnancy loss.
Pregnancy symptoms can fluctuate even in a normal pregnancy. Remember that loss of pregnancy symptoms does not equal a miscarriage, although you may want to mention this to your doctor.
In early pregnancy, do not try to figure out whether you are miscarrying by taking home pregnancy tests to see if the line gets darker. Home pregnancy tests cannot accurately judge how your hCG levels are rising and the darkness of the line can vary based on the time of day and amount of water you've been drinking.
If you are Rh negative and believe you are having a miscarriage, remember that you may need a RhoGAM shot. Be sure to mention this to your doctor.
Note that this list assumes you are concerned about first-trimester miscarriage symptoms; if you are in a later stage of pregnancy and worried about miscarriage, your first step should always be to call your doctor.