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Physical Recovery After a Miscarriage or Stillbirth

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Updated May 07, 2009

The physical recovery after a miscarriage or stillbirth is different for every woman. In general, later pregnancy losses will have more physical aspects to consider in recovery than earlier/first-trimester miscarriages. Also, losses that involve a D&C or other procedures will have additional considerations.

Recovery from a Chemical Pregnancy:

With a very early miscarriage, the physical part of the miscarriage will be like a heavy menstrual period. Your vaginal bleeding may have clots and you may experience heavier than normal cramping; check with your doctor for a recommended painkiller. The bleeding should not remain heavy longer than a few days and will most likely stop entirely within two weeks.

Physically, you will probably feel normal fairly soon after the bleeding stops and your menstrual period will probably return within four to six weeks.

Recovery After Nonsurgical First-Trimester Miscarriages :

First-trimester pregnancy losses that don't involve a D&C may include large blood clots, possibly the size of golf balls. You may pass tissue fragments and a recognizable gestational sac or embryo. Your cramping may be heavy and you may need a painkiller (again, check with your doctor for recommendations). You may continue to feel pregnancy symptoms during the bleeding but they should begin to fade.

The bleeding will probably last one to two weeks and your period should return within two months.

Recovery After a D&C or D&E:

You may or may not experience vaginal bleeding after having a D&C or D&E. Your doctor will probably prescribe a painkiller to help you get through any cramping. He may also prescribe antibiotics and/or a medicine to help the uterus stay contracted to minimize bleeding. Most women are able to resume normal activities within a day or two after the procedure, but you may need to avoid tampons and sexual intercourse for about two weeks.

Recovery After Vaginal Birth:

If you had a stillbirth, you may have been medically induced. In the days following your loss, you may pass large blood clots and may have lower abdominal cramping. You may need to use a peri-bottle after using the bathroom and you may have very low physical stamina for a few days.

You may find yourself dealing with breast engorgement and a more difficult hormonal crash, which might feel like it intensifies the emotional aspects of your loss. Be sure to be easy on yourself and give yourself time to recover. As with earlier losses, you will probably be advised to avoid sexual intercourse for a period of time.

General Considerations for Physical Recovery After Pregnancy Loss:

With any miscarriage or pregnancy loss, your doctor will probably suggest that you get a RhoGAM shot if your blood type is Rh negative. This prevents your body from developing antibodies that could complicate a future pregnancy.

Be sure to follow your doctor's advice about abstaining from sexual intercourse for a set amount of time and using pads rather than tampons during the initial bleeding. This will reduce your odds of developing an infection. If you experience a fever, chills, or severe pain, contact your doctor immediately. These may be symptoms of an infection.

Your doctor may ask you to come in for a followup visit a week or two after your loss. This is a good time to bring your questions about when you can try again after a pregnancy loss or whether you need testing if you are having recurrent miscarriages.

Sources:

American Pregnancy Association, "After a Miscarriage: Physical Recovery." Oct 2003. American Pregnancy Association. Accessed 17 Oct 2007.

Mayo Clinic Staff, "Understanding miscarriage." MayoClinic.com. 27 Oct 2006. Accessed 17 Oct 2007.

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