What it’s really like to have a miscarriage; 5 women share what they wish they knew

Firstly, I’m so sorry that you’re in the position of needing to look for what it’s like to have a miscarriage. I also wish I wasn’t “qualified” to answer this question.

I’ve had multiple miscarriages and each one was a different (and equally terrible) experience.

My losses have mostly been missed miscarriages; that is, I found out at routine ultrasounds that my baby’s heartbeat had stopped beating.

From there you are given 3 options; to wait for a natural miscarriage to occur at home, to take medication to bring on the miscarriage, or to have a d&c (a surgical procedure to end the pregnancy).

If you’re reading this after your own terrible ultrasound experience and looking to how you can prepare yourself to have a miscarriage, read this article and watch the video here.

Today, I want to try and explain what it’s like to have a miscarriage at home. Again, let me stress that every miscarriage will be different for every woman, and every pregnancy. There are so many variables that can change how your experience of miscarriage goes, and unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly how yours will pan out. In my experience how far along you were in the pregnancy can impact how much “work” your body has to do to release your pregnancy.

When you have a miscarriage, it’s like giving birth. Except the joy of having a baby is replaced with the horror and trauma of birthing your baby who has died.

have a miscarriage

What it’s really like to have a miscarriage.

How does a miscarriage start?

Again, the way your miscarriage will start will be different for every woman. Some women may experience spotting or light bleeding, others will have period like cramping as well. Some will have no bleeding at first and only cramps.

For me, the official start was period like cramps that came intermittently at first and then began to get more intense and closer together (very similar to the contractions I’d experienced at the start of labour with my boys). At this point in time I also had some light bleeding and spotting.

I was able to continue going about my day looking after my boys, but I mostly chose to rest on the couch knowing my body was building up to a big release.

The cramps/ contractions built up over the course of the day until they became so intense that they took all of my attention. (Just like contractions I needed to breathe through them and mentally focus on them).

About six hours after they first started, I felt a pressure in my pelvis suddenly release. It felt like I’d wet myself but the liquid was a watery consistency tinged pink with blood. In hindsight, this was likely my waters breaking.

After this there was half an hour or so where the contractions eased.

When they began again they felt like a mix between a tummy bug (that forces you to sit on the toilet) and very painful period cramps (or labour contractions). At this point the bleeding became a lot heavier.

As I sat on the toilet I was losing a lot of blood including clots of tissue. In between contractions I would lie on the floor of the toilet trying not to pass out because the sight of blood was making me feel woozy. The contractions and blood loss built again to a peak where I passed a substantial amount. I caught this piece in my hands and it looked like a sac but I couldn’t see what part was my baby.

I felt horrified and sick holding this in my hands, but now I wish I’d given myself time to have some sort of ceremony to say goodbye to my baby.

How do you know when a miscarriage is over?

After passing this larger piece the cramps started to ease and the bleeding slowed. I was able to get myself off the toilet, clean up, shower and change my clothes.

I had what felt like mild period cramps for the next day and the bleeding continued for another week before tapering off just like a period.

What do you do if bleeding continues long after you have a miscarriage?

After some of my miscarriages the bleeding stopped after about a week and that was the end of it. After one I had spotting on and off for weeks and then about 6 weeks after the miscarriage I had a big bleed out of the blue. I went to emergency and they did an ultrasound to see that there was a small amount of pregnancy tissue that my body hadn’t been able to release. This was causing the bleeding. I felt so frustrated that after going through the pain of a natural miscarriage, I’d still needed intervention in the end anyway.

They sent me home with the medication they use to release a missed miscarriage and I remember feeling scared that I would go through the miscarriage all over again. Gratefully, this part of the process was uneventful. I took the tablets, passed one small clot that evening and then after a few days the bleeding stopped entirely.

What I wish I knew before I had a miscarriage

I wish I’d known how genuinely shocking it is to pass that much blood, especially on your own. At least during birth you’re supported by midwives in a hospital setting (if you choose this of course). Whereas with a miscarriage it’s a very lonely experience.

My husband wasn’t even with me because all of my miscarriages have happened after we already had children. He has always been looking after them and keeping them away from me while I’ve miscarried. The utter devastation of having to go through what is essentially a birth, but without the baby at the end, is the most painful part.

I also asked my Online Yoga Circle Community to share what they wish they’d known about what it’s like to have a miscarriage. Here’s what they said:

“I wish I’d been told what it would really be like. I was initially told to go home, put my feet up and try not to think about it. I was told it would be like a heavy period. It was not. I wish I’d been prepared for what would physically happen.

I was shocked by the amount of bleeding, the size of the clots and also the sheer amount of pain. I was 9 weeks when I had my first miscarriage and having now had a successful birth I realise what I was experiencing was labour. It was nothing like a painful period. The amount of bleeding and pain, coupled with the fact I had no idea if this was ‘normal’ made the whole thing much scarier.

I now know not every miscarriage experience is the same, but some preparation for how it could be would have prepared me so much better. It was also terrifying for my husband. Some of the miscarriages I’ve had at an earlier gestation have been less painful but always very heavy bleeding.” – Gemma

“I was not ready emotionally for all the physical stuff that happened during the miscarriage. I was at home, couldn’t go anywhere and it started late at night. So basically I was on the toilet constantly. By the morning, I hadn’t slept, had no energy and broke down in tears that I can no longer do this and there can’t be anything more and bigger than what I had passed.

That was the end, but not really. A piece didn’t detach, so a few months after this horrific experience, they performed surgery (not a d&c), to surgically remove some retained products of conception. They had to put me under anesthesia. The doctor said if we don’t do this procedure your body will think you’re pregnant and you won’t conceive again. The whole thing was so hard. I was 3 days away from 12 weeks.” – Simona

“I wish I’d known that it doesn’t matter how early the loss, you’re still allowed to grieve.” – Blaise

“No one can prepare you for the grief and emptiness you’ll feel, how often you’ll wonder what you did wrong, and how much anxiety you’ll have for any subsequent pregnancies. It is such a lonely time, and I’ll never understand why more women don’t share their experiences loudly for others to know they are not alone.” – Joni

“You will feel grief at seemingly random times years afterward that no one else will feel – even my husband. It’s isolating. I miscarried at 7 weeks & believe baby was a girl. My mother in law in her late 50s still thinks about her miscarriage, so it never goes away.

Also being vulnerable and sharing my experience has helped me, but also other women who were silent reached out to me at the time of my miscarriage and even to this day.” – Elizabeth

Where to next?

If you’ve just been told that your baby has no heartbeat read this post on your options after a missed miscarriage.

Read this one to learn how to prepare yourself to have a miscarriage.

If you’re feeling up for some gentle movement while you wait for your miscarriage to start you can practise this yoga class with me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *