Miscarriage and Stillbirth Signs by Trimester

Pregnant woman holding a sonogram of a baby

A miscarriage is a loss of pregnancy during the first 20 weeks of gestation, with most occurring during the first 13 weeks, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Anywhere between 10 to 25 percent of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. Recognizing the signs will allow you to seek the medical care you need.

Miscarriage Signs in the First Trimester

The earliest miscarriages may occur without the mother ever knowing she was pregnant. Signs of very early miscarriage may be minimal or difficult to detect, and may be mistaken for a very heavy, late period. As your pregnancy progresses into the third month, however, miscarriage signs are much more noticeable.

According to the British National Health Service, vaginal bleeding is the most common sign of miscarriage. Unfortunately, this symptom can be tricky and may cause pregnant women undue stress. Light spotting or bleeding is often a normal part of the first 12 weeks of a healthy pregnancy, so it may not indicate miscarriage. That's why it's important if you experience any bleeding at all during pregnancy to talk with your obstetrician or midwife. He or she can assess your individual situation and take appropriate measures to protect your health.

According to the Mayo Clinic, other signs of miscarriage in the first trimester include:

Sad Young Woman With Pregnancy Test At Home

Vaginal Discharge

According to the Mayo Clinic, passing fluid or tissue vaginally may be indicative of pregnancy loss. The tissue may or may not be present with blood. Some signs to look for include:

  • Passing a large amount of fluid suddenly
  • Passing a pinkish fluid or discharge
  • Passing large pieces of tissue or pink tissue discharge
  • Passing light pink or gray material

While all of these symptoms may actually just be signs of hormonal changes associated with a healthy pregnancy, they may also indicate trouble. Stay in close contact with your health care provider, seek regular check-ups, and call immediately if you feel something is amiss.

Miscarriage In the Second Trimester

American Family Physician states pregnancy loss in the second trimester is a rare occurrence that is considered miscarriage until 20 weeks gestation. Second trimester miscarriage occurs in approximately 1 to 5 percent of pregnancies.

Symptoms Similar to First Trimester

Many of the symptoms may be the same as first trimester miscarriage, including:

  • Bleeding
  • Back pain
  • Cramping
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Passing clots or tissue

These symptoms may be much more severe in second trimester miscarriage, and require immediate medical attention. Healthline notes that if you are having severe abdominal pain, soaking more than a pad an hour, or passing clots and clumps that may be gray or pink, you need to seek immediate medical attention.

Leaking Fluid

BabyMed notes that a woman experiencing a second trimester miscarriage may notice leaking amniotic fluid. This could occur all in a rush, or it could be a slow leak. It may be difficult to distinguish amniotic fluid leakage from urinary incontinence; however, there are some differences. Some signs of amniotic fluid leakage include:

  • The fluid has a slightly slippery feel.
  • Fluid leaks a little bit every time you stand up.
  • The National Institutes of Health states leaking amniotic fluid does not smell like urine. Instead, it smells slightly sweet.
  • The fluid is colorless or tinged a light pink color.
  • Fluid soaks a sanitary pad in an hour.

If you believe you are leaking amniotic fluid, call your doctor. He or she can perform a test to determine whether it is amniotic fluid or urine.

Missing Fetal Heartbeat

The baby's heartbeat can often be detected in the first trimester. If the physician is unable to pick up the heartbeat during the second trimester, it may be a sign of something called a missed miscarriage or silent miscarriage. This type of miscarriage occurs when the fetus dies but the body doesn't recognize fetal death and fails to dispel tissue. In some cases, missing fetal heartbeat is the only symptom this has occurred.

Pregnant couple having sonogram

Lack of Fetal Movement

WebMD notes that expectant mothers will begin to feel the baby move between 16 and 23 weeks. Before 20 weeks, the movement may feel like fluttering butterflies, or you may not notice any movement at all. The movements may be intermittent and infrequent between 16 and 23 weeks.

If you do not feel your baby move before 24 weeks, it's probably not cause for concern. However, if you've been feeling fetal movement and it goes away for a several days, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor to ensure the pregnancy is healthy.


Generally, a baby's death after 20 weeks is referred to as a stillbirth and not as a miscarriage. According to WebMD, stillbirth usually occurs without warning. The following signs may indicate there is a problem.

  • Heavy cramping or contractions
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Lack of fetal movement
  • Lack of fetal development

The signs accompanying the labor and birth of a stillborn baby will closely resemble the early labor symptoms of a full-term pregnancy. This may or may not be preceded by the pregnant mother noticing a difference in the amount of fetal movement. Any time you don't feel the baby move for long periods of time, give your practitioner a call, especially in the last four to six weeks of pregnancy.

When to Call Your Doctor

While any of these signs of miscarriage will make pregnant women worry, it's important to stay calm and call your provider when you need help. In the second and third trimesters, call your doctor at once or seek emergency medical care if you notice any of these symptoms.

Knowing the Signs

While it is important to recognize the signs of miscarriage so you can seek care when necessary, it's equally important you stay calm. Stress isn't good for you or the baby. One of the best ways to remain calm is to seek top notch prenatal care as soon as you discover you're pregnant and contact your care provider when you have cause for concern.

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Miscarriage and Stillbirth Signs by Trimester