While miscarriage isn’t uncommon — about 10 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — the details of a miscarriage can vary widely. Some women miscarry before even knowing they’re pregnant, some women wake up bleeding, some women go into a sonogram without a clue anything might be wrong. Below, seven women discuss the end of a pregnancy.
My understanding is that the chance of miscarriage drops significantly after you hear the baby’s heartbeat. In my case, it didn’t matter — I’d heard the heartbeat just a few days before. I was seven weeks, four days pregnant.
I bled heavily and consistently for the next two weeks, then went in to make sure everything had cleared. It had not. This is what’s called a “missed abortion,” when the embryo dies but does not clear; there’s also a “spontaneous abortion” when the embryo clears, or an “incomplete abortion” when only part of it does. At that point, my doctor suggested a D&C, which is also known as an abortion. One thing I learned is that everything is called an abortion.
I’d had a D&C before — it is not fun. It’s painful and violent. I remember once listening to a male politician talk about how women should be punished for having an abortion. I think what people don’t understand is that the punishment for having an abortion is the abortion. I did the D&C the day before my birthday, a little more than two weeks after I’d started cramping. I was a wreck for a while. As it had before, the procedure left me with what I can only characterize as a biological loneliness. It’s a unique and very bad feeling and takes some time to process.
Another thing I learned is that most OBs will not run any diagnostic tests on a woman until after she’s had two or sometimes three consecutive miscarriages. This is because the majority of women who miscarry once will go on to have a healthy baby. But that means that those who miscarry because there is a problem have to suffer through the loss multiple times. This seems cruel to me. When I learned about it, my first thought was, Where are the Pro-Lifers when you need them?
After a D&C it can take six to ten weeks to get your period again. Once you do, you can start trying for another pregnancy. We waited and when we could, we tried again. I am now a little over nine weeks pregnant and everything seems to be going well. Regardless, every cramp or twinge of pain is a mild panic attack. Every feeling of discharge sends me running to the bathroom to check for blood. It’s hard to trust your body after a miscarriage, and it’s hard to trust the baby. Each day that passes, though, it gets a little better. I think once I’m out of the first trimester, I’ll allow myself to get excited. Until then, fingers crossed.
I was ten weeks pregnant when I found out it was a blighted ovum, where the embryo never forms inside the gestational sac. But the doctor didn’t want to make any decisions based on one ultrasound, so she had me come back a week later for a follow-up. It was a really long, shitty week. I felt like I was waiting for my insides to explode.
Once the blighted ovum was confirmed, I arranged to take a day off work to have the surgical procedure, a uterine aspiration. I did inform my boss, who was sympathetic (she’s a mother herself and directs the nursery school center where I work). I’m grateful to work in a place where these kinds of events are viewed as normal.
Afterward, I struggled with my own isolation. It’s a cold hard whiplash, and it can mess with you. It’s hard to explain that to anyone who’s not experienced it.
We were at one of my best friend’s destination weddings when my husband and I found out I was pregnant. We’d only been trying for two months — I’d brought a pregnancy test with me on the trip just in case and decided to take it the morning of the rehearsal. After it came out positive, my husband and I were so excited. We walked around town and found a cute onesie with the name of the island on it, thinking it would be a fun reminder of where we were when we found out we were going to have a baby.
I was at my very first doctor’s appointment, at eight weeks, when I found out something might be wrong. During the ultrasound, she could see a yolk sack but nothing in it. She said it was either too early to see anything and we were fine, or it had stopped developing. She said the only thing to do was to wait another two weeks and then have another ultrasound.
Those two weeks crawled by. I couldn’t exercise, which was hard — that’s normally how I relieve my anxiety. Basically, I spent two weeks on the couch, eating takeout and watching Netflix every night after work. I gained almost ten pounds.
We did the second ultrasound at 11 weeks. I knew something was wrong when the ultrasound tech said she was going to go get the doctor on call. He came in and told us there had been no development and I was having a “missed miscarriage.” Basically, you’ve miscarried but your body doesn’t recognize it yet so it doesn’t release anything. (You can also continue to get pregnancy symptoms for weeks afterward, which was happening to me.) The minute the doctor left the room I lost it. I hugged my husband and sobbed. Walking out of that room was so uncomfortable. Everyone was trying not to look at us, but well aware of the news we just got.
I saw my OB shortly after and she said I could have a D&C right away or wait a week to see if my body released it on its own. A D&C (dilation and curettage) is a surgical procedure where they open your cervix and remove any unwanted tissue. It’s an outpatient surgery and considered minor but they do put you under.
I was really hoping it would happen naturally. My doctor didn’t want me to wait any longer than a week because there’s a risk of infection. Unfortunately, nothing happened.
I had to take a day off of work for the procedure. My doctor also didn’t want me to travel for at least a week afterward, just to make sure no infection developed. I had a work trip planned the following week, so I had to tell my boss what was happening and why I couldn’t travel. I also had to tell my client. Both conversations were very uncomfortable. I tried not to get emotional, but I couldn’t help it.
The actual D&C was pretty painless. My husband and sister-in-law came with me, the doctors put me under for less than an hour, and when I woke up it was over. I bled for about a week after and then I was fine.
In hindsight, what I experienced was incredibly trivial compared to fertility issues other women experience. But at the time, I felt very alone and ashamed. In my head, I was imagining the worst — that this was going to be the beginning of a long struggle to conceive and maybe it would never happen.
Fast-forward to today: My son is about to turn 1. I’m also newly pregnant with our second baby. This second one was an oops, but I will not take that for granted. We are extremely lucky to be able to have children. I will always remember that.
I miscarried at about 8 weeks along. Honestly, I was 19, a college student, and I wasn’t even sure if I would keep it. My boyfriend and I had just gone long-distance, so I hadn’t even told him yet.
I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling like I’d wet the bed. But when I got up, there was blood everywhere. I immediately panicked and called a friend for a ride to the hospital. By the time they were able to see me in the emergency room, several hours had passed, and there was nothing the doctors could do except give me painkillers to ease the cramps.
I took time off work, but I told my male bosses it was for a family emergency. At the time, I was working three jobs. When I told my female employers I’d miscarried, they were all extremely understanding. One of them even gave me a book on handling miscarriages — I learned she had miscarried two years prior. We really bonded, and I leaned on her through some of my darkest times. I never thought I would be so grateful for my employer, but she was absolutely incredible to me, both on and off the clock.
Miscarrying was terrifying, but it also felt like a huge pressure had been taken off my shoulders because the decision was no longer in my hands. It felt like the universe’s way of saying, “You’re not ready to be a mother yet.” I had a lot of guilt for feeling that way too — I wasn’t sure about motherhood, but I was acting like a pregnant woman, taking prenatal vitamins and not eating certain foods.
This was almost three years ago, and it wasn’t until the past four months that I started telling people. Right after it happened, I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone — I was afraid my friends and family would think I was lying to cover up getting an abortion, which is extremely taboo in my hometown. I never told my boyfriend; eventually, I decided to break up with him because I felt like something was broken in our relationship. I was only able to realize this as a result of being afraid to tell him I had been pregnant in the first place.
I haven’t been pregnant since then, nor do I plan on becoming pregnant in the near future. I just wish women talked about this more, because when it happened to me, I felt absolutely alone, like my body had turned against me. I’ve since learned that most of my friends have had miscarriages too.
My husband and I were thrilled when we got pregnant on our first try last fall — with twins! But the news wasn’t uncomplicated: I found out I was carrying twins during an ultrasound when I was about nine weeks along. One of the babies was much smaller than the other. The doctor told me that there were a couple of possible scenarios: Best case, the tiny one would catch up and I’d have twins. It was also possible the tiny one could be reabsorbed, which is apparently fairly common early on, and the other one would be fine. Worst case, the tiny one would drain resources from the larger one and they would both die. I had to come back in ten days for another ultrasound to check on their progress.
When I went back, the minute the ultrasound pictures were up on the screen, I knew my babies were dead. We couldn’t see any heartbeats and they didn’t look any larger than when I was there before. It happened to be just two days before my birthday — happy birthday to me. The doctor told us our options: a D&C, medication to induce the miscarriage, or wait for nature to do it’s thing. We decide to just let nature take its course.
What the doctor did not really explain well was how long I might have to wait and what having a miscarriage would actually be like, physically. I had no idea what to expect, other than that it would be like a heavy period. Two weeks passed without anything happening. On Halloween night, my husband and I carved pumpkins, watched scary movies, and ate candy. Just as the movie ended, I started having cramps that felt like my period. I went to the bathroom and realized my miscarriage was happening. And it was by far the bloodiest, scariest Halloween I have ever had.
The amount of blood and tissue that comes out of you during a miscarriage is no joke — I didn’t understand that it wouldn’t just be one big gush. I was basically chained to the toilet for the next eight hours, frantically Googling what was normal and what was not. The only pads I had in the apartment were ones I had just bought for my middle-school students, the slim kind for teens. My husband had to run out and buy me overnight pads once I bled all over our bed and ran through the teen ones (which I fashioned into a kind of diaper to line the entirety of my underwear). Eventually, I could time when the next big gush would come, so I could get some sleep — still, I ended up sleeping on the bathroom floor for a few hours. I called in sick to work that next day, as did my husband (who was supposed to go to Chicago for a business trip). He took great care of me. We just slept all day and cried.
The strangest thing about miscarrying was the way people reacted when I talked about it. There were people like my sisters, or my best friend, who were so supportive even though they had never been through a miscarriage and didn’t really know what to say. They let me just talk and didn’t really ask questions or offer advice, which was what I needed. I talked about it with a few co-workers in a very straightforward way and found out that two of them had experienced miscarriages too — and talking to them made me feel so much less alone and scared. But there were some people, friends I’ve had for years, who really just could not handle it at all. They would immediately turn white and change the subject. That was really hard to manage — feeling so pushed away from a friend when I was trying to show that I really needed to talk about it. And there was no telling who would react in which manner, so I kept my news pretty tight to the chest and only told a handful of people. I never told my parents or my husband’s parents, which made the holidays pretty awkward — I was still pretty emotional and kept retreating to a bedroom. Over Thanksgiving weekend I cried uncontrollably at a museum with my mother-in-law. I have no idea how my husband explained that one.
Once I recovered physically, which took about five weeks, we started trying again and luckily, got pregnant again very quickly. I took my next positive pregnancy test exactly three months after I found out my pregnancy was over. This time around, I’ve had a very uncomplicated pregnancy — and am having a baby boy sometime in the next two weeks.
Now that my baby boy is almost here, I often think about the twins who I could have had. I talk to him about them. I miss them. The thing is, even though I was just a few weeks along when they died, I still think of them as my babies. They don’t have names and I don’t know if they were boys or girls, but they were mine and I love them.
I miscarried twice, both within the first trimester. The first time I miscarried, it was discovered during our first appointment, when there was no heartbeat detected. I hadn’t told any of my family that I was pregnant — we had hoped to surprise them with the good news in person. We wound up telling them during a phone call from the hospital, where we had gone for a D&C procedure. The second time, I did tell people I was pregnant.
The first miscarriage was disappointing, but we figured it was part of the process of becoming pregnant in your late 30s. The second time we had already heard a heartbeat, so we thought we were in the clear … we were blindsided when we went for an ultrasound and there was no longer a heartbeat. That was pretty devastating. We felt a little unlucky to have lost one pregnancy, but hadn’t expected to lose a second — and we thought the risk was very low after hearing a healthy heartbeat. I can’t remember the last time I sobbed so hard.
My husband and I were both completely traumatized after that ultrasound — I didn’t want to get near that doctor’s office ever again. I can still remember the look on the doctor’s face when she told us the news.
I had D&C procedures both times. I didn’t tell anyone but my closest friends at work, and just took off the minimum days to physically recover — I scheduled the procedure for end of the work week so I’d have the weekend to rest.
For the most part, I hadn’t told people I was pregnant in the first place, so I didn’t tell them I had miscarried. Being in my late 30s, I didn’t want to assume that we were able to have a healthy pregnancy, so I didn’t tell people we were trying to have a kid — I didn’t want my life story to become “the person who wanted a child but couldn’t ever have one.” I wanted to feel happy with my life whether or not I had kids, and I wanted to have people see me as happy with my child-free life rather than feel pity. As part of the pregnancy and healing process, my husband and I always talked about “what-ifs” — if we don’t have kids, how will we spend the next part of our lives? What will our next adventure be if it’s not parenthood? We started to come up with ideas for traveling and living abroad, animal rescue, developing more of our hobbies.
We decided that after two miscarriages, we were were up for one more try with pregnancy, and that we’d probably let it go if it didn’t work on round three. I was incredibly anxious throughout the pregnancy. I didn’t spread the news to people beyond my close friends and family until around 20 weeks — I wanted to be as sure as possible that things were proceeding okay. I wound up seeing a doctor who specialized in fertility for the first trimester, with the hopes that she’d help get the pregnancy started off well. She had me taking blood thinner shots daily, so my stomach was a constant black-and-blue mess, and I was on a prescription prenatal vitamin. It felt like magic when things worked out.
Every week that went by I felt a little more confident and comfortable with the pregnancy, but honestly, until I held the baby in my arms, it still always felt unreal, like it could be taken away from me at any moment. The pregnancy produced so much anxiety for me that even those first few difficult weeks of parenthood felt like a (relative) breeze. What’s the opposite of postpartum depression … ? Despite recovering from a C-section, I felt so elated, so grateful for having the baby I didn’t know I’d ever have.
My first miscarriage felt like a medical occurrence. I was four months pregnant when I started having cramps. In the middle of the night, I went to the bathroom and gelatinous mass slid out from me. The pain bent me double, and then was gone. I fell sideways on to the floor, vomited, and then passed out. When I woke up, still in a state of shock, I flushed the toilet. I called my husband to take me to the hospital. It felt as if there had never been a baby, as if someone had played a cruel hoax.
But the second miscarriage was different. That time I was almost five months pregnant. My pain did not feel like cramps: It felt like contractions. I went into the hospital with blood running down my legs. The doctor reached up inside me, pulling and twisting. The pain I felt from his hands was incredible. Not once did he touch my arm, look me in the eyes, or tell me he was sorry. Finally, he backed away, pulling off his rubber gloves. The head was still inside me, but the body was dangling between my legs. “I’m going to have to stop pulling on the fetus,” he said. “Or I may sever the head from the body.” He increased my dosage of Pitocin and told me we would have to wait for my body “to do its work.” Then he left me there on the table.
I lay there, listening to the moans of another woman in labor next door. My husband put his arm around me, stroked my hair. He would tell me later that he had stood by helplessly. The whole thing had felt wrong, but he didn’t know what to do. In the months following, when I stopped being able to eat or sleep, he would ask me if he had failed to protect me that day. But he hadn’t failed me. It was just that the miscarriage had broke me open.