Differences Between Early Miscarriage and Normal Period

| Reviewed By Amanda Lundberg, BSN, RN

The majority of miscarriages occur during the first trimester, or first 13 weeks, of pregnancy. In some instances, a miscarriage may occur before a woman is aware that she has become pregnant.

It can be difficult to distinguish an early miscarriage from a normal period. If your period arrives a little later than expected, you may be asking yourself:

Did I miscarry or is it my period? Early miscarriages and periods have very similar symptoms. If your period is over a week late, it is possible that you miscarried. The only way to know for sure is to visit your doctor and have a blood test that can detect HCG in your blood and confirm a pregnancy loss. 

In this article, we will discuss what to expect if you are having a miscarriage, signs of miscarriage in both early and later pregnancy, and how to move forward if you suspect a miscarriage. 

Common Signs of Miscarriage

Miscarriages look different for everyone, but there are some common signs that can be an indicator that something is wrong.

These symptoms could also occur without miscarriage and, therefore, if you experience any of these symptoms while pregnant, it is important to contact your healthcare provider right away. 

1. Vaginal Spotting or Bleeding

A miscarriage will always be accompanied by bleeding, and this is usually your first sign that something is wrong. The bleeding may begin as light spotting or brownish discharge and may change to heavier bleeding or clots. 

The color of the blood can range from pink to red to brown. Red blood is fresh blood that is leaving the body quickly, and brown blood is older blood that has been in the uterus for a while. 

The amount of bleeding that occurs will depend on your health, medical history, and how far into the pregnancy you are. The bleeding that accompanies a miscarriage is usually much heavier than the bleeding you experience during a period. 

Light spotting or bleeding can happen during pregnancy and is not always a cause for concern. Heavy bleeding, however, is not usually a good sign.

Any sign of vaginal bleeding while pregnant should be taken seriously and discussed with your healthcare provider. 

How Long Does Bleeding Last After Miscarriage? 

Bleeding from a miscarriage can end quickly or last a few weeks. The heaviest bleeding is usually over within 3-5 hours of starting; however, lighter bleeding can last up to two weeks before it completely ends. 

2. Abdominal Cramping

Abdominal cramps are another symptom of miscarriage. Miscarriage cramping can be a lot stronger and more severe than menstrual cramps for some women. For others, they may feel very similar to period cramps. 

3. Lower Back Pain

You may feel pain or cramping in your lower back while having a miscarriage. This is similar to how you may feel while menstruating, but it is often a bit more painful if you are having a miscarriage. 

4. Passing of Tissue

During a miscarriage, the body expels all of the contents of the uterus and the uterine lining. In addition to bleeding, you may also pass tissue and large clots. The tissue might be grayish in color or dark red/brown. 

It is likely that you will pass more tissue and bigger clots the farther along you are in your pregnancy. A fetus at 14 weeks is much bigger than a 5-week-old fetus, so there may be more bleeding and tissue loss with a later miscarriage. 

5. Fluid Discharge

In addition to bleeding, some women notice a discharge of fluid from their vagina during an early pregnancy loss. The fluid is often clear or pale pink.

6. Decrease of Pregnancy Symptoms

It is possible to experience an early pregnancy loss without having any of these painful symptoms right away.

Some women say that they no longer felt pregnant, and that was their sign that something wasn’t right. Pregnancy symptoms often decrease before or during a miscarriage. 

How Early Can You Miscarry?

A miscarriage can happen at any point after conception. Early miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Some women miscarry before they realize they are pregnant.

These miscarriages are called silent miscarriages, and they are very common.  Sometimes, a woman may miscarry and not realize it until her first ultrasound. 

What Does Miscarriage Blood Look Like?

Miscarriage blood can vary. It can range from pink to red to brown in color and can be light spotting or heavy bleeding. There may also be black discharge similar to coffee grounds, tissues, and clots in miscarriage blood.

Difference Between Miscarriage and Period Clots

Miscarriage clots are typically larger, and there will be more of them than those you experience during a period. There may also be pregnancy loss tissue that is bigger than typical period clots. 

Chemical Pregnancy or Period?

A chemical pregnancy occurs when a woman conceives but miscarries within the first five weeks of being pregnant because the embryo stops developing soon after implantation. 

A chemical pregnancy miscarriage usually occurs around the time of an expected menstrual period, usually no more than a week later.

Most women who experience one do not even realize that they have conceived and often believe that they just had a late period.

However, because chemical pregnancies do produce enough HCG to elicit a positive pregnancy test, some women do find out they are pregnant if they take an early test. 

It is called a chemical pregnancy because the only way to confirm the pregnancy is through blood tests as the gestational sac is not large enough to see on ultrasound.

While you might expect a chemical pregnancy loss to have much stronger symptoms than a period, it is often very similar or the same as a normal period.

The main difference will be the timing as chemical pregnancy miscarriages usually occur a bit later, often a week later, than your expected period. 

Chemical pregnancy bleeding may be slightly heavier, and you may experience more cramping than usual, but it is not generally much different than a normal period. 

When Does a Chemical Pregnancy Occur?

Chemical pregnancies usually occur within the first five weeks of gestation before a gestational sac or any evidence of pregnancy is visible on ultrasound. 

What Does Chemical Pregnancy Bleeding Look Like?

Because chemical pregnancy losses occur so early in pregnancy, the bleeding will not look much different than a normal period.

There will likely not be tissues or clots like there are in miscarriages that occur later on in pregnancy. 

What To Do if You Suspect a Miscarriage

If you think you are having a miscarriage, you should call your doctor or midwife for advice or support.

They will likely have you visit the office or the hospital to confirm the miscarriage and give you guidance for managing the end of the pregnancy. 

Related Questions: 

When To Expect Period After Chemical Pregnancy?

Most women who have a chemical pregnancy will have a period four to six weeks later. 

When Do HCG Levels Drop After Miscarriage?

During a miscarriage, the body halts the production of HCG. This causes the levels to fall continuously until they reach their pre-pregnancy baseline, but it does not happen all at once.

Depending on how far along in pregnancy a miscarriage occurred, it can take up to six weeks for HCG levels to return to normal. 

Closing Thoughts 

No matter when it occurs, a miscarriage can be difficult to navigate both physically and emotionally.

If you are experiencing or have experienced a miscarriage, remember that you should not endure it alone. Reach out to your loved ones and those around you for the support you need.