How to Identify a Missed Miscarriage

Updated November 21, 2016

A miscarriage is when an embryo or foetus is not carried to full term. Usually, the pregnant mother passes the embryo on her own through blood and uterine tissue. A missed miscarriage, on the other hand, is when the embryo dies, but the mother's body continues to carry it as if she were still pregnant. There is no more life, but her body is unaware. This can be painful because sometimes women don't find out they have had a missed miscarriage until after 20 weeks. This is called a late missed miscarriage. To spot a missed miscarriage before it becomes a late missed miscarriage, there are some signs and symptoms along the way.

Monitor whether you have experienced a sudden decrease in the amount of nausea you feel. Although it is normal for a woman to suddenly wake up and realise she's not nauseous at the end of her first trimester, it is a symptom to keep in mind.

Note whether you suddenly have more energy than normal. Pregnancy, in the first and last trimester especially, drains your energy. Your body focuses on growing a life inside of you so, naturally, you become tired. If you suddenly feel a burst of energy early in the pregnancy, this could be a sign of a missed miscarriage.

Wear white underwear, or a pad in your underwear, and check to see if you are passing any brown vaginal discharge. Whether this could be the start of the miscarriage, or nothing at all, it is definitely something you should keep an eye on.

Call the doctor, let her know your concerns, and schedule an appointment. No matter what, if you have concerns, you should always call your doctor or midwife. Schedule an appointment to talk to your doctor in person, or have him do a physical examination.

Listen for fetal heart tones on the Doppler or ultrasound. Most people don't have their own Doppler or ultrasound machine, so this will be done at the doctor's office. If your baby is less than 10 weeks' gestational age, you probably won't hear the heartbeat with the Doppler. Ultrasounds can detect a heartbeat as young as five weeks' gestation. If there is no heartbeat, there is no baby.


Missed miscarriages can go on for a long time if your placenta is still producing pregnancy hormones. In this case, you won't even feel a decrease in pregnancy symptoms. Only an ultrasound can tell for sure.


Don't blame yourself if you have had a missed miscarriage. Miscarriages are a natural part of life. They happen in one out of every four pregnancies, in fact.

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