Spontaneous abortion is a very common experience for women. It
is estimated that between 25-50% of conceptions spontaneously
abort. Researchers do not have an exact figure due to the fact that
when this occurs very early on, many women do not know that they
were ever pregnant.
Many other women have a suspicion that they were pregnant and
aborted, but are not certain. A late, heavy, painful "period" is often
what is experienced in a mid-first trimester spontaneous abortion.
Some women will see large clots or tissue clumps. The woman
may have also felt some of the symptoms of early pregnancy
beforehand. (see The Symptoms of Pregnancy).
The only ways to be certain is to have a blood (as opposed to
urine) pregnancy test immediately after the symptoms and a pelvic
ultrasound. The blood test confirms the pregnancy in its earliest
stages, and the ultrasound confirms that there is no longer an
embryo. Alternatively, if there is a large clot or piece of tissue, it
can be analyzed in the lab to see whether or not it is an embryo.
The majority of women who spontaneously abort do not have either
of these procedures done. And most need little or no medical
intervention. In most cases, the uterine lining sheds itself and all the
embrionic tissues from the body. The woman's hormones will
revert back to the non-pregnant, menstrual cycle shortly after. The
majority of women have no damage whatsoever, regardless of
whether or not they know for certain. In fact, the cases which are
uncertain have a lower rate of complications, because these
usually occur at an early stage, when it is easier for the body to
clear the abortion by itself.
In some cases, the embryo or fetus may be only partially expelled.
Also the spot on the uterine wall where it was attached may
continue to bleed. Infections and excessive bleeding are the main
complications of spontaneous abortion. If the woman experiences
pelvic pain, heavy vaginal bleeding, or the symptoms of an
infection (fever, malaise) she should go to an emergency room.
These can be treated relatively easy with antibiotics and/or a D&C
(a minor surgery to remove the uterine lining and any remaining
embryonic fragments) and other medications. In the vast majority
of even the complicated cases, there are no long term effects.
As spontaneous abortion is so common, a woman should not
worry about her future fertility if this occurs once or twice. While it is
very emotional to experience each time, unless it occurs more than
three times in a row there is no reason to think it is due to anything
other than bad luck.