When a woman experiences a miscarriage, the body will need to clean itself out, and how a body does that varies depending on the type and duration of the pregnancy.
The term “chemical pregnancy” is used when a miscarriage occurs very early on. Usually a woman doesn’t even know she is pregnant at this time. She may simply experience an extra heavy period. It is surmised that these early miscarriages result because the woman’s body recognizes a chromosomal abnormality and ends the pregnancy.
Once Symptoms Appear
If a miscarriage occurs once pregnancy symptoms have already begun to appear then the body may try to expel the embryo though a labor-type experience with possibly mild to severe back pain (worse than “normal” menstrual cramps), weight loss, white-pink mucus, true, painful contractions happening every 5-20 minutes, vaginal passing of tissue and clot-like material, and sudden decrease in signs of pregnancy.
Sometimes, the body doesn’t flush out the embryo and tissues on its own. Doctors don’t really know why. This is referred to as a “missed miscarriage”. Sometimes the tissues will be reabsorbed back into the mother’s body. Other times, a woman may have to be scheduled for a D&C, or dilation and curettage, as a means to surgically remove fetal or placental material. If this material is left in place too long it can result in excess bleeding, which can be life-threatening.
In the case of a stillborn, the fetus is too big for a D&C and the body will usually expel the baby “the normal way”. Stillborns are said to happen in about 1 percent of all pregnancies. Again, it’s not always clear why. Sometimes the mother will experience a perfect pregnancy right until the end and only on delivering the baby will hear that there is no heartbeat. Some mothers will go into the delivery room fully aware that there is no heartbeat. Either way, it’s extremely heartbreaking.
It was approximately four weeks between the time I received the news there was no heartbeat and the D&C was scheduled. My research on this did not unearth a medical reason or explanation as to why my body didn’t expel everything before the D&C. In all honesty, I was hoping my body wouldn’t clean itself out before the D&C happened. I didn't want to go through the bleeding and cramping and everything at home.
What occupied my mind for that four weeks though was that there was a dead baby floating inside me. One or two weeks, sure, okay. But four weeks? It was hard enough hearing that there was no heartbeat, but to physically carry that reality around for that length of time…it just seemed to drag the healing process out. And almost seemed cruel. But perhaps it happened so I could share that story with you. Perhaps there’s another mother out there who just needs to know she’s not the only one.
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Sources: www.emedicinehealth.com; American Pregnancy Association (www.americanpregnancy.org)