Miscarriage or Period: How To Tell the Difference


The unfortunate answer is that it isn’t always easy to tell the difference–very early miscarriages are really similar to heavy periods. But, if you’re further along than about 5 weeks and someone tells you that it’ll be like a heavy period, don’t trust them.

Why is Knowing the Difference Between a Miscarriage and A Period so Hard?

We often hear that a miscarriage is “like a heavy period.” And if you lose a pregnancy within about a week of your expected period, this can be true (though it isn’t necessarily).

Period vs Miscarriage: Which Is It?

In a very early loss, many women are unsure if they’re experiencing a miscarriage or a period. There are a few things to look for to help you distinguish between the two. 

Duration of cramps

You know how long your period normally lasts; count the number of days and see if anything seems abnormal.

Amount of blood

Are you bleeding more than you normally do during a typical menstrual cycle? If the bleeding is significantly heavier, an early miscarriage is possible.

Intensity of cramps

Is your period normally this intense? Do your cramps feel more severe, or do they occur at regular intervals? These could be signs of an early miscarriage.

Presence of tissue

When you experience pregnancy loss, even early, you’ll likely pass some tissue. Passing tissue is a definite sign that this may be more than your usual period.

Blood clots

Some women pass clots during their period, but if you don’t, and you start passing clots, it could definitely be a sign of an early miscarriage. Pay attention to whether you pass clots and whether they’re larger/more frequent than normal.

What Does Miscarriage Tissue Look Like?

When you pass tissue during an early loss, it’s likely that you’re passing the gestational sac (the cavity of fluid surrounding the embryo), which is often coated in dark blood, but when cleaner, may be clearer or translucent in color.

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