Vaginal bleeding indicates changes in a woman’s body. From menarche to menstruation and implantation bleeding to a miscarriage, there could be several causes of vaginal bleeding. During the early days of pregnancy, when you might not know you are pregnant, confusing a heavy period with a miscarriage is common. Not recognizing a miscarriage can adversely affect the health of women who should medical care/intervention for miscarriage. Alternatively, sometimes light spotting during early pregnancy can be mistaken for a miscarriage. So, if you are trying for pregnancy or think you are pregnant, here are the differences between a miscarriage and a heavy period that you should know.

What Is The Difference Between Miscarriage And Period?

Period or miscarriage? You can may be able to identify the case based on the timing, duration, appearance of vaginal blood, and secondary symptoms. Nevertheless, consulting your doctor is the best action.

  • Timing
    A period occurs every 28-35 days and lasts 3-7 days, whereas miscarriage occurs only after fertilization. Both period and a miscarriage may begin with spotting and lead to heavy bleeding. However, you are more likely to think of pregnancy loss as a period during the first two months of pregnancy.

  • Duration
    Unless you have had hormonal issues such as PCOD/PCOS, you know how heavy and long your period typically is. However, in case of a miscarriage, the duration, cramps (because of dilating cervix), and blood loss increase over time.

  • Appearance of vaginal blood
    Period blood has shades of orange and pink at the beginning and darkens to bright red and maroon when the flow is heavy. Besides, the typical period flow cycle follows the light-heavy-light pattern. On the other hand, vaginal blood during a miscarriage may appear pink or red initially and turn coffee-brown when the bleeding gets heavier. The flow may alternate between light, medium, and heavy and may even stop temporarily before restarting. You cannot see the egg being expelled during your period. Similarly, fetal or placental tissue may not be visible to the naked eye when the miscarriage occurs before you are eight weeks pregnant.

  • Secondary symptoms
    Alongside bleeding, period causes cramps, bloating, hot flashes, chills, tender breasts, and mood changes. Miscarriage also causes some of these symptoms. However, in this case, bleeding, lower back ache, and cramps typically worsen over time. Larger-than-normal blood clots, tissue, and passing fluids are also not uncommon when you miscarry. If you use a tampon or a pad every hour for more than two hours, it is more likely to be a miscarriage.

How Do You Confirm A Miscarriage?

If you suspect a miscarriage, visit your OBGYN at the earliest. Usually, a pelvic exam and a transvaginal ultrasound are done to check if there is any residual fetal matter. If the latter is the case, the doctor may prescribe medicines to help expel the tissue or dilate the cervix to scrape the uterine lining (D&C, a dilation and curettage) or remove fetal or placental tissue through suction (D&E, a dilation and evacuation).

How To Cope After A Miscarriage?

Grief, shock, failure, and guilt are emotions that one may experience after a miscarriage. However, the path forward is to take time to grieve and come to terms with the loss. Sharing your feelings with your partner may also help. If you are coping with a miscarriage single-handedly, consider talking to your friends and family members. Counseling is also recommended to get your life back on track after a pregnancy loss.

The Bottomline

The symptoms of a miscarriage or heavy period may overlap. However, factors like duration, timing, amount of blood loss, and secondary symptoms may help you differentiate between the two. Visit your doctor as soon as possible if you think you have had a miscarriage.