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What is a threatened miscarriage?

An ongoing pregnancy associated with some bleeding is called a threatened miscarriage. The first symptoms are usually vaginal bleeding with or without mild period type pain. The bleeding can occur at any time after a missed period. It is often noticed when going to the toilet as a smear of pink, brown or red loss on the toilet paper. The amount of bleeding may vary from just spotting to a gush with clots. The diagnosis of threatened miscarriage is made with the help of an ultrasound scan. A baby’s heartbeat on ultrasound is reassuring. Sometimes the scan may show up a small blood clot around the pregnancy sac, which identifies the source of the bleeding, but more often nothing abnormal is seen. It is not possible to give an explanation as to why this bleeding occurs. In most cases the pregnancy continues safely. In the presence of a heart beat there is a 85-97% chance of your pregnancy continuing.

Do I require another scan?

We would suggest you should have another ultrasound in about one weeks time (either through your local doctor or the Mater Early Pregnancy Unit (EPAU).

Should I rest in bed?

Although bed rest was routinely advised in the past for threatened miscarriage it did not affect the outcome. If you feel that going to bed may reassure you then do go to bed. There is no specific treatment to stop your bleeding.

How long will I bleed for?

In most cases you will only notice bleeding for a few days. If, however, a collection of blood around the sac is seen on the ultrasound scan, you should expect to have ongoing bleeding for some days to weeks. The bleeding is usually darker red or brown in colour. There may be increased bleeding noted when you get up to go to the toilet. It is simply due to the pooling of blood in the vagina from lying down that comes out on standing as a result of gravity. If the bleeding becomes bright red or heavier you should ring the EPAU or your doctor.

Should I return to work?

Unless your work involves heavy manual labour, then going to work is not going to affect the outcome. If you feel that having some time off work may reassure you, then we would be happy to provide a medical certificate - please ask.

Is it safe to have sex?

Having sexual intercourse during pregnancy does not have any adverse outcomes. However, it would be sensible to avoid sex until the bleeding has completely stopped.

Contact Details

Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit
Level 7, Mater Mothers’ Hospitals
Raymond Terrace
South Brisbane Qld 4101
Telephone: 07 3163 5132


© 2013 Mater Misericordiae Ltd. ACN 096 708 922

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Last modified 03/11/2015.
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