What does threatened miscarriage actually mean?

The term ‘threatened miscarriage’ is used by medical practitioners when you are pregnant and experiencing bleeding.

The term itself sounds a bit threatening really and bleeding during pregnancy can be very distressing.

Threatened miscarriage is said to be the most common complication in early pregnancy. It is thought that 20% of women experience bleeding in pregnancy before 20 weeks.

morning sickness starts and stops

What can cause bleeding during pregnancy?

Sometimes doctors can determine a cause for the bleeding, and sometimes they can’t.

Sometimes bleeding in pregnancy can be a symptom of something serious like a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.

At 8 weeks pregnant, on a Tuesday night, I started bleeding. It got heavier and heavier and I started cramping as well. My scan showed no heartbeat. It was devastating.

I’ve since gone on to have a beautiful baby girl.
– Talia

I was at work one day when I had some light spotting, I would have been 6w 1d. I saw my OB and they did a scan and said it was a threatened miscarriage. A week later it all went wrong. Spotting turned into bleeding which turned into cramping. Then I miscarried. I’m heartbroken.
– Jaz

Sometimes a scan may show a small blood clot around the pregnancy sac. This is called a ‘subchorionic haematoma’. A clot can continue to bleed intermittently during the first trimester and usually does not cause a miscarriage. They often disappear by the second trimester.

I bled on and off throughout my entire pregnancy and it was terrifying. I thought I would lose my baby every single time it happened.  I was told I had a subchorionic hemorrhage and I also ended being diagnosed with placenta previa and other problems. My baby is now 18 months old and very happy and healthy.
– Casey
I bled with mild cramps with my second and third pregnancy during my first trimester. Both classified as a threatened miscarriage. It’s a horrible term. My kids stuck it out and both of them arrived full term! So a very happy ending to my threatened miscarriage story.
– Libby
When I was five weeks pregnant I had a large gush of blood with clots and everything. I went to the ED, they did a scan and bloods and said it was a threatened miscarriage. No cause found. Well here I am feeding my little threatened miscarriage baby while I write this.
– Tracey

There can also be other causes of bleeding that have nothing to do with pregnancy. Things like benign polyps, infection or changes in the cervix.

Will the bleeding hurt my baby?

Early bleeding that does not lead to miscarriage will not harm your baby.

Many women who experience bleeding during pregnancy go on to have a beautiful healthy baby.

When I was about 6 weeks pregnant I started to bleed heavily with huge clots. I panicked and went to the ER. The doctor said I have a threatened miscarriage, but that my cervix is still closed.  Nothing showed up on the scan and HCG blood test results were fine.  It was the scariest moment of my pregnancy. My son is now about to celebrate his first birthday!
– Emma

Is it like having your period?

The amount of bleeding can vary. Some women experience spotting. Some women experience an actual gush with clots. If you do experience bleeding (especially a gush) get medical advise right way.

Sometimes there is also mild period type pain with the bleeding. Sometimes there is no pain at all.

A few days before my 12 week scan I was lying in bed and felt dampness. I realised I had been bleeding and went to the loo where I had a bright red heavy gush with no clots. I had a little bit of cramping too.  I went for a scan the next day and the foetus was apparently happy and healthy. They found no explanation for the bleed. I went on to have a problem free pregnancy and healthy baby.
– Tania, 2015

threatened miscarriage

What do you need to do if you start bleeding?

If you have any bleeding at any time during your pregnancy, contact a health professional, so that appropriate investigation and treatment can be started.

A lot of the time bleeding is not caused by something serious, but it’s very important to get medical advice and investigate the cause.

Doctors may give you a vaginal examination, an ultrasound or a blood test (or even all of these) to try and determine the cause of the bleeding.

You should go to your nearest Emergency Department if you experience:

  • very heavy bleeding, for instance soaking two pads per hour and/or passing golf ball sized clots
  • severe abdominal pain or shoulder pain
  • fever or chills
  • dizziness or fainting
  • unusual smelling vaginal discharge

Also make sure you don’t use tampons for bleeding during pregnancy. This is to reduce the risk of infection. Stick to pads only.

Would you like to learn more about the signs of miscarriage?

Read on Mama!

If you found our article: What does threatened miscarriage actually mean? useful then you may also be interested in The signs of miscarriage you need to know about.


Mater Mothers Brisbane Private Hospital, Miscarriage – Threatened, http://brochures.mater.org.au/home/brochures/mater-mothers-private-hospital/threatened-miscarriage

Ectopic Pregnancy and Miscarriage: Diagnosis and Initial Management in Early Pregnancy of Ectopic Pregnancy and Miscarriage. NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 154.National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health (UK). London: RCOG; 2012 Dec.