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Miscarriage or Period: How To Tell the Difference

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jun 21, 2022

    Miscarriage or Period: How To Tell the Difference

    Miscarriage and period have one particular thing in common — they both result in a bloody flow. Differentiating between the two is  important as it can be common for women to not realize that they are pregnant. They may confuse a miscarriage with their period when it is more than just a monthly visit coming their way. How do you know if you are already experiencing a miscarriage or period? What are the signs? And what should you do if you miscarry? 

    Miscarriage or Period: What Are the Signs?

    It is important to know that miscarriage and menstrual period are two different things that take place in women. Menstruation happens every month, but a miscarriage can only happen if the woman has conceived a child.  Miscarriages usually take place early in the pregnancy. 

    The most common sign shared by the two is bleeding. But the difference lies in what the bleeding looks and feels like.

    For the menstrual period, the discharge is partly blood and partly tissue being shed regularly during a woman’s time of the month.

    Miscarriage, on the other hand, refers to sudden and unexpected vaginal bleeding. This may vary in color, from light red to brown spotting. It may also result in heavy bleeding, which is the most distinct characterization. 

    Other miscarriage symptoms involve:

    • Lower abdomen pain and cramps
    • Fluid discharge from your vagina
    • Tissue discharge from your vagina
    • No longer experiencing pregnancy symptoms (i.e., nausea and breast tenderness)

    As for the onset of the menstrual period, it includes the following signs and symptoms:

    • Abdominal/pelvic cramping pain
    • Lower back pain
    • Bloating and sore breasts
    • Food cravings
    • Moodiness and irritability
    • Headache and fatigue
    • Acne

    A woman can also experience PMS (premenstrual syndrome), which refers to a set of symptoms that begin even before menstruation. It can manifest as both emotional and physical symptoms.

    Miscarriage or Period: What Are the Causes?

    A miscarriage can occur for a variety of reasons, the cause of which is frequently unknown.

    Miscarriages that take place during the first trimester of pregnancy are normally caused by issues with the unborn baby. Approximately three out of every four miscarriages occur during this time.

    If it occurs after the first trimester of pregnancy, it could be due to a number of other factors, including the mother’s underlying health condition. It may also be because of an infection surrounding the baby, which causes the amniotic sac to rupture before any pain or bleeding occurs. This is often caused by the womb’s neck opening too soon.

    A period is caused by the body’s natural hormones. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone function as chemical messengers that are released by the ovaries. The uterine lining thickens as a result of these hormones, making the lining ready for a fertilized egg to attach to and develop. If there is no fertilized egg present, the lining then breaks down and is released through bleeding. And the whole process starts over again.

    It usually takes about a month for the lining to form and then degrade. As a result, most girls normally get their periods only once a month.

    Miscarriage or Period: How Long Does It Last?

    Typically, a menstrual period lasts for about 3 to 5 days, though it may vary from person to person. But, the duration of a miscarriage may depend on what type of treatment you are taking for it. Some may want to wait for 7 to 14 days to let the miscarriage complete naturally while others may proceed to surgery to remove the tissue as soon as possible. Once the miscarriage is over, some bleeding and discomfort may occur lasting for 2 weeks. If bleeding persists, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor.

    Key Takeaways

    No woman is exempted from either the risk of miscarriage or period. This is why it is important that women are able to tell how one is different from the other from its signs and symptoms. 
    Consult your doctor should you need more help in identifying between miscarriage or period.

    Learn more about Pregnancy Problems here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jun 21, 2022

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