Missed Miscarriage: What to expect & how to cope
Missed Miscarriage: What to expect & how to cope

August 10, 2021

What is a missed miscarriage in the first trimester?

Please note: This article has not yet been reviewed by a medical professional and is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Always refer to go to your medical provider for your medical care. This is intended to be peer-to-peer support only.

One of the most devastating words a mom can hear is, “There is no heartbeat.” If you went to your ultrasound expecting everything to be normal, then were blind-sided by these words, chances are you experienced a missed miscarriage. This means your body had a hard time recognizing that your baby had passed, and it was trying to continue the pregnancy as normal.

Physically, your experience will likely be much like a first-trimester miscarriage — although you will want to discuss with your doctor how long you feel comfortable letting your body catch up to the fact that your baby is gone. There is no right or wrong when it comes to when you want to choose medical intervention by way of induction or D&C. (See “First Trimester Miscarriage: What to Expect & How to Cope for more on your options).

Talk to your doctor about all the risks of waiting, and each of the treatment options, so you can make as informed a choice as possible.

“I found out at my 12-week appointment that my baby’s heart had stopped beating around 9 weeks. I was trying to pass the baby at home because we couldn’t afford to get a D&C. Three weeks later (15 weeks pregnant), my water broke and I started hemorrhaging. My husband (who is a physician) rushed me to the ER. I’m pretty sure our baby girl ended up in the ER bathroom toilet. I was hurriedly admitted to the hospital where I spent the night and next day recovering. All the doctors and nurses were so kind and compassionate. I’m forever grateful that helped not only save my life but were so sensitive to my emotional needs as well.”

What to expect from your body during a missed miscarriage:

Sometimes your baby will stop growing or will pass before 20 weeks but your body has not recognized that and has continued your symptoms of pregnancy as normal. In medical terms, this is called a missed miscarriage. In this case, your experience of giving birth may vary greatly depending on the gestation in which your baby passed and how many weeks it has been since that time. It is possible that your baby passed away in the first trimester and is smaller than what you would expect at your current gestation.

You may be offered a variety of treatments and birthing options, such as a D&C, induced birth at home, induced birth in the hospital, or a D&E. Ask your provider what you may expect given the gestation of your baby when he or she passed, and the gestation you are supposed to be at currently.

“I went to the ER when I noticed a small amount of spotting…. I was supposed to be 15 weeks along and this was my first pregnancy and first ultrasound. Everyone reassured me everything would be fine and that spotting happens all the time and isn’t always cause for alarm. So I went into the ultrasound a little excited that although I was spotting and that made me nervous — I was also going to see this little baby that was growing inside of me.


I was making small talk with the tech and she was pleasant enough. Until she went quiet and the whole mood of the room changed. She wouldn’t answer any of my questions and excused herself from the room saying she would be back in a moment and just needed to consult with the doctor. The doctor came in and gave me the news that my fetus had stopped developing at nine weeks and it took this long for my body to ‘discard’ the fetus. I’ll never forget that he used the word discard and fetus. That was my baby he was so nonchalantly discussing. His instructions were to go home and if I hadn’t passed it naturally in two days they would book me a D&C.


He left and a nurse came to escort me to a room to wait for the follow-up paperwork to be filled out. Except there wasn’t a room available — so I sat on a spare hospital bed in the hall alone, processing my loss and not wanting to break down with everyone around me. I wasn’t to mourn in private. I hadn’t even told my husband at this point. The hardest part was the waiting to leave. When I did start to pass the baby naturally the next day, my hubby drove me to a different hospital so that I wouldn’t have to go back there again. And I never have.”


For more information on what to expect and how to cope, see “First-Trimester Miscarriage.”

About the Author

Rachel Lewis

Rachel Lewis is a foster, adoptive and birth mom. After a 5-year battle with secondary infertility and the losses of five babies during pregnancy, she now has three children in her arms and a foster son in her heart.

As the founder of the Facebook support group Brave Mamas, she is passionate about helping others through their grief. She is a contributor to Still Standing Magazine, Pregnancy After Loss Support, and Filter Free Parents. Rachel holds bachelor’s degrees in Theology, Bible, and Speech Communications.

When she’s not chauffeuring her kids around, you can find her shopping at Trader Joes for the best gluten-free treats, drinking iced coffee, or writing about grief and healing on her blog at The Lewis Note.

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