medical history
January 23, 2008 5:54 PM   Subscribe

is there any way to know for sure if i was pregnant/miscarried several years ago?

i happened to be reading a recent news item about miscarriages, and it got me to thinking about a very weird, heavy, clotted three-week-late period i had a few years ago. the circumstances of my sex life were such that i could have been pregnant, and at the time i remember having this thinking--with almost uncanny certainty--that i'd just had a miscarriage.

i later rationalized myself out of it (how could i know i'd had a miscarriage and not know i was pregnant? or maybe i just didn't want to believe it was possible) but now i'm wondering again. i never saw a doctor about it or had any problems once the bleeding stopped.

i don't suppose there's any way to know now, is there? i know they are quite common that early on, and it's entirely possible and plausible, but i guess it's just starting to bug me that i don't know for sure.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No, there's no way to know now.

As far as your feeling when it was happening--there's nothing scientific about this, but many women report feelings of uncanny certainty that they've conceived or miscarried but have no quantifiable proof of either event. Their feelings not infrequently turn out to be correct.

I hope that helps you.
posted by jesourie at 6:15 PM on January 23, 2008

There is no way to know now. It is possible. About 15 percent of recognized pregnancies end this way, and as many as 50 percent of pregnancies may end in miscarriage because many losses occur before the woman realizes that she is pregnant.
posted by Ostara at 7:21 PM on January 23, 2008

It's often referred to as a "missed miscarriage" for that very reason. I obviously can't know for sure any more than you can, but I'm pretty sure in hindsight that it has happened to me.

Ostara's statistics are pretty generally accepted. So know you're not alone in wondering if perhaps this has happened to you.
posted by padraigin at 7:58 PM on January 23, 2008

There is absolutely no way to know, but a three week late period that ended up being really clotted sounds very much like it could have been a miscarriage.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:09 PM on January 23, 2008

Actually, it's called a "spontaneous abortion". I would mention this incident to your current physician, though, especially if you are Rhogam Negative. Google Rhogam and Miscarriage for further information on this.
posted by 6:1 at 8:11 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Technically all miscarriages are spontaneous abortions, a medical term that has freaked out many a woman. A missed miscarriage is an undetected pregnancy, where the woman may never realize that what she is experiencing is anything more than a rough period. Good call on the rhogam though.
posted by padraigin at 8:56 PM on January 23, 2008

It's true that you have no way to know for sure. It's also true that there are many possible reasons for heavy clotting. (I'm not a medical pro, but good info about this can be found on medical sites.)

When I was doing peer sex ed I was constantly talking to other girls who were seeing large clots and wondering what was up, because people don't talk much about clots even though almost all of us experience them to some degree. Your body has a natural supply of anti-coagulant that's part of keeping menstrual blood liquid, but that can get depleted by a late and/or long and/or heavy period. (So teenagers, whose cycles often aren't like clockwork, are generally more likely to experience clotting than women in their 20s or 30s.)

So, two possibilities are that your lateness and clotting might both have been related to a pregnancy loss, or that your period contained heavy clots *because* it was three weeks late for an unrelated reason.
posted by sparrows at 9:04 PM on January 23, 2008

Actually, a "missed abortion" is when a conceptus/fetus dies in utero without the mother having any symptoms (no cramping, no bleeding etc). If fetal tissues have passed (what was described above as a heavy clotted period) it is called a 'complete abortion'. Nitpicky definitions, I know, but there it is.

And the previous posters were right in saying that there is no way of knowing for sure retrospectively. Clinically, it sounds like you experienced a miscarriage AKA spontaneous abortion but unless you had a positive pregnancy test from the time there is no way of knowing for sure. If you do get pregnant in the future let your obstetrician know about this when they ask about previous pregnancies.
posted by madokachan at 2:25 PM on January 24, 2008

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