Differences between Miscarriage Pain and Labor Pain

Differences between miscarriage pain and labor pain
Differences between miscarriage pain and labor pain

Pain is an unavoidable aspect of being human, and it intensifies significantly during important life events like pregnancy. Although most people associate pregnancy with excitement and expectation, there are drawbacks to the condition, such as the agonizing parts of labor and loss. We will explore the minor but significant differences between labor pain and miscarriage pain in this blog, highlighting the physical and physiological aspects of these diverse experiences.

Differences between miscarriage pain and labor pain

Miscarriage Pain

  1. Timing and Onset: One of the primary differences lies in the timing and onset of pain. Miscarriage pain typically occurs earlier in pregnancy, often within the first trimester. This pain is characterized by cramping sensations and can be accompanied by bleeding. The onset is often sudden and may escalate rapidly, leading to the passing of tissue.
  2. Nature of Pain: Miscarriage pain is often described as sharp and intense, akin to severe menstrual cramps. It may be localized to the lower abdomen and pelvis. Women who have experienced a miscarriage often report feeling waves of pain that come and go, similar to contractions during labor.
  3. Emotional Toll: Beyond the physical aspect, miscarriage pain takes a significant emotional toll. The loss of a pregnancy can be devastating, and the pain is not limited to the body but extends to the heart and soul. Coping with the grief and the abrupt end of expectations can intensify the overall experience.
  4. Medical Intervention: Depending on the circumstances, medical intervention may be required during a miscarriage. In some cases, a healthcare provider may recommend a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure to remove the remaining tissue. This can contribute to the physical recovery process and alleviate some of the associated pain.

Labor Pain

  1. Timing and Onset: Labor pain, on the other hand, is associated with the process of giving birth and occurs later in pregnancy, typically in the third trimester. The onset of labor pain is gradual, starting with mild contractions that become more regular and intense over time. This allows the body to adjust gradually to the impending childbirth.
  2. Nature of Pain: Labor pain is a unique combination of sensations, ranging from rhythmic contractions to pressure and stretching as the baby descends through the birth canal. The pain is often described as intense and cramp-like but tends to be more prolonged than the sudden, acute pain experienced during a miscarriage.
  3. Emotional Context: While labor pain is undoubtedly intense, it is often accompanied by a sense of purpose and anticipation. Expectant mothers are focused on the impending arrival of their baby, which can serve as a source of strength during labor. The emotional context of labor pain is more mixed, involving both the physical strain and the excitement of bringing new life into the world.
  4. Medical Assistance: Labor pain is a natural part of the birthing process, and medical assistance is often sought to manage the pain rather than intervene in the process itself. Pain relief options during labor may include epidurals, analgesics, or other supportive measures, allowing women to manage the pain while still actively participating in the birthing experience.

When do most miscarriages occur?

Most miscarriages occur within the first trimester of pregnancy, with the majority happening before the 13th week. Research suggests that approximately 80% of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and the risk decreases significantly as the pregnancy progresses. The highest risk for miscarriage is during the early weeks, particularly around weeks 6 to 10.

It’s important to note that the exact timing can vary, and miscarriages can occur at any point during pregnancy. However, the likelihood of a miscarriage significantly decreases after the first trimester. After the 13th week, the risk decreases further, and the majority of pregnancies progress without complications.

Can You Have a Miscarriage and Not Know It?

Can you have miscarriage and not know it?
Can you have miscarriage and not know it?

Yes, it is possible to have a miscarriage and not be aware of it, especially during the early stages of pregnancy. This phenomenon is known as a “missed miscarriage” or “silent miscarriage.” In such cases, the embryo or fetus may stop developing, but the body does not immediately recognize the pregnancy loss, and the woman may not experience the typical signs of a miscarriage.

Some common reasons for not realizing a miscarriage has occurred include

  1. Some women may not experience the typical symptoms of a miscarriage, such as cramping, bleeding, or tissue passing. In missed miscarriages, the body may not initiate the usual signals of pregnancy loss.
  2. While bleeding is a common sign of a miscarriage, it doesn’t always occur. In some cases, the body may absorb the nonviable pregnancy tissue without external bleeding.
  3. Symptoms of a miscarriage can be subtle and may be mistaken for normal pregnancy discomfort. For example, mild cramping or a decrease in pregnancy symptoms might be overlooked or attributed to the natural changes in pregnancy.
  4. In some instances, a woman may not have had an ultrasound to confirm the viability of the pregnancy. Without this confirmation, a miscarriage may go unnoticed.
  5. Hormonal changes can contribute to a delayed recognition of a miscarriage. The body may continue to produce pregnancy hormones for some time after the embryo or fetus has stopped developing.

It’s important to note that while missed miscarriages are possible, many miscarriages are associated with noticeable symptoms such as cramping, bleeding, and the passing of tissue. Women who suspect a miscarriage or experience any concerning symptoms should seek prompt medical attention for evaluation and support. Healthcare professionals can use ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools to confirm whether a miscarriage has occurred and provide appropriate guidance and care.

What Is Physical Recovery Like?

What Is Physical Recovery Like?
What Is Physical Recovery Like?

Physical recovery after a miscarriage can vary from person to person, and it often depends on factors such as the gestational age of the pregnancy and individual health. Here’s a simplified explanation of what physical recovery might be like:

  1. Bleeding and Discomfort: After a miscarriage, you might experience bleeding, similar to a heavy period. This can last for a few days to a couple of weeks. You might also feel cramp-like discomfort, similar to menstrual cramps. Over-the-counter pain relievers and a heating pad can help manage this discomfort.
  2. Rest and Self-Care: Your body needs time to heal, so it’s essential to get plenty of rest. Take it easy and avoid strenuous activities for a little while. Listen to your body and give yourself the time you need to recover. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from friends or family if needed.
  3. Follow-Up Care: Your healthcare provider will likely schedule a follow-up appointment to ensure that your body is recovering as expected. They may perform an ultrasound or other tests to confirm that the miscarriage is complete. It’s crucial to attend these appointments and communicate openly with your healthcare team about any concerns or questions you may have.
  4. Emotional Support: Physical recovery is closely tied to emotional well-being. It’s normal to feel a range of emotions, including sadness, grief, and even guilt. Seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional if needed. Emotional healing is an essential part of the overall recovery process.
  5. Resuming Normal Activities: As your body heals, you can gradually resume normal activities. Your healthcare provider will guide you on when it’s safe to return to work or engage in more strenuous activities. It’s essential to give yourself the time you need and not rush the process.
  6. Future Pregnancy Considerations: If you plan to try for another pregnancy, discuss with your healthcare provider when it’s safe to conceive again. They can provide guidance on the timing based on your individual health and circumstances.

Remember, everyone’s experience is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to physical recovery after a miscarriage. It’s okay to grieve, and it’s okay to take the time you need to heal both physically and emotionally. If you have concerns or questions during your recovery, always reach out to your healthcare provider for guidance and support.

Feedback of women who experiences labor and miscarriage pain


I miscarried at 11 wks and found the experience far more painful (pretty much how you describe) than my previous 2 labours. The pain was so localised, the contractions were over a smaller area and I just found it so much worse.

My friend who had a similar experience and then 2 labours after said the same.

Best of luck to you. I’m 24 weeks now and I’m finding the knowledge that I went through the awful pain of that miscarriage and survived, strangely comforting, as my third labor approaches.


Having had miscarriages at various stages, and a prem still birth as well as the labour of a lovely healthy home birth baby, I’d say the pain and the intensity gets progressively worse the further on you are BUT, but, but, but labour can actually feel easier as you are not upset and distraught at the loss, which has a huge physical impact on how you feel pain. You know that with the contractions it’s bringing you closer to meeting your baby and so therefore (I think) it is actually an easier pain to bear.

And it might not be a longer time period either. I was just a few hours from first contraction to baby.

Congratulations 🙂 and good luck.


I’ve had 4 first trimester MCs and 3 live births. IME MC is similar to early labour (cervix opening, presumably nowhere near 10cm) and
I felt the same pressure/need to push that you get at start of 2nd stage. I’m with waffle that it was never as intense as labour. MC is so much harder emotionally though, and that makes the pain worse. Also in labour you have many more options for pain relief.

Congrats on your pregnancy. 

 If your experience of MC is making you anxious about labor I highly recommend Natal Hypnotherapy CDs. There is now one focused on previous birth trauma ( and prev MC is mentioned in that category) as well as tracks for home or hospital birth, and pregnancy relaxation. I had the strangest experience in labor with DS2, after my first v traumatic MC.

I had been in latent labor for a day, nothing more than niggles, and I really felt v strongly I had to make my peace with the MC, because a lot of things about early labor (mild contractions and bloody show) were bringing back very bad memories. As soon as I’d done that I went into full blown labor and DS was born less than 2 hours later. Your mind is a very powerful tool in how you handle the physical process.


In understanding the differences between miscarriage pain and labor pain, it becomes evident that each experience is unique, both in its physical manifestations and emotional impact. Miscarriage pain is marked by its sudden onset, intensity, and the profound emotional toll of pregnancy loss. In contrast, labor pain is a more gradual process, accompanied by a mix of physical strain and the anticipation of bringing a new life into the world.

It is crucial to recognize and respect the individual experiences of women facing these challenges. Whether supporting someone through a miscarriage or the journey of labor, empathy, understanding, and compassionate care play vital roles in helping them navigate these complex and often emotionally charged moments in their lives.

Read about 10 Weird Things That Happen Before Labor