One of the most devastating events in a woman’s or couple’s life is the loss of a baby through miscarriage. Pregnancy can be such an exciting time, but with the possibility of a miscarriage, it is beneficial to be informed on the topic in the unfortunate event that you find yourself or someone you know faced with one.
Miscarriage is the term used for a pregnancy that ends on its own within the first 20 weeks of gestation. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, with approximately 15% of all pregnancies ending in miscarriage. Most miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, but many go unnoticed due to the fact that some women have yet to even realize they are pregnant (1).
There are numerous reasons why miscarriages occur, and more often than not the cause is not clear and cannot be identified. During the first trimester, the most common cause of miscarriage is chromosomal abnormality, meaning that something is wrong with the baby's chromosomes (1). This would make it impossible for the baby to survive. Most chromosomal abnormalities are the cause of a faulty egg or sperm cell. Another cause of miscarriage is an abnormal hormonal imbalance that interferes with the ability of the uterus to support the growing embryo, which is commonly known as luteal phase defect (2).
If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, it is very important to contact a health professional immediately, or get to a medical facility as soon as possible. A pelvic exam will be performed to visualize if the cervix is closed. If the cervix is dilated early in pregnancy, this is a sign of miscarriage(1, 2).
Since the cause of most miscarriages is due to chromosomal abnormalities, there is not much that can be done to prevent them. One crucial step is to get as healthy as you can before conceiving to provide a healthy environment for conception to occur. This is called preconception care and includes:
Once you find out that you are pregnant, the goal is to stay as healthy as possible in order to provide a safe environment for the product of conception to develop. Here are some recommendations:
Depending on how long a woman was pregnant for, it can take anywhere from several weeks, to over a month to physically recover. For example, some pregnancy hormones remain in the blood for one to two months after a miscarriage (2). Often times, emotional recovery from a miscarriage is even more difficult than the physical recovery. Allow yourself time to grieve and deal with this sudden change in your life. Those around you may not fully understand the emotions you are feeling and therefore are not sure how to support you. Seeking out support groups, web sites, and literature are great ways of getting help through this difficult time. Individuals should also consider asking their health care provider for a referral to a counselor who is experienced in dealing with pregnancy loss (1).
A woman should not attempt to become pregnant again until she is physically and emotionally ready. It is recommended that tests be performed to determine the cause of miscarriage before attempting another pregnancy. Medically, it appears safe to conceive after a woman has had one normal menstrual cycle. However, it may take much longer before a woman feels emotionally ready to attempt pregnancy.
Many women who have experienced a miscarriage are concerned that they will miscarry again. Fortunately, the vast majority of women who have had one miscarriage will go on to have a successful pregnancy in their next attempt, as will 60 to 70 percent of those who have experienced two or three losses (2).
American Pregnancy Association. Miscarriage. (2011). Retrieved on November 9, 2011 from http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/miscarriage.html.
March of Dimes. (2008). Miscarriage. Retrieved on November 9, 2011 from http://www.marchofdimes.com/baby/loss_miscarriage.htmlLast Update 08/2012