A miscarriage is one of the toughest phases in a pregnant woman’s life. Losing a baby in utero may be a common problem but it still has a physical as well as emotional impact on families.
Miscarriage refers to the loss of a baby in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), about 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
By learning everything about why it happens, and how to tell if it’s happening, you can take the right precautions to prevent further complications.
Common Causes of Miscarriage
In most cases, there isn’t anything that you have done to cause a miscarriage – and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it from happening. Contrary to what common myths suggest, miscarriage is not caused by moderate exercise, sex, or even your daily cup of coffee. As per American Pregnancy Association, a chance genetic abnormality in the embryo is the most common cause of miscarriage. Issues that cause miscarriage include:
- Chromosomal problems: The sperm and egg each contain 23 chromosomes which create 23 perfectly matched pairs of chromosomes during fertilization. A minor glitch in this process can lead to genetic abnormality which prevents the embryo from growing. These genetics are believed to be the biggest cause of miscarriage.
- Hormonal imbalance: Around 15 percent of all miscarriages are caused due to imbalance in the hormones. For example, insufficient progesterone levels can prevent your fertilized egg from implanting in your uterus.
- Uterine problems: Problems inside the uterus, such as fibroids, can interfere with implantation or blood supply to the fetus. Women born with a septum, an uncommon uterine defect, are more likely to experience a miscarriage than others. See your doctor to find out whether you have any uterine defects and the appropriate treatment for the same.
- Chronic Illness: Chronic illnesses such as autoimmune disorders, lupus, heart disease, kidney and liver disease, and diabetes cause as many as 6 percent of all recurring miscarriages. In case you have a chronic illness, see an expert who is experienced in caring for women with your condition.
- High fever: Developing a high fever of over 102 degrees during early pregnancy may also lead to a miscarriage in early pregnancy. A high core body temperature can be damaging to the embryo before 6 weeks.
- Other risk factors: Sometimes, other issues can also result in miscarriage. This includes smoking, excessive drinking, maternal trauma such as an accident, certain medications, advanced maternal age (over 35), infections, and even air pollution.
Signs and Symptoms
Although there isn’t much you can do to prevent a miscarriage due to genetic reasons, these are a few warning signs that one can notice before having a miscarriage:
- Losing a lot of weight
- White or pink mucus discharge
- Back pain, which is often worse than normal cramps
- Bleeding that occurs without cramps
- Painful contractions that occur every 5 to 20 minutes
- Clotted tissue passing from the vagina
- Pregnancy signs that suddenly go away
During a miscarriage, a woman might experience symptoms that include:
- Severe cramps
- Bleeding that starts light but becomes heavy
- Fever or weakness
- Back or abdominal pain
When you begin experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, see your doctor immediately to find out what to do about it.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In order to confirm a miscarriage, your doctor will perform a pelvic exam, an ultrasound test and blood test. If the miscarriage is complete and the uterus is empty, no further treatment is usually needed.
Occasionally, the uterus is not completely emptied so a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure needs to be done. In this procedure, the cervix is dilated and any remaining fetal or placental tissue is gently removed. Medications may also be given as an alternative to D&C. These medicines cause your body to expel the contents in the uterus.
Blood tests are done to determine the amount of pregnancy hormone hCG that is still there in the body. It indicates how far the miscarriage has progressed. Genetic testing, blood tests or medication may be necessary if a woman has more than two miscarriages in a row (also called recurrent miscarriage).
A woman will be able to continue with normal activities once the bleeding stops after a miscarriage.
Getting Pregnant after a Miscarriage
Experiencing a miscarriage does not mean a woman has fertility problems. According to studies, at least 85% of women who have miscarriages end up having subsequent normal pregnancies and births. Around 1-2% women may have repeated miscarriages and may need diagnostic testing to determine the cause.
If you want to try again after having a miscarriage, try discussing the timing of your next pregnancy with your doctor. Some doctors may recommend waiting up to 3 months before trying to conceive again. In order to prevent another miscarriage, your doctor may also recommend progesterone – a hormone needed for implantation and early support of pregnancy in the uterus.
A miscarriage can be a difficult, emotional time for any parent, especially a mother. Taking time to heal both physically and emotionally is important for a woman’s well-being. Take support of friends and family during this time and remember that a miscarriage is often beyond your control. So don’t blame yourself for it and seek help from your doctor about the future course. Our experts at KIMS Cuddles can guide you on ways to have a healthy pregnancy and will also be a valuable support to you and your partner.