Losing a baby can be a very traumatic experience. Miscarriage often brings up feelings of sadness, depression, guilt, and anxiety. Having a miscarriage may even make you fearful to have another child. If you have had a miscarriage, it is important for you to be able to work through your emotions and pain. Learning about and understanding why miscarriages happen may help you to come to terms with your own loss.
What is A Miscarriage?
The term miscarriage is used to describe any pregnancy loss before 20 weeks. Before 20 weeks gestation, your baby cannot survive outside your uterus. Sometimes, for natural or accidental reasons, a baby can be expelled from the uterus and out of the body. Miscarriages are often referred to as spontaneous abortions, because they can happen without warning.
How Common Are Miscarriages?
Miscarriages are surprisingly common occurrences. Up to 25% of women will experience at least one miscarriage during their childbearing years. Some women will experience more than one miscarriage in their lifetime. Up to 50% of pregnancies are actually thought to end in miscarriage, however, many of these pregnancy losses occur before the woman even knows she is pregnant. The risk of miscarriage increases as you age, with women over the age of 40 having a 30% chance of experiencing a miscarriage.
When do Miscarriages Occur?
Most miscarriages occur before the end of the first trimester. This means that most spontaneous abortions happen before the twelfth week of pregnancy. These miscarriages are called early miscarriages. Though less common, some miscarriages do occur into the second trimester. These miscarriages are referred to as late miscarriages.
Who's At Risk?
Any woman can experience a miscarriage, however, certain women are at increased risk. Risk factors include:
- smoking during pregnancy
- drinking during pregnancy
- doing drugs during pregnancy
- having certain STDs or infections
- having thyroid disease or diabetes
- suffering from certain autoimmune diseases, like Lupus
Symptoms of Miscarriage
If you are pregnant, it is important that you be able to identify the signs of a miscarriage. If you think that you are having a miscarriage, contact your health care provider or local hospital right away. Symptoms of a miscarriage include:
- vaginal bleeding that doesn't stop within a few days
- abdominal cramping
- lower backache
- heavy bleeding accompanied by blood clots or tissue
It is important to understand that many pregnant women experience slight bleeding during their pregnancies. Bleeding is often a normal occurrence and doesn't always signal a miscarriage. To be on the safe side though, inform your health care provider of any type of vaginal bleeding during your pregnancy.
Causes of Miscarriage
Unfortunately, many women experience miscarriages for which there are no explanations. It is often difficult to determine the cause of a miscarriage, especially if it occurs during the first trimester. Your health care provider will examine your fetal tissue in order to try to determine why your baby was miscarried. Sometimes, reasons for a miscarriage can be determined after careful examination.
Chromosomal abnormality is the most common reason for early miscarriages. In fact, up to 70% of first trimester miscarriages are the result of chromosomal defects. Chromosomes are special strands that carry your baby's DNA. Every baby should have 23 pairs of chromosomes, which help to determine their physical characteristics and allow them to carry out physical functions. After fertilization, sometimes the egg begins to split improperly, creating the wrong number of chromosomes. Molar pregnancies, in which the fetus develops abnormally, or in which the placenta or amniotic membranes don't form, are a common type of chromosomal abnormality.
Another frequent cause of miscarriage is a blighted ovum. A blighted ovum is created when a pregnancy sac develops in your uterus but contains no fetus. For some reason, your baby may have stopped developing early or there may never have been an embryo present at all. Blighted ovum pregnancies are usually detected during an ultrasound, although they can sometimes go unnoticed.
Sometimes, women miscarry because they have developed an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy, also known as a tubal pregnancy, occurs when a fertilized egg becomes implanted outside of the uterus. Typically, ectopic pregnancies develop in the fallopian tubes, although they can also occur in your ovaries or in your abdomen. Ectopic pregnancy symptoms usually include severe abdominal pain.
Treatment for Miscarriage
There is usually no treatment for a miscarriage. Your uterus will expel your baby along with any pregnancy tissue through your vagina, much like a period. If you continue bleeding for many days, your health care provider may decide to perform a dilatation and curettage (D&C). This procedure removes any tissue that may still remain in your uterus.
Pregnancy After Miscarriage
Though a miscarriage can be a very frightening and difficult experience, most women go on to have another successful pregnancy. It is important to wait until you are fully recovered before you try to conceive again.
Recovery really depends upon your own physical and emotional state. Women who were further along in their pregnancies when they miscarried may require a longer recovery time. Typically, recovery takes sometime between a few weeks and a few months; your period will likely return after about a month or so. Once you have had a couple of regular menstrual cycles, it is safe for you to try to conceive again.
Emotional recovery is just as important as physical recovery, though, and can take longer than your physical recovery. Many women and men need time to grieve their loss. While you may feel physically ready to try to conceive again, take the time to work through your emotions surrounding your pregnancy loss before becoming pregnant again.