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What Causes a Miscarriage and What Are the Signs?

Created on 13/10/2022
Updated on 19/10/2022
A miscarriage can be a very lonesome experience, and that has to do with some common misconceptions about pregnancy loss. For women who know that they’re pregnant, about 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriages. But it’s believed that up to half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, as many may occur before a woman even knows that she’s pregnant. So, why do miscarriages happen? And is there any way to prevent them? Let’s dispel some widespread rumors and address the real reasons for pregnancy loss.

What causes a miscarriage?

Chromosomal abnormalities account for 50 percent of all miscarriages in the first trimester. Two sets of chromosomes, which determine a baby’s physical attributes, come together, but this process isn’t always perfect. An egg or a sperm may have more or fewer than the typical number of chromosomes. As the fertilized egg grows into a fetus, the cells divide and multiply several times, during which abnormalities that lead to a miscarriage may occur. It isn’t entirely understood why some chromosomal abnormalities cause a miscarriage and others result in babies born with genetic conditions, like Down Syndrome. One theory is that the mother’s immune system recognizes a problem in the fetus’s genes and opts to end the pregnancy. Another idea is that the specific gene problem results in the fetus’s inability to keep growing. Beyond chromosomal abnormalities, several other factors may cause a miscarriage. Diseases and infections may play a role. If you have an infection, severe kidney disease, uncontrolled diabetes, thyroid disease, immune system disorders, or congenital heart disease, you may be at an increased risk for miscarriage. If you have a TORCH infection, which can be passed to the fetus during pregnancy, childbirth, or through breast milk, you may also be at a heightened risk for a miscarriage. TORCH infections include toxoplasmosis, HIV, syphilis, parvovirus B19, varicella, Zika virus, rubella, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex virus.
Miscarriage is often incorrectly labeled as preventable, which leads to many women feeling like they did something wrong.
Advanced maternal age is considered to play a role in pregnancy loss. After the age of 35, the pregnancy is labeled as geriatric. As a woman’s age increases, the quality of her eggs typically decreases. Those older eggs are more likely to cause chromosomal abnormalities. You’re also more likely to experience chronic medical conditions as you age. A geriatric pregnancy increases the risk not only for miscarriage but also for other factors like genetic disorders, preeclampsia, and low birth weight. Although there are fewer studies on how paternal age affects pregnancy, it’s believed that these risk factors increase for men over the age of 40. A miscarriage may also be caused by hormonal imbalances, uterine abnormalities, or an incompetent cervix, which opens too early in a pregnancy. Radiation or certain medications may also pose a risk, as does severe malnutrition. Although certain lifestyle factors may result in a pregnancy loss, such as drinking alcohol, smoking, or doing recreational drugs, miscarriages are most often not caused by something the mother did. The mother’s mental health is often blamed for miscarriages, especially regarding her stress level, but there is no proven link between stress and miscarriages. Most often, miscarriages simply happen, and there’s little that can be done to prevent them.

How do you know if you’re having a miscarriage?

Miscarriages look different for everyone, but there are some common signs. Sometimes, it’s simply a feeling that you’re no longer pregnant, but other people may experience vaginal spotting or bleeding, severe belly pain, or severe cramping. However, these symptoms can indicate other complications, so it’s important not to diagnose yourself. If you think you may be having a miscarriage, you should see your doctor right away. During a miscarriage, you may experience painful and surprising symptoms. Your cramps may be more severe than you’d typically deal with on your period, or they may be similar to what you’re used to. Heavy bleeding is also a standard part of a miscarriage. You may pass blood clots up to the size of a lemon. Tell your doctor about all of your symptoms so they can help you manage them and address potentially troubling issues. You should also make sure that your doctor knows about any previous miscarriages. Recurrent miscarriages affect about 1 percent of couples and may be indicative of a reproductive problem. It’s recommended to receive a full medical evaluation after two or more pregnancy losses to search for underlying reproductive issues.

What should you do after a miscarriage?

Pregnancy loss is a very traumatic experience, and recurrent miscarriages are even more traumatic still. If you had a complete miscarriage, which is to say that your uterus expelled all of the fetal tissue, no further treatment is needed. But all parts of the pregnancy must be removed to prevent infection and other health complications. You may have to undergo surgery to remove all of the fetal tissue, or your doctor may recommend a nonsurgical option. Taking care of yourself following a miscarriage is essential, both physically and mentally. A doctor may recommend bed rest following a miscarriage. Physically recovery may take one to two months. Your period will likely return between four and six weeks, and you should not put anything in your vagina or have sex for one to two weeks. Nearly 20 percent of women who experience a miscarriage become symptomatic of depression or anxiety. Symptoms may persist for up to three years, so it’s vital to seek help early on after your miscarriage to prevent your depression or anxiety from growing. Feelings of guilt or shame are sadly common after a pregnancy loss, which can lead to women not getting the support that they need. To combat depression and anxiety, it’s better to talk about what happened with your partner, family, or a psychiatric professional. Pregnancy loss support groups may also be beneficial to coping with a miscarriage. Miscarriage is often incorrectly labeled as preventable, which leads to many women feeling like they did something wrong. Although keeping a healthy diet or treating a TORCH infection may help reduce the risk of a miscarriage, most miscarriages are simply the result of a chromosomal abnormality. A pregnancy loss can take a significant toll on someone both physically and emotionally. Although 87 percent of women who experience a miscarriage go on to have a healthy, normal pregnancy, any miscarriage can be a traumatic one that causes lasting distress. Remember not to be alone during this time. Seek out and continue getting help, and try not to punish yourself due to guilt or shame. What happened is not your fault.

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