Miscarriage: Signs and Causes

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Whether you were trying to get pregnant or found yourself with an unplanned pregnancy, miscarriage is one of the most devastating things a woman may have to go through in her lifetime.

A miscarriage can bring up many emotions, thoughts, and questions in her mind, wondering if there was something she could have done differently to avoid it.

While miscarriage is something we wish no woman would have to endure, we are here to answer some of the most common questions on the topic so that you can know the warning signs and how to handle things if it does happen to you.

What is a Miscarriage?

A miscarriage is simply an unexpected loss of pregnancy. While the term “miscarriage” typically refers to loss within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy (first half), the majority of miscarriages happen within the first trimester (3 months, or 13 weeks).

It is actually the most common type of pregnancy loss. In fact, around 10-25% of clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. And most miscarriages (50-75%) are actually chemical pregnancies – a miscarriage that occurs within the first 5 weeks of pregnancy as the result of a non-viable fertilized egg.

In most cases, women who go through a chemical pregnancy do not even know they are pregnant before the miscarriage occurs.

What are the First Signs/Symptoms of a Miscarriage?

Early warning signs and symptoms of miscarriage vary greatly amongst women. They are mostly dependent on the stage of pregnancy she is in at the time. In most cases, the further along you are in your pregnancy, the more severe your symptoms are.

Some possible symptoms you may encounter include:

  • Heavy spotting or vaginal bleeding
  • Discharge of tissue and/or fluid from the vagina
  • Severe abdominal cramping or pain
  • Back pain (mild to severe)

Most of the symptoms associated with miscarriage are similar to those that may occur with your period. In early pregnancy, you may not even notice. However, if you know you are pregnant, these symptoms will obviously be cause for concern.

It is also important to note that these symptoms do not automatically mean that you are having a miscarriage. Many women have spotting in early pregnancy. Even bleeding that is a bit heavier may just be a sign of something else that is not necessarily threatening to your pregnancy.

No matter what, though, you will want to call your doctor or visit the emergency room if you notice these symptoms and know that you are pregnant.

What are Common Causes of a Miscarriage?

Besides chemical pregnancies, there are a few common causes
of miscarriage, some of which can be avoided while others are out of your control.

Over half of miscarriages within the first trimester occur due to a problem with the baby’s chromosomes. Babies simply cannot grow with damaged or the wrong number of chromosomes. You can’t control this, but at the same time, women over age 35 are at a higher risk for this complication.

A miscarriage in the second trimester is often the result of a certain medical condition on the mother’s part. This includes:

  • Infection
  • Poorly controlled diseases, like diabetes or hypertension
  • Thyroid disease
  • Lupus
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Problems with the uterus or cervix, like fibroids

Environmental hazards can also be a big problem, including lead in old pipes or paint, mercury, solvents (paint thinners, stain removers, etc.), pesticides, arsenic, and of course, secondhand smoke.

While most of these things you have limited control over, you do have a say in your own personal lifestyle and habits. Smoking (even but just the father), heavy drinking, and the use of illegal drugs can all lead to a miscarriage.

How do I Know I am Having a Miscarriage?

As we previously saw, bleeding and/or cramping alone are not enough to determine whether you are having a miscarriage or not. These symptoms can be present in normal pregnancies as well as those with minor complications, such as a subchorionic hemorrhage.

The only sure way to know if you are having a miscarriage is through a visit to your doctor or the emergency room.

If you know you are pregnant and notice any odd symptoms like bleeding or cramping, speak with your doctor right away. They will either tell you to come into the office immediately or to visit the ER.

From there, they will likely run several tests to determine the source of the bleeding and the condition of your baby. You may have blood tests and ultrasounds, both external and internal.

Though it can be very scary, it is important that you do not panic as the first sign of something abnormal. There is no use worrying yourself until you know for sure what is happening.

How can I Prevent a Miscarriage?

There are some things – like genetic abnormalities with the baby, health issues with the mother, or environmental hazards you are unaware of – that are out of your control when it comes to miscarriage risks.

However, there are a few things you can do in order to hopefully prevent a miscarriage, particularly if you are at a higher risk.

Make sure you keep yourself healthy before and during your pregnancy by eating a balanced diet, taking prenatal vitamins, and exercising in moderation.

Be sure you get a handle on any bad habits you may have. This means avoiding stressors, limiting caffeine intake, and avoiding drugs, smoking, and alcohol.

If you have a preexisting health condition such as diabetes, hypertension, or anything else that requires medication, talk with your doctor about ways to get it under control in order to avoid any potential complications that could result in miscarriage.

How Soon can I Try for Another Baby after a Miscarriage?

This is a big question for women who had been trying to get pregnant before the miscarriage occurred.

Physically, your body can ovulate and become pregnant again as soon as two weeks after a miscarriage. It is important to note that sex should be avoided for the first two weeks in order to prevent an infection.

On the other hand, some women may not be ready emotionally to try again. They may need time to mourn the loss of their baby. Others may choose to wait for fear that they may miscarry again.

It is important to note that there is no need to fear a subsequent miscarriage. Most are simply a once in a lifetime experience and many women go on to have perfectly healthy pregnancies and babies after a miscarriage.

At the same time, there is no reason to rush into trying again. Some women simply need time. You need to do what is right for you, both physically and emotionally.

Take some time to allow yourself to recover; miscarriage is no small thing. Seek counseling if you need to talk through your grief. And never be afraid to reach out to loved ones for emotional support.

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