No matter what anyone who has not gone through this experience may say, they do not and cannot understand what you are going through. It is an agonizing ordeal that tends to make your heart feel as if it’s being ripped out of your chest and nothing but time, love and caring can help you through it.
If you already have a child, it may be slightly easier, (though this is definitely not always the case) but if this was the child that you’ve been dreaming of your entire life, it will obviously be just that much harder.
Now, most women want to know why they had the miscarriage and what they can do to prevent themselves from having another one. Even though the odds of a woman having a miscarriage and then going on to have a healthy baby later are around 80%. But remember, often times, no matter how much we try to find out where things went wrong, we never get the answer that we’re looking for. There are things that can help you to be more aware of problems that could arise, however, both if you have already had this experience and if you have not.
Here are the top 10 reasons why miscarriages occur and how to deal with them:
This is by far, the most common cause of miscarriages that occur during the first trimester of pregnancy. Mismatched chromosomes in the fetus are responsible for around 60% of miscarriages, although most of the time these issues have no relation to the health of either the mother or the father. Chromosomes are very tiny structures that are in each of the cells that carry our genes. And genes are what are responsible for determining things such as a person’s eye or hair color, their sex and blood type. Sometimes, it is a simple problem, such as the chromosomes from the egg or sperm are unable to line up correctly, because either one or both of them are damaged. However, there are times, though much more rare, when the problem is that the couple who are trying to conceive learn, via medical testing, that the problem really does lie with them and that they have chromosomal anomalies. Though this is most often a problem only when a couple has had more than one or two miscarriages, and still may not give them any problems personally, it can make it difficult or even impossible for a pregnancy to stay viable.
Treatment to fix chromosomal abnormalities is not a possibility. But, testing on both of the potential parents can be done by taking a blood sample called, karyotype. This test can let a couple know whether there are any abnormalities and if so, how much more would this particular abnormality increase the odds of having a pregnancy that is genetically abnormal. There is also the option of undergoing IVF treatments and genetic testing of embryos or PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis). PGD is genetic profiling of embryos before implantation and in some cases even of oocytes (egg cell) prior to fertilization. This has the chance of reducing miscarriage rates due to chromosomal issues by approximately 80%.
Chronic Medical Conditions
There are certain medical problems that a woman can have that will affect her chances of being able to carry a baby to term. This is especially true if these conditions have yet to be discovered or treated. Some of these conditions may also increase a woman’s chance at having a miscarriage if it is something that inhibits blood flow to the uterus, which will cause the growing fetus to not be able to receive enough oxygen for it to survive. These include:
- Diabetes (if it is untreated or not well controlled)
- Severe high blood pressure
- Coeliac Disease
- Overactive or Underactive Thyroid Gland
- Heart Disease
Treatment for chronic medical conditions is mostly a matter of discovering the condition(s) and getting it or them under control.
Having a uterus that is of an abnormal shape or structure or one that is divided (known as uterine septum) can make carrying a baby for 9 months more of a challenge but usually not impossible. There are, of course, different shapes as well as extents, and which one in particular that you have will be part of the deciding factor as far as difficulty or in some cases, impossibility. The reason for this is due to the fact that there are times when the embryo is unable to plant itself in the uterus, or manages to accomplish this but is unable to get the food and nutrients that it needs in order to survive. But there are also many times when all goes well, but you just need to be very carefully monitored. There is also the chance of carrying your baby normally until closer to the end of your pregnancy, when you may all of a sudden go into premature labor due to the baby running out of room to grow, your baby may only be able to get into a breech position or your cervix (the neck of the uterus) will simply not be strong enough to keep the baby inside. Some of these problems can also happen earlier and cause a “late” miscarriage as well.
Treatments for these particular abnormalities are very few. However, if you have had multiple miscarriages or your pregnancy has already begun, it is very important that your doctor find the problem. In the case of a uterine septum or a uterus that is divided, it can often be fixed with surgery. If you have an incompetent cervix, your doctor can place a stitch in the cervix to help keep it closed and the baby inside. This is called a cerclage. In some cases, hospitalization or bed rest may also aid in keeping the pregnancy viable.
This is a condition where antibodies in a woman’s immune system attacks itself, her tissue, organs, etc. and in the case of embryos, it sometimes attacks those as well, which makes it difficult if not impossible to carry a baby to term. A woman’s body actually looks upon a sperm as something of a foreign object, but in most cases the fertilized egg will basically let her body know not to treat the sperm as something bad and a pregnancy will then be able to continue. But if a woman has an immunologic disorder, a full-term pregnancy may be impossible to achieve.
Treatment for this type of condition, especially in a woman who may be suspected of having many miscarriages due to this problem, may be treated with a dose of aspirin on a daily basis, in order to thin her blood. And if this is not successful, heparin (which is also a blood thinner) and steroids have also been used with favorable outcomes.
Hormonal problems can occur for several reasons, such as when a woman’s body fails to produce enough progesterone, which is a hormone that is vital to a pregnancy. It is needed to help the uterine lining to support a fetus and when there is not enough progesterone, the lining will not develop adequately, and the placenta will be unable to take hold. There can also be a problem with miscarriages if a woman has a short luteal phase, which is basically a condition that means a woman has less than 12 days between her ovulation period and her monthly cycle. Also, women who have diabetes tend to be at a higher risk for miscarriages due to the issue of having hormonal imbalances.
Treatments for these issues can include: Getting your diabetes under control, taking progesterone to boost your levels or possibly taking Clomid or hCG, which may also boost your progesterone levels. There is also the options of diet, herbs and supplements, all of which could be of possible help with the luteal phase or the progesterone level issues.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
This condition seems to be becoming one of the more common reasons that miscarriages occur. PCOS causes women to have very high levels of testosterone, which in turn causes problems such as irregular menstruation and ovulation. Women with this condition have ovaries that are larger than normal, which can create hormonal balances inside of the womb. PCOS can also cause the problem of insulin resistance, even if a woman does not have diabetes. The problem with having insulin resistance is that it keeps the endometrial lining from growing properly which makes it very difficult for a pregnancy to stay healthy and viable.
Treatment for this condition may involve the use of oral antidiabetic drugs, which has been shown to have some success in reducing miscarriages in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome.
Environmental Factors – Cigarettes and Alcohol
Any toxins that you are regularly exposed to can cause a miscarriage. Also, if you work in certain environments such as hospital labs, farms, operating rooms or dental offices, these are known for causing higher rates of miscarriages also, although the specifics of why are not really known at this time. Women who smoke cigarettes have double the rate of miscarriages, compared with women who do not. The reason for this is that nicotine crosses the placenta and hampers both growth of the fetus and blood supply. As for alcohol, a few drinks before you were aware of your pregnancy is no cause for alarm, however, if you continually drink on a regular basis, this can definitely have an effect on your developing fetus, creating not only a possible miscarriage but also a possibly huge effect on your child if it makes it to term. Something else that has been shown to create a risk for miscarriage is caffeine. And although a small bit is probably fine, a larger and more regular portion could cause a problem.
The obvious treatments to fix any of these problems are to stay away from them all. If you aren’t creating a bad situation with any of these things, you will have just that much less to worry about.
Certain infections have been known to cause your risk of miscarriage to grow. They can include the following:
- Uterine Infections
- Rubella (German Measles)
- Mycoplasma Hominis
- Ureaplasma Urealyticum
- Bacterial Vaginosis
Treatment for these conditions vary so you will need confirmation and a specific treatment for each.
A Woman’s Age
Although women can have children well into their 40’s, the older they get the bigger their chance of having a miscarriage at some point. Women who are under age 35 have approximately a 15% chance of miscarriage. While the chances for a woman who is 35 to 45, is around 20-35%. And a woman, who becomes pregnant and is over the age of 45, has a much larger chance to miscarry at 50%.
If a woman is undernourished, so is her fetus. Malnutrition in women who are pregnant is directly linked to miscarriage, especially in its early stages. If a fetus is deprived of the nutrients that are absolutely essential to its growth and development, especially in the beginning of the pregnancy, chances are a miscarriage will occur. This is particularly problematic with women who have the condition, anorexia nervosa.
The best course of treatment here is simple, eat. Make sure you are taking a prenatal vitamin and do your best to begin eating a healthy diet. (Women who have severe morning sickness should not be counted into this area as there are many, many women who have that particular problem, but end up having healthy babies.)
Symptoms that you may be experiencing a miscarriage include but are not limited to:
- Abdominal Pain (can be sharp and stabbing)
- Passing of Grayish (fetal) Tissue or Blood Clots
- Vaginal Bleeding (this can be light to heavy and does not necessarily have to remain constant)
- Persistent Dull Ache in Lower Back Area
If you feel that you may be having a miscarriage, contact your doctor or a health professional immediately.
After a miscarriage, it is important to deal with all the emotions that come from suffering such a loss. You may just need time, or you may need some type of counseling or therapy. There are also pregnancy loss support groups as well that may be able to help you cope with your feelings. It is very important to remember that you did nothing wrong, so do not feel guilty. And try to remember that even though they are not going through the exact same thing as you, your partner is suffering from the loss as well. But no matter what or how you are feeling, you have that right. Take your time and get through it in whatever way you need to, in order to begin to heal.