I Think I've Had a Miscarriage
Author: Dr. Anna Kaplan
Miscarriage means the early loss of a pregnancy before it has lasted 20 weeks. This usually happens during the first 12 weeks, which is also called the first trimester. Between 10% and 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.
In the past, women did not know they were pregnant until 6 weeks or more from their last menstrual period. Many pregnancies ended in early miscarriage that was virtually undistinguishable from a heavy period. The longer the pregnancy lasts, the more likely you will have symptoms that will make clear the difference between a miscarriage and a period. You can also now get an over-the-counter pregnancy test that will tell you that you are pregnant before you miss a period. This means that it is more likely that you will know if you have a very early miscarriage.
The symptoms of a miscarriage include bleeding, cramping, and passing tissue. Not every woman who has bleeding goes on to miscarry. However, you should see a doctor as soon as possible if you have any of the symptoms.
Much of the time, especially early in pregnancy, you do not need any treatment for a miscarriage. Sometimes, especially if the pregnancy is farther advanced, the remaining tissue needs to be removed from your uterus by a procedure called a D and C.
It is believed that a large percent of miscarriages are due to genetic defects in the fetus, especially during the first 12 weeks. In other words, if carried to term, the baby would definitely not be normal because of problems with his or her chromosomes. This can happen because of an abnormality in the egg, the sperm, or more likely, something that occurs during the early division of cells after fertilization. Sometimes the embryo doesn’t grow; sometimes it doesn’t survive.
Additionally, the same kinds of medical problems that can cause infertility can cause miscarriage, like diabetes, thyroid disease, and infections. This includes polycystic ovary disease. So can certain types of exposure, for example to drugs, radiation, or toxic substances. Problems in the uterus and cervix can cause miscarriages, as can trauma to the area of the uterus. The risk of miscarriage increases with the age of the mother, and possibly also of the father. Though, most of the time, there is no definite reason for a miscarriage.
Woman and couples vary in their reactions to miscarriages. It may depend on how long the pregnancy has lasted. It may also depend on whether or not the couple is being treated for infertility or not. There is no “normal” or “abnormal” behavior.
Some people feel the loss of a pregnancy like the loss of a child. They may want to have a service of some kind to mark the loss, which is like a death. Others have not connected strongly with the fetus and do not mourn in the same way. Almost all prospective mothers and fathers grieve in some way after a miscarriage.
If you want to have a ceremony marking the loss of the baby, you should do that in whatever way seems appropriate considering your personal beliefs or faith. Often what you chose to do depends on how long you have been pregnant and how many plans you have already made for the baby.
If you have suffered a miscarriage, it is important for you to know that a miscarriage does not prevent you from having a normal pregnancy in the future. More than 85% of women who have had one miscarriage go on to have a successful pregnancy. It is also important to know that most of the time there is nothing you can do to prevent a miscarriage. Miscarriages do not occur because of normal exercise, having sex, or going to work.
You should ask your doctor how long to wait before you try and get pregnant again. This will depend on the specific circumstances of your miscarriage and your overall health. You and your partner also need to decide if you are emotionally prepared for another pregnancy.
There are some things that you can do to try and lower the chance of having another miscarriage. These are similar to what you need to do when trying to conceive a baby anyway.
You should correct any less-than-ideal conditions for a pregnancy before you try to get pregnant again. Stop smoking, drinking caffeine and alcohol, and stop any street drugs. Exercise regularly but not excessively, and avoid contact sports. Do not take any medications that you do not absolutely need, and try and stay away from any hazards in the environment. The doctor will try to make sure there is nothing specifically wrong with your uterus or cervix that is making it difficult for you to retain a pregnancy. Let your doctor make sure you are completely healthy.
If you are having trouble dealing with the loss of a pregnancy, you can ask your doctor about support groups in your area. There are also national support groups that can help, such as Share: Pregnancy & Infant loss Support (at http://www.nationalshare.org/).