Understanding Miscarriage

Frustrated young woman is suffering after miscarriage. She is looking at ultrasound pictures of her unborn baby and crying. Man is sitting and embracing her with love. blog: understanding miscarriage

Miscarriage is often on the minds of people trying to get pregnant trying and who are already pregnant, especially if the pregnancy is in the first trimester. However, knowing certain facts and understanding miscarriage can help alleviate a bit of the anxiety and fear. Because October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, we want to take some time to cover pregnancy loss and help people in understanding miscarriage.

 What is Miscarriage?

Miscarriage, or early pregnancy loss, is the loss of a baby in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.  Sometimes miscarriage is referred to by medical professionals as “spontaneous abortion.” Although often not talked about openly, miscarriages are more common than most people realize. 

About 10 to 15 in 100 pregnancies end in miscarriage with over 80% of all pregnancy loss taking place in the first trimester. When pregnancy loss happens after 20 weeks, it is considered a stillbirth by medical standards. Pregnancy loss at this point is much less common in comparison to early pregnancy loss with about 1 in 100 pregnancies ending in stillbirth.

Miscarriage Risks

Part of understanding miscarriage is learning about the risk one might occur. As many as 50-75% of pregnancies end before getting a positive result on a pregnancy test. Most women will never know they were pregnant, though some may suspect they were because of pregnancy loss symptoms.

According to a study conducted published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the overall risk of losing a pregnancy after week 5 was 21.3%. By the second half of the first trimester (weeks 8-13), the rate of miscarriage declines significantly to 2-4%.

By week 14 the risk of experiencing a miscarriage is less than 1% which is why many women choose to not share news of the pregnancy until they reach the second trimester.

Miscarriage Signs Symptoms

 One of the reasons that many miscarriages occur without the mother knowing she was pregnant in the first place, much less miscarrying, is that symptoms of miscarriage vary and some women do not experience symptoms at all. 

If the woman does experience symptoms but has not confirmed a pregnancy, she may not recognize them as signs of miscarriage but rather part of her menstrual cycle. But, if the pregnancy has been confirmed, there are several things that may be symptoms of miscarriage, including:

  • Bleeding, especially if tissue or clots are being passed
  • Spotting (light bleeding) is not uncommon in early pregnancy, but it should still always be checked by an OB/GYN.
  • Mild or severe cramping
  • Mucus discharge that is white-pink in color
  • Pain in the abdomen and/or back
  • Loss of pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness before they are expected to dissipate

Types and Causes of Miscarriage

Determining what causes miscarriage is often difficult, especially when it happens early on. However, doctors have found that most miscarriages are related to genetic abnormalities or medical problems with the pregnancy. A common genetic problem is when the embryo has an abnormal number of chromosomes in its cells, which is called aneuploidy. Issues like this mean that the fetus is not viable and would never develop normally. 

Other medical factors that can cause pregnancy loss include structural abnormalities in the uterus, problems with the cervix, fibroids, and abnormal hormone levels. Contracting certain infections when pregnant can also lead to early pregnancy loss, maybe even before the woman knows she is pregnant.

Other factors that may increase the risk of miscarriage include:

  • Drug use
  • Smoking
  • Excess drinking
  • Advanced maternal age (mother is older than 35)
  • Severe physical trauma, like a car accident

On the whole, miscarriages are not caused by physical exertion, having sexual intercourse, carrying heavy objects, or using birth control in the past. Recognizing that factors beyond your control are responsible for pregnancy loss can help you with understanding miscarriage and how to cope with it. When dealing with this loss, just remember that it was out of your control and it is NOT your fault.

Coping with Miscarriage

If you have experienced pregnancy loss, it can be one of the most difficult experiences you go through. After a miscarriage, you may feel a range of emotions including deep sadness, anger, disbelief, and guilt. 

As you grieve your loss, try to remember that you are not alone and that many women share your pain. And if you feel like you are somehow at fault, remind yourself that it is not your fault and you are not to blame. This can be a struggle at first and you might not believe it, but keep saying through the grieving process until you do believe it.

Recovering physically from a miscarriage often takes less time than healing emotionally. However, sometimes women experience physical symptoms related to emotional distress and grief. These include trouble sleeping, fatigue, crying episodes, loss of appetite, and difficulty concentrating. After a pregnancy loss, hormonal changes can exacerbate these symptoms.

You may also want to see a grief counselor or someone who is experienced in understanding miscarriage. They can help you understand the phases of grief and the fact that you have the right to take time to heal and express that grief.

If and when you’re ready, take comfort in knowing that an estimated 85% of women who experience pregnancy loss go on to have a healthy full-term pregnancy.

Schedule an Appointment

At Kernodle OB/GYN, we know that miscarriage is a real fear that many people have. Our doctors and staff want to do all we can to alleviate your fears through education about risk factors and how to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. We are also here to provide support if you do experience pregnancy loss. If you have concerns or questions about miscarriage, call us at 336-538-2367 or you can request an appointment online.

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