Miscarriage is the loss of pregnancy from natural causes before the 20th week of pregnancy.
It is estimated that 10-25% of all recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it is important that a woman who is planning to become pregnant be informed about the high risks of miscarriage.
Most miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. A majority of miscarriages occur in the first few days after fertilization, shortly after the fertilized egg has implanted in the uterus. This results in vaginal bleeding around the same time that a normal menstrual period is expected, so the woman may not realize that she had conceived.
What are the chances of having a miscarriage?
There are some factors that change a woman's risk of having a miscarriage.
The chances of miscarriage increase with the age of the mother. Women under the age of 35 yrs old have about a 15% chance of miscarriage. Women who are 35-45 yrs old have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage. Women over the age of 45 can have up to a 50% chance of miscarriage
A woman who has had a previous miscarriage has a 25% chance of having another miscarriage. (This is only a slightly higher risk than for someone who has not had a previous miscarriage.)
What causes a miscarriage?
There are many different causes for a miscarriage, some known and others unknown. In most cases, there is nothing a woman can do to prevent a miscarriage. There are some factors that may contribute to miscarriage.
- The most common cause of miscarriage in the first trimester is a chromosomal abnormality in the fetus. This is usually results from a problem with the sperm or egg that prevents the fetus from developing properly.
- During the second trimester, problems with the uterus or cervix can contribute to miscarriage.
- Women with a disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are three times more likely to miscarry during the early months of pregnancy than women who don’t have the syndrome.
Women who have miscarriages can and often become pregnant again, with normal and healthy babies.
What are the symptoms of a miscarriage?
Signs of a miscarriage can include:
- Vaginal spotting or bleeding
- Cramping or abdominal pain
- Fluid or tissue passing from the vagina
Although vaginal bleeding is a common symptom when a woman has a miscarriage, many pregnant women have spotting early in their pregnancy but do not miscarry. But, pregnant women who have symptoms such as bleeding should contact their health care provider immediately.
What treatment follow a miscarriage?
Women who miscarry early in their pregnancy usually do not need any treatment.
In some cases, treatment may be necessary to prevent blood loss (hemorrhage) or infection.
The most common procedure performed is called a dilatation and curettage (D&C) to remove tissue remaining in the uterus. A D&C can be done in a health care provider’s office, an outpatient clinic, or a hospital.
Medication may be prescribed to help control bleeding after the D&C is performed. Bleeding should be monitored closely once you are at home. If you notice an increase in bleeding or the onset of chills or fever, it is best to call your physician immediately.
Dealing with the loss of a miscarriage
Losing a pregnancy, even in the earliest stages, can lead to a profound sense of loss.
Women may be left with unanswered questions regarding their health, their emotional recovery and whether or when to try to conceive again.
It is very important that women who have experienced a miscarriage try to keep the lines of communication open with family, friends and their health care providers. Talking with other women who have had similar experiences or participating in a support group can also be helpful.