Miscarriages, or pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation, can be a devastating and deeply personal time for a family. Suffering one can be all-consuming, and it may be tempting to scour the internet, trying to pinpoint the cause. However, there are many misconceptions about miscarriages, and ultimately every person and every pregnancy is different. It’s important to get personalized treatment from your doctor if you suffer a miscarriage, but here is some useful information about miscarriages to take with you on your journey to conception.
You're Not Alone
After suffering a loss, you may feel isolated. But miscarriages are actually very common, and you don’t have to suffer alone. As many as 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, and up to 5% of women experience multiple pregnancy losses.
“When you consider pregnancies that are lost before a missed period, it may be 50% or more,” says Erica Johnstone, MD, a gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist at University of Utah Health. “Close to half of women will experience a miscarriage in their life.”
If you are pregnant and experiencing the following symptoms, see your health care provider to determine if you are experiencing a miscarriage:
- Heavy bleeding
- Severe pelvic pain or cramping
- Severe back pain
- Foul-smelling discharge
Wondering the Why
While you’re grieving, it’s perfectly normal to wonder why this happened. It’s important to remember that your miscarriage was not your fault. A major common misconception is that certain lifestyle factors can cause miscarriages, which is simply not true.
“It is never someone’s fault, and it can happen in any pregnancy,” Johnstone says. “I encourage my patients to tell their most trusted and supportive friends and family that they are pregnant early, so that if a miscarriage happens, they can call on these people for support.”
The following activities do not cause miscarriages:
- Exercising, including high-intensity activities like running
- Working, unless you are exposed to harmful chemicals
- Having sex
- Taking birth control pills
Do not beat yourself up if you think you hit the gym one too many times or felt stressed out from work. That is not why you miscarried. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus was not developing correctly. About 50% of miscarriages happen because there are missing or extra chromosomes, which is an abnormality that occurs by chance as the embryo grows. It is not something that is passed from parent to child.
Sometimes, the pregnant person may have a health condition that can increase the risk of miscarriage, including:
- Problems with the uterus or cervix
- Uncontrolled thyroid disease
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Some infections
- Hormonal problems
Managing these conditions before becoming pregnant can help decrease your risk.
Some other risk factors that can make some people more likely to miscarry are:
- Being 35 or older
- Being exposed to harmful chemicals
- Smoking or drinking alcohol
Miscarriages can be a traumatic experience, so make sure you and your partner are emotionally ready to try again. Take care of your mental health, and see a professional if you need to.
If you feel like you’re ready to resume your journey to conception, Johnstone says you can try again after a first trimester loss once the bleeding has stopped. For a second trimester loss, talk to your doctor to determine the safest amount of time for you to wait.
If you’ve had two or more consecutive miscarriages, seek an evaluation for an underlying issue. You may have a treatable condition, such as hormonal abnormalities or uterine septum (a uterus with two cavities). Finding or ruling out these issues can help you and your doctor make the best decisions for next steps in your path to parenthood.
In the past, a lot of shame has surrounded the topic of miscarriage. But talking about it and making sure our loved ones who have suffered a pregnancy loss are getting the care they need will help alleviate the negative stigma during such a difficult and vulnerable time.
“For family and friends, it’s helpful to acknowledge the loss and support the couple in the same way you would if another family member had died,” Johnstone says. “Give the couple time to talk about the baby they lost.”
If you suffer a miscarriage, the important thing to take away is that it wasn’t your fault. Grieve as much as you feel you need to, and you and your partner can try again when you’re ready.