Aug 11, 2015 1:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell

Myths and misperceptions about miscarriages

Miscarriage previously was the subject of whispered conversations. However, it may now be going mainstream. First, Mark Zuckerberg and Pricilla Chen made public their previous miscarriages before conceiving their soon to arrive daughter; then this week vloggers Sam and Nia announced they had suffered a miscarriage as well less than a week after announcing their pregnancy in a viral YouTube video.

While people are opening up the conversation about miscarriage, the time is right to start clearing up misconceptions about it. A recent survey published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology shows the majority of people are not properly informed about the frequency of miscarriages, or the causes behind them. For instance, more than half of those polled for the study thought miscarriages only occur in about six percent of all pregnancies. “Between fifteen and twenty percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage,” says Erica Johnstone, MD, a gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist with University of Utah Health. “That doesn’t count situations where a fertilized egg is lost before pregnancy is established.”

There is also confusion about the causes of miscarriage. Twenty two percent of respondents said “lifestyle choices” like drug or alcohol use are the most common cause of miscarriage. That’s not correct. “Genetic problems with the embryo are the main cause of miscarriage,” says Johnstone. “Yes, lifestyle choices can play a role in some cases, but they are by no means the most common cause.”

The misconception about how often miscarriages happen, coupled with the misconceptions about why they happen could be why many to keep quiet about their experiences. “It creates a feedback loop,” says Johnstone. “People who suffer miscarriages see no one else talking and assume there is shame involved, so they don’t want to talk, and if no one is sharing their experience the misconceptions are perpetuated.”

Johnstone  says the more people discuss their experiences the misconceptions may diminish. “Everyone needs to understand pregnancy loss is no one’s fault, and quite normal,” she says. “It doesn’t mean a successful pregnancy won’t happen eventually, just that this pregnancy in particular did not work out.” 

Libby Mitchell

Libby Mitchell is the Social Media Coordinator for University of Utah Health Care. Follow her on Twitter @UUHCLibby.

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