No woman is ready to deal with miscarriage, the spontaneous loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy.
You may not know this, but as many as half percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage during the first trimester, since most times it happens before you are even aware of carrying a child (only about 15% of 'known' pregnancies will end in such a sad way). How can you tell if you are experiencing one? Miscarriage symptoms include severe and coagulated bleeding, cramping and pain, absence of embryo or foetal activity and the fact of not having any pregnancy symptoms.
Such red flags, though, can't give us information about what's behind miscarriage, but it usually has an explanation. Those after the 'which one', read on!
What causes miscarriage?
These are the most common miscarriage causes and what you can do to have them treated.
- Chromosomal abnormalities: mismatched chromosomes are responsible for about 60% of miscarriages, according to experts. Chromosomes are the little structures of DNA present in each cell that contain detailed genetic information about ourselves, from the colour of our eyes to our body shape. We each have 23 pairs of them, resulting from the combination of the mum's chromosome set and the dad's one. During conception, chromosomes may not be able to line up properly, preventing the embryo from getting enough or too many of them, instead. Such an abnormality won't let the future baby develop normally, and that's why miscarriage takes place. If you have more than one miscarriage, you should keep some tissue that you pass and take it to the doctor, so that it can be sent to a lab for a chromosomal test. If the result is normal, you can rule out that possible cause of miscarriage and focus on other ones.
- Uterine abnormalities: miscarriage is also related to uterine abnormalities, like having a septate uterus, which happens when the womb is divided into two parts by a muscular wall. This can be an obstacle for a successful implantation or the necessary nourishment of the embryo. Also, problems may arise if you have an incompetent or weakened cervix that is unable to hold the foetus in. So what can you do to combat such problems? Well, you may be happy to know that a septate uterus can be fixed with surgery and, as for incompetent cervixes, doctors usually carry out a procedure called cerclage. It consists in putting a stitch in the cervix, so that it remains closed.
- Immunologic disorders: the human body is very complex, and It can sometimes shock us with unexpected reactions. Here's an interesting one! There are times when the fertilised egg is treated as a 'foreign object' by the woman's body, whose antibodies will, as a result, end up attacking the embryo and provoking miscarriage. As this is kind of a recent discovery, researchers haven't found good ways to deal with it yet. However, some doctors claim having successfully treated this immunologic disorder with steroids, aspirins and heparin.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): it occurs when women have a hormone imbalance, with high levels of the male hormone testosterone, and this disorder leads to many symptoms, including irregular menstruation and excess body and facial hair. PCOS is considered to be an emerging cause of miscarriage, but fortunately, it can be taken care of with oral anti-diabetic drugs.
- Certain untreated illnesses: when not treated properly, conditions such as thyroid problems and diabetes can keep the embryo from developing in the necessary uterine environment and, as a result, it may not survive. So now you know what to do; talk to your doctor and get a hold of medication to keep such illnesses under control.
- Bacterial infections: certain bacteria that live in the male and female genital tracts can increase the risk of miscarriage, especially when they affect the endometrium. If the lining of the uterus gets inflamed, the embryo may not have a way to develop. Of course, such infections need to be treated with antibiotics, but the best way to prevent miscarriage is by having you and your partner tested (to detect if any of you carries it).
- Food poisoning: if you get food poisoning, caused by listeriosis, salmonella or toxoplasmosis, you'll be more likely to suffer from miscarriage. Make sure that you follow basic hygiene rules in the kitchen, like washing your hands, chopping boards and other utensils. Don't forget to heat and refrigerate food when needed!
- Unhealthy lifestyle: smoking, drinking alcohol, doing drugs or being exposed to environmental toxins can put you at a higher risk for miscarriage. If you want to prevent it, give up such bad habits before even trying to get pregnant.
Can stress cause miscarriage? That's a question that many pregnant women wonder or have heard of. The truth is that there's no scientific evidence that supports this idea, so don't worry if you are anxious during the first stage of your pregnancy. Instead, take into consideration other risk factors, such as the age (especially, being more than 35 years old), obesity, smoking during pregnancy, drinking more than 200mg of caffeine per day and more than two units of alcohol per week, among others.
Finally, you shouldn't get obsessed with what causes miscarriage. Sometimes, doctors can't even find a reason to account for it, and you just have to accept it, keeping in mind that miscarriage is usually a one-time occurrence. However, coping with it can be very hard, no matter how far ahead you were in your pregnancy, so get ready to experience a wide range of feelings, from sadness to guilt (even if it is by no means your fault). Take your time to grieve and wait until you feel ready to try to get pregnant again.