Miscarriage, which should really be called Natural Pregnancy Loss (NPL), is a tough topic to think and talk about. This is despite the fact that we know it is incredibly common in women of child bearing age. So common, in fact, that most women have had at least one miscarriage in their lives, and if they haven't then they almost always know someone who has.
Natural Pregnancy Loss happens in about 30% of pregnancies...that's right...1 in 3 pregnancies end in the first half of the pregnancy. Most of the time this occurs prior to 9-10 weeks of pregnancy as a result of something having gone wrong with the fertilization of the woman's egg or the implantation into the uterus that would have resulted in something going very wrong with the pregnancy.
It is nature's way of giving us the best chance of having a normal healthy pregnancy and baby. But nonetheless, it is still tough to deal with. There are certainly some medical conditions that can increase the risk of having a miscarriage, these include any unstable medical condition, or blood clotting disorders.
Occasionally there are some women who do not produce enough progesterone early on to support their pregnancy, but this is quite rare. We think it is really important to make sure that your health is optimized to the best of your ability when you are thinking of getting pregnant.
Most of the time, signs that a miscarriage is happening are vaginal bleeding and cramping with subsequent passage of tissue. This is not always the case, as unfortunately some pregnancies are not passed on their own, and we find out at an early ultrasound or when we can not hear the baby's heart beat in the office at around 11-12 weeks.
Other women suspect there might be something going on when they suddenly lose symptoms of pregnancy (breast tenderness, nausea or extreme fatigue) between 8-10 weeks of pregnancy (this is counted from the first day of the last menstrual period).
Often times women ask if there is a way to prevent Natural Pregnancy Loss, and in most cases, the answer generally is no...but if we go into pregnancy being the healthiest we can be, that is always a great start! So minimize or avoid alcohol, smoking, cannabis and other illicit drugs. Eat healthy food and exercise regularly, keep your caffeine intake to a low amount (1-2 cups a day is fine) and make sure that if you have any medical conditions you have spoken to your primary care provider prior to getting pregnant about how to optimize your chance at a healthy pregnancy! Learn more about what supplements to take in pregnancy.
As we know NPL is a very common occurrence, we do not start looking into reasons why until you have had 3 or more miscarriages. These investigations would include bloodwork, looking at your and your partner's chromosomes and making sure there are no physical reasons this might be happening such as a uterus which is not the typical shape.
We think it is really important to help women understand that in the vast majority of the times there is nothing a woman can do to prevent or stop a Natural Pregnancy Loss from happening and that there is nothing she has done to cause it.
Most NPL start and end on their own. People can expect about one week of bleeding resembling a heavy period. Some women have no natural bleeding and so medical or surgical options are available to complete the miscarriage. What you choose will depend on your own wishes and the resources in your community. Your health care provider will discuss the options, risks and benefits with you so you can make the best choice for your own situation.
After the Natural Pregnancy Loss taking time to grieve is very important, and recognizing that you and your partner may grieve differently and that is okay. If you want to start trying again, unless you have specifically been told not to, you can start trying right away. You may need an early ultrasound to confirm your due date if you do not get a regular menstrual cycle between your pregnancies.
It's important to take the time you need to grieve the loss, and this process looks different for everyone. There are many great support groups, counsellors and resources out there to support you through your loss. A book many women find helpful, An Empty Cradle a Full Heart, can be found here Talk to your care provider about local supports and resources.
Have a listen to our podcast for more information.
She Found Health is meant for general medical information only. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This does not apply to every situation. If you have questions, or if you have received different advice please contact your health care provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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