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Miscarriage – Causes, Symptoms & How To Prevent
Miscarriage is probably the most dreaded word for most expecting moms! It is an unfortunate and terrible situation, and one which can leave you traumatized. Alarmingly, most young couples remain blissfully unaware of the rising number of miscarriages in modern society.
If you are planning to conceive a baby or expecting one, you need to know all about the miscarriage risk factors of and what you can do to avoid it. So, here is a detailed overview of miscarriage, what causes it, and what you can do about it. Read on to learn more:
What Is Miscarriage?
Medical experts define miscarriage as the sudden loss of the embryo or fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. It is also called spontaneous abortion. Most people think that miscarriages are extremely rare. But, studies show that almost 10 to 20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage (1).
Important Facts About Miscarriage:
Here, we look at some important facts about miscarriage:
- Most miscarriages occur because of sudden fetal death due to abnormalities.
- Some causes of miscarriage include hormonal factors, immune problems, over exposure to radiation, illness of mother and infection.
- Exercise and intercourse never cause an early miscarriage.
- The risk of miscarriage for elder women above 35 years of age is higher than the younger ones.
- Women with recurrent miscarriages have to undergo medical intervention, as suggested by gynecologists.
- Most miscarriages occur before the 13th week of pregnancy.
- Women who already went through two miscarriages consecutively have higher risks of having another miscarriage.
- The early symptoms of miscarriage are stomach cramps (similar to menstrual pain) and a small percentage of bleeding.
- Women experiencing miscarriage will experience nausea, painful cramps, heavy bleeding and blood clots.
- Women with recurrent miscarriages have to undergo extensive medical examination including blood tests to diagnose genetic problems and hormonal levels.
- The doctor tests the uterus for infections and examines the structure of the uterus using a CAT scan or MRI.
- Alcohol, smoking, and intake of certain medications increase miscarriage risk.
- Medications that treat cancer, malaria and skin acne elevate the chances of miscarriage in women.
- Women, who recently went through a miscarriage, need to undergo a dilatation and curettage (D & C) immediately after her fetal death. The procedure removes any remnants from the uterus.
- Women need to take sufficient rest to feel better physically and emotionally.
Different Types Of Miscarriage:
Depending upon the stage of pregnancy, there are different kinds of miscarriages that can occur. The symptoms may differ, and women may need to undergo specific miscarriage treatment.
Let us look, at the different types of miscarriages:
1. Chemical Pregnancy:
- The disruption of the fetus that occurs at the early stage of pregnancy is called chemical pregnancy.
- In a chemical pregnancy, though the egg gets fertilized within the embryo, but shortly after implantation.
- Most chemical pregnancies happen due to chromosomal abnormalities in the fertilized egg.
- The sign of chemical pregnancy is bleeding that may occur a bit later or appears to be slightly heavier than normal.
2. Blighted Ovum:
- Also termed as anembryonic pregnancy, the miscarriage occurs in the very early stages, even before a woman realizes her conception.
- The fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop properly. In such scenario, blighted ovum occurs, and it disrupts the fetus.
- The doctor diagnoses a blighted ovum by performing an ultrasound and notices an empty gestational sac and can neither hear the heartbeat of the baby.
- After a blighted ovum, it is advisable for the woman to schedule a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure. In the therapeutic process, the specialist opens up the woman’s cervix and cleans the uterus perfectly.
3. Missed Miscarriage:
- In a missed miscarriage, the fetus dies in the early pregnancy phase, but the pregnancy tissue exists within the woman’s body.
- The woman who has undergone missed miscarriage continues to experience the symptoms of pregnancy.
- Some noticeable symptoms of missed miscarriage include vaginal discharge and cramping.
- A woman needs to undergo D&C procedure, to dispel the fetal tissue from her uterus.
4. Threatened Miscarriage:
- The threatened miscarriage signifies the vaginal bleeding that occurs during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Some of the common threatened miscarriage signs are lower back pain and abdominal cramps.
- It does not mean that your pregnancy will end in a miscarriage.
- If you experience sudden vaginal bleeding, the doctor performs certain medical tests.
- During a threatened miscarriage, the cervix remains closed.
- When the doctor diagnoses closed cervix, you have to remain under strict supervision for the entire pregnancy phase.
5. Inevitable Miscarriage:
- Inevitable miscarriage indicates the unexplained vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain that occurs during the early pregnancy.
- It leads to cervical canal dilation and signifies that your body is in the process of miscarriage.
- Some common signs of inevitable miscarriage include heavy bleeding and severe abdominal cramps.
6. Incomplete Abortion:
- In incomplete abortion, the woman experiences heavy vaginal bleeding and intense abdominal pain.
- The miscarriage signifies the opening of the woman’s cervix and a small portion of the fetal tissues ejects out from the cervical canal.
- The ultrasound test can still detect some tissue in the uterus.
7. Complete Miscarriage:
- In a complete miscarriage, the entire pregnancy tissue gets ejected out from the uterus.
- Some of the common signs of complete abortion are severe abdominal pain, heavy vaginal bleeding, and passage of pregnancy tissue.
- In the complete abortion, the pain and bleeding subside quickly.
- An ultrasound test confirms the occurrence of complete miscarriage (2).
Causes Of Miscarriage:
Some of the most prevalent causes of miscarriage are:
1. Chromosomal Abnormalities:
- Mismatched chromosomes impose almost 60 percentages of miscarriages.
- Chromosomes are the tiny structures present in each of the human cell and responsible for carrying the genes. A human body comprise of 23 pairs of chromosomes, one from the mother and another set from the father. In some cases, when the egg and sperm meet, one of the chromosomes turns out to be faulty. The resulting embryo has a chromosomal abnormality, and the pregnancy ends up in miscarriage.
- Couples experiencing recurrent miscarriages are victims of chromosomal abnormalities.
2. Uterine Abnormalities And Incompetent Cervixes:
- When your uterus appears to be abnormally shaped or divided (uterine septum), miscarriages seems to occur predominantly as the embryo cannot implant into the uterine wall.
- Almost ten percentages of miscarriage result out of uterine abnormalities.
- The weakened or incompetent cervix often leads to miscarriage. When the pregnancy reaches to the end of the first trimester, the fetus grows in six, but the incompetent cervix cannot hold the fetus in.
- Doctors correct uterine septum through surgical procedures. And for treating incompetent cervix, your physician recommends you to undergo cerclage (a surgery to stitch the cervix and keep it closed).
3. Immunologic Disorders:
- Immunological disorders sometimes restrict the embryo from implanting in the uterus, and the woman experiences a miscarriage.
4. Untreated Illnesses:
- Chronic ailments like uncontrolled diabetes or Thyroid Problems (Both Hyper- and Hypo-Thyroidism) creates an unfavorable uterine environment. The embryo cannot survive in such harsh environment and it results in miscarriage.
5. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS):
- Women suffering from PCOS are at higher risk of experiencing recurrent miscarriages in their life.
- Due to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, the woman’s body contains high levels of male hormone testosterone that causes irregular ovulation and menstruation.
- PCOS prevents the endometrial lining of the woman’s body from maturing properly.
- Doctors recommend intake of oral anti-diabetic drugs, such as Metformin (Glucophage), to reduce the risk of miscarriages in women with PCOS.
7. Bacterial Infections:
- Many microbes help in restoring the health condition of the male and female reproductive tracts.
- But there are certain harmful bacteria to increase the risk of miscarriages. The two specific bacteria are mycoplasma hominis and ureaplasma urealyticum. The specific bacteria live in the genital tracts of the human body and elevate the risk of abortion.
- The bacterial infection inflames the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) and destructs the embryo.
8. Exposure to Smoking, Alcohol, Drugs, Environmental Toxins:
- Nicotine present in tobacco easily reaches the placenta and hampers the blood to reach the growing fetus.
- Smokers or mother exposed to passive smoking have higher risks of miscarriages.
- Intake of alcoholic beverages also triggers sudden miscarriage.
- Higher exposure to environmental toxins like industrial fumes, hospital laboratories or factories increases the risk of miscarriage.
- Exposure to radiation or toxic substances (3)
Some other miscarriage causes include:
- Maternal trauma
- Hormonal problems
- maternal health problems
- Excessive intake of caffeinated products
- Maternal age
Symptoms Of Miscarriage:
Some of the common symptoms of miscarriage are:
1. Vaginal Bleeding:
- The most common symptom of miscarriage is vaginal bleeding.
- It usually varies from light spotting to bleeding, which seems to be heavier than your period.
- The vaginal bleeding comprises clots, either small or large.
- If you experience vaginal bleeding at any time during your pregnancy, it is advisable to seek medical assistance from the GP or midwife immediately.
2. Severe Back Pain:
- Back pain during miscarriage makes you feel extremely uncomfortable and stressed out.
- You will experience severe pain in the lowest part of your spinal cord and the lower back portion.
3. Abdominal Cramp:
- Severe stomach cramp or pain around the genital region needs high attention during pregnancy.
- If you experience severe abdominal pain on either side of the abdomen, it requires immediate medical supervision.
- The aches or pain appears similar to menstrual cramps, and the early miscarriage symptoms start with twinges in the genital region.
- Apart from the signs as mentioned above, you can also notice the following signs of miscarriage:
- Passing tissue or clot-like material
- Bleeding which progresses from light to heavy
In some rare cases, there are no symptoms to indicate miscarriage, until and unless it gets discovered during a routine medical check-up. You need to remember that bleeding, severe abdominal pain or dizziness is a sign of ectopic pregnancy. It is the condition when the embryo implants outside the uterus and requires medical intervention immediately (4).
Risk Factors To Elevate Your Chances Of Miscarriage:
Here are some of the risk factors to trigger the chances of miscarriage in pregnancy:
- Aged women above 40 years old are more likely to conceive their baby with a chromosomal abnormality, which increases their risk of miscarriage.
- 40-year old women are more prone to miscarry as compared to 20-year-olds.
2. A History :
- Women who have undergone recurrent miscarriages in a row are at higher chances to miscarry again.
- Exposure to certain infectious diseases like listeria, rubella, measles, mumps, and HIV elevates the risk of miscarriages.
- Intake of over-the-counter drugs, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin increases the risk of miscarriages.
5. Environmental toxins:
- Higher exposure to harmful toxic chemicals like lead, arsenic, benzene, ethylene oxide or anesthetic gases elevates the chances of miscarriage (5).
During a pelvic examination, the gynecologist closely examines whether your cervix has opened or thinned out. The medical specialist performs theAbdominal or vaginal ultrasound, to check your baby’s development and heartbeat.
Here are some of the medical tests use to diagnose miscarriage during pregnancy:
- A pelvic exam to check if the cervix has begun to dilate.
- An ultrasound test diagnoses the fetal heartbeat and to ensure your baby’s well-being.
- A blood test helps analyze the total amount of blood loss, HCG (qualitative) to confirm pregnancy, HCG (quantitative) done every week, and White blood count (WBC) to diagnose uterine infections (6).
When the miscarriage occurs, the fetal tissue that passes from your vagina is examined closely by the medical specialist. Proper diagnosis can identify the chromosomal abnormality and the type of treatment needed to overcome the issues.
If the pregnancy tissue does not come out naturally from your body, the doctor recommends you to go through surgery (suction curettage, D and C), to remove the remaining contents from your womb. After the surgical procedure, your menstrual cycle resumes within 4 to 6 weeks. Medical experts recommend waiting for one normal menstrual cycle before you try to conceive again (7).
Natural Ways To Prevent Miscarriage:
Here are some helpful tips that may help you prevent miscarriage naturally:
1. Taking Folic Acid or Prenatal Vitamins:
- Taking a prenatal vitamin or folic acid supplement before or during pregnancy helps you to fight against the odds of miscarriages.
- Doctors advise intake of 600 mg of folic acid per day that eliminates the chances of birth defects and miscarriages.
2. Regular Immunizations:
- Some of the chronic medical conditions increase your risk of miscarriage. You can prevent such diseases through simple vaccinations. If you cannot remember your vaccination history, maintain a notebook.
- During pregnancy, you need to undergo regular medical check-ups and blood tests to ensure your baby’s growth and development within the womb.
3. Disclosing Medical History To The Gynecologist:
- Certain health ailments like Thyroid disease, epilepsy, and lupus increases the chances of miscarriage.
- It is advisable to inform the complete medical history to the gynecologist, so that he can prescribe suitable medications accordingly.
4. Avoid Caffeinated Beverages Or Alcohol:
- After you get pregnant, you should limit your intake of caffeinated beverages and not drink more than two cups of coffee (200mg) per day.
- The harmful substance caffeine affects the hormonal levels and increases the risk to miscarriage.
5. Exercise Regularly:
- During pregnancy, it is advisable to practice light exercises, stretches, Pilates and yoga postures.
- Avoid over-exerting yourself, as it elevates your body temperature and reduces the amount of blood supply to the fetus.
- It is better to avoid contact sports like skiing and boxing during pregnancy, as it can potentially injure the baby.
6. Eat Healthy Foods:
- During pregnancy, it is better to avoid consumption of raw meat and unpasteurized dairy products. Some of the infectious diseases caused by these foods are listeria and toxoplasmosis, which elevates the risk of miscarriage.
- Try to intake organic vegetables and fruits and refrain yourself from consuming conventional products that contain herbicides and pesticides. These chemicals may negatively impact fertility.
- During pregnancy, you can intake sea fishes that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Apart from being rich in protein and vitamin A, the seafood contains healthy fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids help increase hormone production, ensure a regular menstrual cycle and reduce uterine inflammation.
- You can include wild salmon, cod, and halibut in your daily diet. Avoid intake deep sea fishes like tuna, swordfish, and sea bass as they contain high levels of mercury.
- Include whole grains in your daily diet, as they are rich in fiber and essential vitamins. Dietary fibers help in eliminating the harmful toxic wastes from your body and maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Apart from regulating the blood sugar levels and hormone levels, fibers also aid in healthy digestion. You need to intake high amounts of fibrous fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and leafy vegetables in your meal.
- Refrain from consuming refined sugars found in candy, packaged desserts, bottled juices and carbonated beverages. The processed sugar disrupts your sugar level and weakens the immune functioning.
7. Avoid Illicit Drugs:
- You should refrain from using tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs during pregnancy.
- In addition to being extremely unhealthy for both the mother and the fetus, the drugs elevate the risk of miscarriage.
8. Managing Stress Level:
- Managing the stress level plays an important role in eliminating the odds of miscarriages during pregnancy.
- When you feel extremely stressed out, you find difficult to keep yourself healthy and calm throughout your pregnancy phase.
- There are certain stress relieving techniques that your should practice during your pregnancy like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or even painting or gardening.
9. Quit Smoking:
- Researchers conclude that smoking is a major health risk for both the mother and her unborn baby. It elevates the risk of cancer, heart disease, lung disorders, high blood pressure, and stroke.
- Women addicted to smoking or exposed to passive smoking are at higher risk of experiencing infertility, miscarriages, preterm delivery, or low birth weight.
- Quitting tobacco not only saves the life of your growing fetus but helps you stepping into the life of parenthood.
10. Managing Healthy Body Weight:
- Like smoking, obesity also plays a negative impact on the pregnant women.
- Obesity increases the risk of medical complications from heart disease, diabetes, and various forms of cancer. It also elevates the chances of pregnancy complexities like miscarriage, premature birth, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes.
- Managing a healthy body weight, helps you overcome the pregnancy complexities and give birth to your healthy baby.
11. Have Safe Sex:
- Sexually transmitted infections, like syphilis and Chlamydia can cause sudden miscarriage, neonatal death, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. To avoid such unwanted circumstances, pregnant women need to have safe sex with her partner.
Home Remedies To Prevent Miscarriage:
Here are some effective home remedies to help you ward off the symptoms of miscarriage:
- You can mix one tablespoon of Indian Gooseberry with honey to overcome pregnancy complications and miscarriage.
- If you feel acid-reflux during pregnancy, chewing 3-4 almonds helps you deal with the condition.
- Brown rice contains complex carbohydrate that effectively treats acid reflux during pregnancy.
- Prepare a health drink using safflower foliage to avoid risks of early miscarriage.
- Boil half cup of milk and ass 1/4 teaspoonful of ground bay leaf in the mixture. Consume the milk twice daily and safeguard your fetus from miscarriage.
- Black Haw is the herbal ingredient used in treating menstrual and pregnancy-related problems. The roots and stem of the Black Haw plant are effective in avoiding early miscarriages and post-partum pains. It contains salicin and scopoletin that helps reduction of uterine contractions. You can take the herb in the form of capsules or tea.
- The roots of the False Unicorn plant help to improve the fertility rate and prevent miscarriages. The roots of the False Unicorn plant the herb tightens the uterine muscles and helps overcome abortion caused due to prolapsed uterus or a weak cervix.
Did you go through the traumatic phase of miscarriage in your life? How did you deal with it? Share your story with us!