A miscarriage is a loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation. An embryo or a fetus is delivered before it can survive outside the womb. This may also be called a spontaneous abortion.
The Warning Signs of Miscarriage
The first warning sign is bleeding from the vagina, followed by cramping. Call your doctor if you experience these problems! The longer you bleed and cramp, the more likely you are to have a miscarriage.
Most of the time we don't know why miscarriages occur—they can happen for many different reasons. The most common finding in early miscarriages is abnormal development of the early embryo. Research indicates that more than half of these miscarriages have chromosomal abnormalities. Outside factors, called teratogens, can also cause miscarriage. Examples are radiation and some chemicals (drugs or medications), which research has shown may cause a miscarriage.
Maternal factors are also believed to be relevant in some miscarriages. The list below describes some of the maternal factors that have been identified by researchers.
|Unusual infections in the mother-to-be, such as listeriosis, toxoplasmosis and syphilis, may cause miscarriage.|
|A deficiency of progesterone is believed by some to be a cause of early miscarriage; if detected early enough, it may be treatable, but not everyone agrees with this.|
|Genital infections have been shown to trigger miscarriage. When an infection is found, the woman and her partner are treated.|
|Sometimes a woman's body makes antibodies that attack the fetus or disrupt the function of the placenta.|
|Women who smoke have a higher rate of miscarriage.|
|Alcohol also been blamed for an increased rate of miscarriage.|
Higher Rate of Miscarriage
We have found that some couples are more likely to suffer miscarriages than others. The reason for this has to do with the couple's unique genetic profile. When genes unite upon fertilization of the egg by the sperm, the union can produce genetic abnormalities that cause a miscarriage. Genetic screening can sometimes reveal this problem.
Five Types of Miscarriage
There are five types of miscarriage, which tends to confuse people. The definitions below describe different medical situations.
A threatened miscarriage occurs when there is a bloody discharge from the vagina during the first half of pregnancy. Bleeding may last for days or weeks. There may be cramping and pain—pain may feel like a menstrual cramp or mild backache. Bed rest is about all a woman can do to try to prevent the miscarriage from happening, although being active does not cause miscarriage.
An inevitable miscarriage occurs with the rupture of membranes, dilation of the cervix and passage of blood clots and even tissue. Loss of the pregnancy is almost certain under these circumstances. Contraction of the uterus usually occurs, expelling the embryo or products of conception.
In an incomplete miscarriage, the entire pregnancy is not immediately expelled. Part of the pregnancy may be passed while the rest remains in the uterus. Bleeding may be heavy and continues until the uterus is empty or is emptied by a doctor by D&C.
A missed miscarriage occurs when an embryo that has died earlier is retained in the uterus. A woman may not bleed or have any other symptoms. The time period between the failure of the pregnancy and the discovery of the miscarriage is usually weeks.
A habitual miscarriage usually refers to three or more consecutive miscarriages.
Does Nutrition Affect Miscarriage?
We have no concrete evidence that deficiency of any particular nutrient or even moderate deficiency of all nutrients can cause a miscarriage.
Can I Cause a Miscarriage?
Not usually, so don't blame yourself if you have a miscarriage. It's a normal reaction to look for a reason for losing a pregnancy and to think you might have done something wrong. Many women try to blame stress, emotional upset or physical activity for causing a miscarriage. These things do not usually cause miscarriages.
A woman shouldn't blame herself, her partner or anyone else for a miscarriage. It is usually impossible to look back at everything a woman did, ate or was exposed to and find a cause. Remember, usually no reason can be found for a miscarriage.
If Miscarriage Occurs
If you are having a miscarriage and you expel all of the products of the pregnancy, bleeding stops and cramping goes away, you may be done with it. If everything is not expelled, it will be necessary to perform a D&C (dilatation and curettage), which is minor surgery to empty the uterus. It is preferable to do this surgery so you won't bleed for a long time, risking anemia and infection.
Rh-Sensitivity after Miscarriage
If you're Rh-negative and have a miscarriage, you will need to receive RhoGAM. This applies only if your blood is Rh-negative.
What Does a Miscarriage Look Like?
You won't see a fetus usually. What you pass looks like white, gray or red tissue. It will not be possible to tell if it was a boy or girl. Some doctors want you to bring the tissue to the lab to verify it was really the pregnancy that was passed and not just a blood clot.
Difference between Miscarriage and Stillbirth
In medical terms, loss of the fetus before 20 weeks is a miscarriage. Loss of the fetus after 20 weeks is a stillbirth.