Miscarriage. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it’s the most common culprit of pregnancy loss. It’s also the very last word any mommy-to-be wants to think about.
I always thought pregnancy would be similar to the advertisements of carefree woman, happily enjoying every moment of their nine-month journey to babyhood. Then I actually GOT pregnant.
And while I, like so many other mommies I know, tried to enjoy every blissful moment, things happen. Scary things. Odd twinges and pains, spotting or bleeding, cramping, a sudden lack of nausea… and immediately that dreaded word – miscarriage – enters your train of thought.
You start thinking about what can cause a miscarriage and you hold your breath until you hit lucky thirteen (because your chances of miscarriage drop significantly after the first trimester), or at least until you manage to see that tiny, amazing, heart beat on an earlier scan. Which, incidentally, if you have an earlier scan, chances are you did experience some sort of irregular blip on what should have been that perfect pregnancy train.
Hopefully you can now take some comfort in knowing that chances for a miscarriage decrease when that incredible little heartbeat is found.
Causes Of Miscarriage Within And Out Of Your Control
So What CAN Cause a Miscarriage?
This is such a good question. It’s a question you want to know when you are pregnant, when you fear a miscarriage, and after you endure a miscarriage. And while the answer can’t necessarily stop a miscarriage from occurring or change the past, sometimes being armed with information is helpful. Frustratingly enough, however, miscarriages are caused by a variety of reasons, reasons that are usually not identified or preventable.
What we do know is that miscarriages are most frequently caused by chromosomal abnormalities. Perhaps the egg or sperm cell was damaged, or there was a problem when the zygote divided – all things completely out of your control and many of which (up to 70%) occur before you even know you’re pregnant.
Health related concerns such as heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and thyroid disease may also cause miscarriage. Such illnesses cause the uterine blood flow to be restricted, increasing a woman’s chance of miscarriage because the fetus’ oxygen supply is limited. If the mother suffers from polycystic ovarian syndrome, the chances of miscarrying are also increased. Treatment and monitoring of these conditions can help to decrease the chances of miscarriage.
Other health related concerns (including, but not limited to) such as abnormalities of the uterus (growths, scar tissue, structural problems, infection, etc.), cervical problems (a weak, or short cervix, a cervix that opens early, etc.), hormones, problems with implantation in the uterine lining, blood disorders, maternal age and obesity may also increase a woman’s risk for miscarriage – but remember, this does not mean a woman will miscarry.
Causes of Miscarriage That I Can CONTROL
Perhaps the most frustrating part of miscarriages is the lack of power doctors and we have over preventing them – logic tells us that if we can pinpoint what causes them, we can stop them. However, this is simply not the case. There are, however, a few things we can do to lower our risk.
Lifestyle choices – like smoking, drinking and drug use are also harmful to mothers and babies and can cause miscarriage. Refraining from such activity will help to keep both mom and baby healthy and you can rest a little easier knowing that you’re doing your part to carry a healthy baby to term.
You can also make sure that you avoid eating and drinking anything that can be harmful for your baby. Learn more about eating healthy during pregnancy here.
Get a health checkup, to make sure you do not have untreated diabetes or any other health issues that can actually be mitigated, but that without treatment increases the miscarriage risk.
Many pregnant women wonder if stress can cause miscarriage. That’s a good questions. Unfortunately, research is contradictory. Read more about the possible link between stress and miscarriage here.
What DOESN’T Cause A Miscarriage?
The list of causes for an increased risk of miscarriage is so long, it seems amazing any baby is carried to term. But, look around you and notice all of the happy and healthy babies and know that you (unless you are making unhealthy lifestyle choices) are not the cause of miscarriage.
Additionally, contrary to popular belief, activities such as sex, working, or moderate exercise do not cause miscarriage. Learn more about sex during pregnancy here.
Feeling Guilty And Worrying After A Miscarriage
It’s important to keep in mind that miscarriage is not code for something you’ve done wrong. Miscarriage is often nature’s way of ensuring healthy pregnancies and deliveries for moms and babies. Such knowledge certainly doesn’t make it any easier for the mother who has miscarried or those who worry they are miscarrying. But often were such pregnancies carried to term, they would result in significant complications and difficulties.
Perhaps all of this scary and very real pregnancy information on what can cause a miscarriage begs the realization that pregnancy can be stressful, difficult emotionally and overwhelming. THAT is also known as parenting – and it begins at conception. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to become any easier either – there will be more always be more things to worry and more things we wish we could control. So, try to sit back and enjoy that blissful, carefree ride to motherhood.
Or, as a midwife told a friend of mine, who complained about worrying so much: Get used to it! The worrying will not stop until your adult child moves out – or actually it will not end ever.:-)
More On Miscarriages
- Miscarriage Statistics By Week
- Getting Pregnant After Miscarriage
- Having A Period While Pregnant – Possible?
Tong S, Kaur A, Walker SP, Bryant V, Onwude JL, Permezel M. Miscarriage risk for asymptomatic women after a normal first-trimester prenatal visit. Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Mar;111(3):710-4.
Wilcox AJ, Weinberg CR, O’Connor JF, et al. Incidence of early loss of pregnancy. N Engl J Med. Jul 28 1988;319(4):189-94.
Allison JL, Schust DJ., Recurrent first trimester pregnancy loss: revised definitions and novel causes. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2009 Dec;16(6):446-50.