Five Important Facts about Miscarriage
Miscarriage is so rarely talked about, most people don’t even understand how common it is or why miscarriage happens. To make sense of a painful experience that so many women go through, it’s helpful to understand some of the most important – and frequently misunderstood — facts about miscarried pregnancies.
Five facts about miscarriage
Miscarriage is the body’s way of ending a pregnancy that was problematic.
No one knows exactly why miscarriage happens, why some pregnancies end and others don’t. But most doctors agree when women miscarry, it is the body’s way of ending a pregnancy that was not likely to be viable in the long term. The most common causes of miscarriage are chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo. Sometimes, two partners’ genetic material combines in a way that doesn’t support a healthy human life; miscarriage is the the body’s natural termination of a pregnancy unlikely to result in a viable, healthy fetus.
Of course, there are other physical reasons for a miscarriage. These include uterine or cervical insufficiency, which means these organs have structural problems that make it more difficult for some women to carry a pregnancy. Other possible reasons include: maternal hormone irregularities or diabetes, advanced maternal age, exposure to toxic substances, or certain types of severe infections.
It is more common than most people think.
By some estimates, as many as 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Estimates are inexact because of the delicate nature of the experience, but there’s another reason the chances of a miscarriage are not well established: Many women miscarry and do not realize it. When the body rejects a fetus that’s not viable, it frequently happens at such an early stage of pregnancy that the fetus is tiny, and gets flushed out in what looks like a normal period.
In fact, as many as 75% of miscarriages happen so soon after implantation that a woman may not even realize she was pregnant. Most miscarriages happen in the first trimester (the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy). Very few – less than 1% — are stillbirths that happen after 20 weeks’ gestation.
Working out, or having sex are not causes of miscarriage.
Women miscarry for many reasons, but physical exercise during pregnancy (even strenuous exercise) is not the culprit. There are exceptions, of course, for women with cervical or uterine insufficiency, or other physical characteristics that make carrying a pregnancy to term difficult. But for an otherwise completely normal, healthy pregnancy, exercising, walking up stairs, performing other physical feats are not reasons for miscarriage. The same goes for engaging in (non-violent) sex during pregnancy.
In an otherwise healthy pregnancy, external causes of miscarriage would include only severe trauma to the body, such as a car accident or physical abuse; routine exercise and physical exertion aren’t risks or reasons for a miscarriage.
It’s isn’t a sign that anything is wrong with a woman’s body.
Miscarriage is not sign of anything wrong with a woman’s body, nor does it suggest she will again miscarry or have difficulty carrying to term a future pregnancy. There are exceptions to this, such as the cervical or uterine insufficiency mentioned above. But for a woman without such physical difficulties, miscarrying is usually just a sign that that specific fetus was not viable, with no bearing on any future fetus. (However, it is true that smoking, drinking, and age can impact a woman’s ability to carry a pregnancy to term.)
It can’t be prevented — and it’s no one’s fault.
Because the vast majority of miscarriages are caused by factors completely out of a mother’s control, there is no way to prevent them. (That said, as noted above, healthy lifestyle factors such as not drinking, smoking, or exposing the fetus to strong toxins are helpful in improving the chances that a healthy, viable fetus thrives.)
Miscarriage can be emotionally difficult, even when women know it is out of their control. Indeed, sometimes the lack of control is what makes the experience harder; it is common for men to grieve, too, after a partner’s miscarriage. If you or your partner are struggling after experiencing a miscarriage, explore an online support group (The Swaddle was unable to find any in-person support groups registered in India) or reach out to a professional, certified psychologist or psychiatrist who can give you the help you need.