The loss of a pregnancy can be a very difficult time for a woman and her family.
Miscarriages are more common than you may think, and something that no woman should feel embarrassed or ashamed about as miscarriages affect about 1 in every 5 pregnancies.
What is a miscarriage?
Miscarriage is very common in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
They can occur so early in a pregnancy that a woman may not know that she was pregnant. However most occur within the first 10 weeks of gestation. Once a healthy pregnancy has reached 10 weeks, the risk of a miscarriage decreases but can still occur.
When a miscarriage occurs, eventually the pregnancy tissue will pass out of the body. Some women will feel cramps, period-like pain and in most cases there will be vaginal bleeding (you must consult with your obstetrician).
Causes of a miscarriage
The cause of a miscarriage is often unknown. Generally, at least half of all miscarriages occur because the fetus was not developing properly. In this case, miscarriage is nature’s way of dealing with an abnormal embryo. Nothing can be done to prevent miscarriage from occurring if a pregnancy is developing abnormally.
- Age (the risk increases in women older than 30 years of age, with a significant increase in women over 35; at age 40 the rate of miscarriage increases to about 1 in every 2 pregnancies).
- Previous miscarriages
- The use of some medications (speak to your obstetrician about what you are taking)
- Use of alcohol, cigarettes and/or drugs
- Previous surgery, abnormalities or trauma to the uterus
- Fetal chromosome abnormalities
- Some medical conditions in the mother, such as poorly diabetes, fibroids or thyroid problems, can lead to miscarriage. Rare medical conditions which affect blood clotting can also cause miscarriage. Women who have three or more miscarriages in a row should be checked for these conditions.
Women seek medical care at different stages of a miscarriage; sometimes the miscarriage has already happened and sometimes it has only just begun.
Although signs and symptoms may vary, they may include vaginal bleeding, abdominal cramps and pain, and the passing of tissue.
To confirm that you have had or are having a miscarriage your obstetrician will look at a number of things, including:
- your symptoms; such as pain and bleeding
- examination results
- ultrasound and blood test results
After an examination has been done by your obstetrician, then they can advise on what steps need to be taken next.
Miscarriages can happen to the healthiest of women; however, being healthy will increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
What you can do to limit this is to follow the advice for a healthy pregnancy:
- don’t smoke
- limit your caffeine intake
- avoid alcohol
- try to avoid contact with others who have a serious infectious illness
The Emotional Impact
There are a wide range of emotions that women may feel after having a miscarriage. A miscarriage may cause intense grief and depression, that could be for a brief or long lasting amount of time.
It has been reported that many women feel:
- emptiness & failure
- anger & guilt
- disbelief & sadness
- disappointment & loss.
Women will often struggle with feelings of self-blame & wonder whether they could have done anything to cause or to prevent their pregnancy loss.
Grief is a normal and valid reaction for the woman and her partner. They need to allow time to grieve and come to terms with the loss. The time it takes to grieve and understand varies for each individual.
Doctors agree that a miscarriage is almost never caused by anything the woman did or failed to do. In most cases the next pregnancy will be a success.
If you feel you need to speak to someone but don't know where to turn, just visit the Beyond Blue website or call them on 1300 224 636.
After a miscarriage
- Rest for a few days
- Avoid using tampons and having sex for about 2 weeks
- Depending on your obstetricians advice you may consider becoming pregnant any time after the normal menstrual cycle has resumed.
It is normal to seek help from a physiologist or counsellor if you are finding it hard to come to terms with the loss of your pregnancy.
Please see our 'Useful Link' page for links that may help you.