Saying the word "miscarriage" can feel somewhat awkward. You are unsure if it’s something you can openly talk about, or a topic you should avoid entirely because it’s so personal.
However, 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in a miscarriage — it happens more often than you think.
Many women feel the need to hide what they’ve gone through because society makes it seem like miscarriages are uncommon and shameful. So, let’s break through the stigma once and for all.
What is a miscarriage?
According to Mayo Clinic, a miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week.
The word is slightly misleading because it would suggest that you didn’t carry something to full term. However, most miscarriages occur because the fetus is not developing correctly.
While knowing this does not make it any easier to go through, it is important to highlight that miscarriages rarely happen because of something the mom did or didn’t do.
Types of miscarriages
Miscarriages can often be categorized as early or late.
An early miscarriage is defined as the loss of a pregnancy before 13 completed weeks. Genetic or chromosomal abnormalities often cause early miscarriages. For example, if there are too many or too few chromosomes when the egg and sperm fuse, the embryo will not survive.
A late miscarriage happens after the first 13 weeks of pregnancy but before 24 weeks. Late miscarriages are typically caused by a fetal abnormality or a problem with the baby’s development. Other causes include cervical insufficiency, congenital disabilities, placental problems, infections, and trauma.
If a baby dies at or after 24 weeks of pregnancy, it is no longer considered a miscarriage but a stillbirth.
Causes of miscarriages
Problems with chromosomes
About 50 percent of miscarriages are associated with extra or missing chromosomes. Chromosomal problems often lead to:
- Blighted ovum: a sac and placenta grow, but the embryo does not form.
- Intrauterine fetal demise: the embryo forms and may even attach to the uterine lining. However, it stops developing entirely.
- Molar pregnancy and partial molar pregnancy: the embryo and a placenta do not develop the way they should after conception.
Maternal health conditions
A mother’s health condition may lead to a miscarriage in a few rare cases. These often include:
- Hormonal problems
- Weakened cervix or womb structure
- Uncontrolled diabetes
Misconceptions about miscarriages
There are many unexplained causes of miscarriages. Here are some things that DO NOT cause miscarriages:
- An exercise routine throughout pregnancy
- Regular intercourse
- The emotional state of the mother
- Eating spicy food
Can miscarriages be prevented?
Unfortunately, you cannot prevent most miscarriages. The factors that cause miscarriages are often unavoidable, so there is not much that women can do to avoid them.
All you can do is lead a healthy lifestyle before, during, and after conception.
Miscarriages are common. About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. This number is probably higher because many miscarriages occur very early in pregnancy, so most of them do not get detected.
The best thing you can do is lead a healthy lifestyle and not lose hope if you’ve gone through a miscarriage yourself. It does not mean you will have a second miscarriage or have trouble conceiving again.
You are doing the best you can, so be kind to yourself.
>>MORE: You're not alone — read what an Oova community member learned from her miscarriage.
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