A miscarriage is a loss of pregnancy during the first 20 weeks. Miscarriage occurs in about half of all pregnancies, but only 10% of known pregnancies, and most occur in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.
Often, a miscarriage is nature's way of ending a pregnancy in which the fetus is not growing as it should or would not have been able to survive. In many cases, there is no known cause for a miscarriage.
Most first-trimester miscarriages are caused by chromosomal errors that occur when the fetus is first forming. Chromosomes are tiny structures inside the center of each of the body's cells. Each chromosome carries many genes, which determine the traits of a person.
Most chromosome problems are not inherited, but happen by chance and are not likely to occur again in another pregnancy. In most cases, there is nothing wrong with the health of the female or male partner.
Preexisting health conditions can also cause you to miscarry. In many cases, your doctor can monitor these conditions and manage them so that your pregnancy can be successful. As always, talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns you have about your pregnancy.
Possible conditions that can cause a miscarriage include:
There are several risk factors that may increase your chances of a miscarriage. These include:
After the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat is seen on ultrasound, the risk of miscarriage drops significantly.
Common signs of a miscarriage include:
While most women who have vaginal spotting or bleeding during the early stages of their pregnancy have healthy babies, bleeding is the most common symptom of a miscarriage.
If you have any symptoms of a miscarriage, call your doctor right away. Often, your doctor will be able to diagnose a miscarriage from a pelvic exam. If not, your doctor may order blood tests or perform an ultrasound exam.
There is no proven medical treatment to stop a miscarriage that has already started. While many miscarriages complete on their own, some require medical treatment. If tissue is left in your uterus after the miscarriage, your doctor may perform a dilation and curettage (D&C). In this procedure, the remaining tissue is gently removed from your uterus. Most D&Cs are performed in the doctor's office and require no hospital stay.
It is normal to go through a grieving process after a miscarriage, regardless of the length of your pregnancy. Guilt, anxiety, and sadness are common and normal reactions after a miscarriage. It is also normal to want to know why a miscarriage happened; however, in most cases, a miscarriage is a natural event that could not have been prevented.
Emotional healing is as vital as physical healing after a miscarriage. Grieving is normal and allows you to accept the painful loss of miscarriage and go on with your life. Counseling can help both you and your partner if you have trouble dealing with your feelings after a miscarriage.