When a pregnancy ends before 20 weeks, it is called early
pregnancy loss. This can happen because of a Miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
Miscarriage is the most
common cause of early pregnancy loss. It happens in 15 to 20
percent of all pregnancies, usually in the first trimester. The
exact reason for a miscarriage is often not known. However, most
miscarriages occur when there is a problem with the baby's
development that makes survival impossible.
This term does not mean that a woman did something to end the
pregnancy. Early pregnancy loss is not caused by a fall, a fright,
stress, exercising, working, or having sex. In fact, most early
pregnancy loss cannot be prevented.
Most of these problems happen by chance and are not likely to
occur with the next pregnancy. Most women who have a miscarriage go
on to have a healthy next pregnancy.
About 2 percent of pregnancies are ectopic. This means the
pregnancy grows outside of the uterus, most often in a fallopian
tube. Because a fallopian tube is narrow, it bursts when the baby
and placenta have grown to the size of a walnut. That happens at
about three months. The rupture causes a deep pain and serious,
even life-threatening, bleeding. It must be treated right away.
A woman is at higher risk for an ectopic pregnancy if her
fallopian tubes are scarred from previous infections, a previous
ectopic pregnancy, or endometriosis (uterine cells that grow
outside the uterus).
Women and their partners have a variety of reactions to an early
pregnancy loss. It is normal to have feelings of sadness, anger,
frustration, or hopelessness. There can also be physical symptoms
like loss of appetite, feeling tired, finding it hard to
concentrate, and having trouble sleeping. Grief is not something
that lasts for a few weeks and then ends. Grief has no expiration
date. It can appear at times when you don't expect it.
Many women find the emotional recovery from losing a baby takes
much longer than the physical recovery. Take comfort and strength
from your support system. Give yourself time - time to grieve and
time to heal.
Expect that you and your partner will experience this loss in
your own ways. Grief is personal and unfolds differently. It is
important to be honest with each other. Ask for what you need. If
you and your partner think you would benefit from support or
counseling, ask your health care provider. Talking with other
parents who have had similar experiences can also be valuable.
You may find it helpful to talk with your health care provider,
even if you don't get all of the answers you are looking for.
When you call for appointment, ask for extra time during an
office visit. If you have trouble asking questions about your loss,
have your partner ask the questions. Or, write your questions down
and hand them to your health care provider. If it is painful to sit
in a waiting room with pregnant women, ask to go to an exam room
right away. Office staffs are very willing to do that.
Getting pregnant after a loss is a courageous affirmation of
life. If you are considering getting pregnant or are pregnant,
there are support services available to help you and your partner.
For information about these services, call Allina Health Class
Registration at 612-262-3333.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8
Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts