Miscarriage: More common than many realize
A lot of people don't like to talk or think about it. But miscarriage is the most common reason that women lose their babies in early pregnancy. It occurs in about 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies, usually during the first trimester. For this reason, some couples prefer to keep an early pregnancy private. They feel it's better to wait until the second trimester, when the risk is much lower, to announce the pregnancy.
Why does a miscarriage happen?
Miscarriage usually occurs because something has gone wrong with the development of the fertilized egg or fetus. Rarely is miscarriage due to anything that the mother has done.
Most of the time, there isn't anything you can do to prevent this early pregnancy loss. You may have heard that strenuous exercise is harmful, or that falling, being under stress, working too hard, etc. can cause miscarriage. But there is no strong evidence that any of these things can cause a miscarriage.
Signs of miscarriage
Symptoms vary from person to person, but there is generally bleeding and cramping or passing tissue as a result of a miscarriage. If you experience these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
The doctor may want to perform a sonogram or ultrasound, which can detect a heartbeat or other movement of the fetus. The sonogram will also alert the doctor to the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy, a pregnancy that is not in the cavity of the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy can be a dangerous condition that requires surgery.
But it's important that you know that some women experience bleeding and/or cramping in the first trimester and don't have a miscarriage. Take any tissue or blood clots you pass to a your doctor for examination.
How you may feel if miscarriage happens
Sadness, disappointment and depression are common feelings after a miscarriage—for the woman and her partner. Even though you were pregnant for only a short time, the loss that you feel can still be quite strong.
It can be hard for others to understand your feelings if they haven't gone through a miscarriage themselves. Family member or friends may say that the miscarriage happened for the best, since there was probably something wrong with the fetus. But that may not make you feel any better.
If you and your partner have difficulty discussing how you feel about a miscarriage, don't hesitate to ask your doctor about getting help from a therapist or support group.
The most important thing is that you understand that the miscarriage wasn't your fault, and that there's no reason you should feel guilty or responsible in any way. Having a miscarriage does not mean you will have problems getting pregnant again or having a normal pregnancy.
More about miscarriage
Allina Grief Resources: Infant / child loss services
Month 3: Maintaining health while planning ahead
Allina Pregnancy Care
Source: Health Online, Inc.
First published: 03/07/2000
Last updated: 10/14/2007
Reviewed by: Michael Slama, MD, Allina Health Mercy Women's Health Clinic