Miscarriage is common, but finding its cause may not be easy. If a cause can be found, it’s likely to be a problem with the baby or the structure of the uterus. Other factors cause miscarriage, but they are less common.
Problems with the Baby
Any of the following problems with the baby can cause a miscarriage:
There is a problem with the baby’s chromosomes (genes that carry the information needed for life).
The placenta or the umbilical cord may be damaged.
What Does Not Cause Miscarriage
Plenty of myths and “old wives’ tales” try to explain the cause of miscarriage. But, they are fiction-not fact. None of the following activities causes miscarriage:
- Carrying groceries
- Lifting a small child
- Wearing high heels
- Working outside the home
- Being a vegetarian
- Eating spicy foods
- Having sex
- Having a Pap smear
- Riding a horse or a bicycle
- Coloring your hair
- Wishing away or denying a pregnancy
Problems with the Uterus or Cervix
Any of the following problems with the uterus or cervix can cause a miscarriage:
The uterus may be divided (have a septum), or have fibroids, adhesions, or endometriosis. The lining of the uterus may be too thin for the fertilized egg to implant.
The cervix may be too weak to support the weight of a pregnancy.
Any of the following problems can cause a miscarriage:
- A serious illness, such as mumps or German measles.
- A bad injury, perhaps during a car accident.
- Exposure to toxins or radiation.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor if you have the following:
- Severe pain
- Bleeding that soaks a new sanitary pad each hour
- Fever or chills
- Vaginal discharge that has a bad odor
No two miscarriages are alike. Because of this, your doctor will talk with you about what’s best for your recovery.
If you’re in good health, your body may be allowed to miscarry on its own. But depending on the miscarriage, having a D&C (dilation and curettage) may be best. This simple procedure returns the uterus to its state before pregnancy.
If Your Body Miscarries
As your body miscarries, you may pass both blood and tissue. Follow up with your doctor as often as he or she suggests. To prevent infection, do not use tampons or place anything in your vagina at this time.
Normal Bleeding Pattern
Most miscarriages start with bleeding. Blood flow may increase with time and the amount of cramping.
At some point, your cramps may get very strong. This is normal. Cramping widens the passage (cervix) that any tissue from the uterus must pass through to leave your body.
Your doctor may ask for a sample of the tissue for lab testing. This is to make sure that the cells being shed from your body are normal.
If You Have a D&C
You may have a D&C if you are bleeding heavily, are in severe pain, or if all the tissue does not pass from the uterus.
Understanding the Procedure
If you will be more at ease, your partner may be able to stay with you during the procedure.
When you arrive, you may be given medications to help you relax. Before the D&C, an anesthetic may be applied to the cervix, or you may be given anesthesia to help you sleep.
Then your doctor widens the cervix and removes the tissue and blood lining the uterus. The tissue is sent for lab tests.
After resting briefly, you should be able to go home. You may be given medications to reduce pain or the risk of infection. Take the medications as directed, and be sure to follow up with your doctor in about 2 weeks.
Your body has had a shock to its system. Because of this, you may not feel well for a few days. Your body is going through changes, and you can expect mood swings. When you are ready, start back to your normal routine.
The miscarriage has caused a sudden drop in your hormone levels. This is likely to produce mood swings or make your emotions even more extreme.
Stress and lack of sleep can also affect your moods. As your body returns to normal, these mood swings should lessen.
Returning to Your Daily Routines
You are the best judge of how you feel. Do only as much as you feel up to. Also be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. Keep the following in mind:
Return to work or your daily routines when you feel ready. This might be right away, or you may want to wait a few days.
Take showers instead of tub baths.
This helps prevent infection. Your doctor will tell you when you can take baths again.
Avoid strenuous exercise, such as aerobics or running, until the bleeding slows to the rate of a normal period.
Wait to have sex, and don’t use tampons until your doctor says it is okay.
Recognize your need to talk. Ask for support when you want it, and accept help when it’s offered. Although sharing thoughts with your partner is vital, you may also feel like talking with other family members or friends.
The real experts on miscarriage are the women who have gone through it. Because miscarriage is so common, it’s likely that someone close to you has had one. You may begin to see that you’re not alone in experiencing such a loss.
When to Call the Doctor
It’s normal to be sad for a while. You may even feel “down” until you’re pregnant again. Be sure to call your doctor if either of the following is true:
- You continue to have no interest in eating or are not able to sleep.
- Your depression does not lessen or you get more upset.
Miscarriage is the unplanned end of a pregnancy before the baby can live outside the womb. When a miscarriage happens, you’re likely to have a wide range of feelings. Allow yourself to accept how you feel. Only then can you begin to move on.
No One Is to Blame
Know that you did not cause this to happen. Miscarriage is very common. It occurs most often with a first pregnancy, but it can happen with any pregnancy. Miscarriage usually takes place during the first 10 weeks after conception.
Grief Takes Many Forms
Grief may be the first thing you feel, or it may come upon you later. Perhaps you’ll grieve because the future you hoped for is lost. Grief is painful and often lonely. But it should become easier to deal with over time.
What You Feel Is Okay
No one can tell you how to respond to your miscarriage. If you have been trying to have a child, this loss may feel overwhelming. Perhaps this was an unplanned pregnancy.
That doesn’t mean you won’t feel loss. You know yourself best. It’s okay to feel whatever you feel.
A Sense of Loss
No matter what you thought about being pregnant, having a miscarriage may cause a sense of loss. You may feel as if something is missing.
It’s okay if you can’t describe how you feel. At first, it may be enough just to look inside yourself and feel your emotions.
Men grieve too. You may be feeling sad, helpless or frustrated. When you’re struggling with your own feelings, knowing how to help your partner may be hard. But do your best to provide support. The following tips may also help:
- Be kind to yourselves.
- Spend time together.
- Fix a meal or bring dinner home.
- Rent a movie.
- If you have children, spend extra time with them.
- Trying Again
You’ve been pregnant, so you know that chances are very good it can happen again — if you want it to. The choice is up to you and your partner. If you want to try again, do so when you’re ready.
A Joint Decision
You and your partner may decide to try again soon, or you may prefer to wait. To increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy, your doctor may suggest waiting 2-3 monthly cycles. This builds up the uterine lining. As a result, the fertilized egg is more likely to implant fully.
If you go on to have repeat miscarriages, your doctor may want to run a few tests. In certain cases, special tests can pinpoint the cause of miscarriage.
Some causes, such as problems with the uterus, can often be corrected. If you have a general health problem, finding ways to control it may be all that’s needed.
Prepare for the Future
After the first miscarriage, most couples go on to have a healthy pregnancy.
You can give a future baby the best start by eating a balanced diet.
To help prevent problems during your next pregnancy, avoid actions that may place the baby at risk. While you are pregnant, stay away from the following:
- Drinking alcohol
- Using drugs
- Spending time in hot tubs and saunas
- When You Are Ready
Your health is what matters. Wait until you feel fit in body and mind before trying to get pregnant again.
Until then, enjoy the time you spend with your partner.
Allow yourselves to enjoy each other. Try not to let getting pregnant become your one goal. Instead, look at pregnancy as one possible outcome of a loving relationship