Early Miscarriage

Mar 04, 2011 1 Comment by

What is it?

A miscarriage—known in medical speak as a spontaneous expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus before the fetus is able to live on the outside (in other words, the unplanned end of a pregnancy). Such a loss in the first trimester is referred to as an early miscarriage. 80% of miscarriages occur in the first trimester.

Early miscarriage is usually related to a chromosomal or other genetic defect in the embryo, but it can also be caused by hormonal and other factors. Most often, the cause can’t be identified.

How common is it?

Miscarriage is one of the most common complications of early pregnancy. It’s hard to know for sure, but researchers have estimated that over 40 percent of conceptions end in miscarriages. And well over half of those occur so early that pregnancy is not even suspected yet—meaning these miscarriages often go unnoticed, passing for a normal or sometimes heavier period.

Miscarriage can happen to any woman, and in fact, most women who have one have no known risk factors. Still, some factors somewhat increase the risk of miscarriage. One is age; the older eggs of older mothers (and possibly their older partner’s sperm) are more likely to contain a genetic defect (a 40-year-old has a 33 percent chance of miscarrying, while a 20-year-old’s odd of losing a pregnancy are 15 percent). Other risk factors include vitamin deficiencies (especially of folic acid); being very overweight or underweight; smoking; possibly hormones insufficiency or imbalance, including an untreated thyroid condition; certain sexually transmitted disease (STDs); and certain chronic conditions.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The symptoms of a miscarriage can include some or all of the following:

  1. Cramping or pain (sometimes severe) in the center of the lower abdomen or back
  2. Heavy vaginal bleeding (possibly with clots and/or tissue) similar to a period
  3. Light staining continuing for more than three days
  4. A pronounced decrease in or loss of the usual signs of early pregnancy, such as breast tenderness and nausea

What can you and your practitioner do?

Not all bleeding or spotting means you’re having a miscarriage. In fact, many situations (other than miscarriage) could account for bleeding.

If you do notice some bleeding or spotting, call your practitioner. He or she will assess the bleeding and probably perform an ultrasound. If the pregnancy still appears to be viable (in other words, a heartbeat is detected on the ultrasound), your practitioner may put you on some sort of temporary bed rest, your hormone levels will be monitored if you’re still very early in your pregnancy (rising hCG levels are a good sign), and the bleeding will most likely stop on its own.

If your practitioner finds that your cervix is dilated and/or no fetal heartbeat is detected on ultrasound (and your dates are correct), it is assumed a miscarriage has occurred or is in progress. In such a case, unfortunately, nothing can be done to prevent the loss.

If you’re in a lot of pain from the cramping, your practitioner may recommend or prescribe a pain reliever. Don’t hesitate to ask for relief if you need it.

Can it be prevented?

Most miscarriages are a result of a defect in the embryo or fetus ad can’t be prevented. There are steps you can take, however, to reduce the risk of preventable miscarriage:

  • Get chronic conditions under control before conception.
  • Be sure to take a daily prenatal supplement that include folic acid and other vitamins. New research has shown that some women have trouble conceiving   and /or sustaining a pregnancy because of a folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiency. Once these women begin the appropriate supplementation, they may be able to conceive and carry to term.
  • Try to get your weight as close to ideal as possible before conceiving: Being extremely overweight or extremely underweight puts a pregnancy at higher risk.
  • Avoid lifestyle practices that increase the risk of miscarriage, such as alcohol use and smoking.
  • Use caution when taking medications. Take only those that are okayed by a doctor who knows you are pregnant and avoid those that are known to be risky during pregnancy.
  • Take steps to avoid infections, such as STDs.

If you’ve had two or more miscarriages, you can have tests to try to determine the possible cause so future pregnancy losses might be prevented.


Managing A Complicated Pregnancy, Staying Healthy
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