Health A to Z

Miscarriage

Can you reduce your risk of miscarriage? Here's what you need to know.

Miscarriage causes symptoms prevention treatments

Miscarriage is a pregnancy that ends on its own within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. The most common type of pregnancy loss, miscarriage affects 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies. While women may blame themselves for a miscarriage, there is usually nothing that could be done to prevent it.

Miscarriage causes Most miscarriages happen during the first trimester, the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. A genetic or chromosomal abnormality — something wrong with the baby’s genes or chromosomes — is the most likely cause of a miscarriage during the first trimester. Other causes may include hormonal problems; lifestyle factors, such as drug use or exposure to toxins; maternal age — by age 45 a woman has a 50 percent chance of miscarriage; improper implantation of the egg in the uterine lining; maternal health —conditions such as diabetes and thyroid disease can lead to miscarriage.

Miscarriage symptoms A miscarriage may be preceded or accompanied by back pain, cramping, contractions happening every five to 20 minutes, brown or bright red bleeding, passing tissue from the vagina and a sudden decrease in pregnancy signs.

Miscarriage diagnosis/tests If you or your doctor suspect that you might be having or have had a miscarriage, there are several tests used to check to see if your pregnancy has ended, including blood and urine tests to check your levels of the hormone produced during pregnancy, called hCg (human chorionic gonadotropin); and a trans-vaginal ultrasound to check inside your uterus. Your doctor may also do a pelvic examination.

Miscarriage treatment If a miscarriage occurs early in a pregnancy, and the body expels all of the tissue on its own, medical treatment may not be necessary. If the body does not expel all of the tissue, a woman may require a minor surgical procedure called a dilation and curettage (D&C) to stop bleeding and prevent infection. After the procedure, medication may be prescribed to help control the bleeding.

Miscarriage prevention Most of the time, there’s nothing that you can do or could have done to prevent a miscarriage.  If a woman is at risk for a miscarriage, her doctor may recommend bed rest and avoiding sex and exercise. Otherwise, when you’re pregnant, get good prenatal care and avoid alcohol, smoking and/or too much caffeine which may increase the risk of miscarriage. If you have a chronic condition, such as thyroid disease, work with your health care team to keep it under control.

Outside resources
Women’s Health Matter

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