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Miscarriages: causes, symptoms and advice

tips and adviceAs someone who serves on the front line of face-to-face care with families suffering from a miscarriage or stillbirth, I see how devastating losing a pregnancy can be for mothers. Miscarriage is not a topic women want to think about or discuss, especially if they are in their first trimester of pregnancy. In this blog post, I will help break down what a miscarriage is, the signs and symptoms of a miscarriage and some advice and tips.

What causes a miscarriage?
Many miscarriages are caused by a chromosomal abnormality that make it impossible for the baby to develop. Other possible causes include drug and alcohol abuse, exposure to environmental toxins, infection, problem with the body’s immune response and hormonal abnormalities.

How common is a miscarriage?
The rate of miscarriages in women who know they are pregnant is about 15 to 20 percent. The number of fertilized eggs that are lost before the woman even knows she’s pregnant is estimated to be about 50 percent.

What are the risk factors?
One of the largest risks is a history of miscarriages. If a woman has had one before, she is more likely to have one again. Women over the age of 35 have a higher risk as well. Chronic conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes and uterine abnormalities put a woman at greater risk for a miscarriage.

What are the warning signs/symptoms of a miscarriage?
Unfortunately, the early signs of a miscarriage can also be the early signs of pregnancy. Low back pain, cramping and spotting are signs of an early miscarriage, but can also be perfectly normal during early pregnancy. Sharp abdominal pain, heavy vaginal bleeding and the passage of clots or tissue are usually signs that a miscarriage has started. Most women don’t know that a miscarriage is coming until it starts.

What should you do if you suspect you are having a miscarriage?
Call your provider if you have any of the symptoms listed above. We can do an ultrasound to see if there is a live pregnancy in the uterus. Unfortunately, once a miscarriage has started, there is nothing we can do to stop it. I always evaluate the woman to make sure she has completed the miscarriage and isn’t bleeding too much. Having a miscarriage is often frightening and emotional. I’m here to help offer comfort and answer any questions you may have.

How is it different for women who have had a miscarriage and get pregnant again?
Women who become pregnant again are often very fearful that they will miscarry again. It can be an emotional rollercoaster. Some women feel guilty for moving on and others see it as a bit of closure. There are often mixed emotions at the time of birth as well. They are thrilled for the baby they have, but mourn the loss of their unborn child.

What advice can you give a woman who is pregnant again after a miscarriage?
Remember that each pregnancy is different. Just because you had a miscarriage before, doesn’t mean it will happen again. Know that it’s normal to be fearful and anxious but it is also ok to enjoy this pregnancy and the excitement it brings. Do not use the Internet as a source of information – it will only cause you more anxiety. Instead, call your provider. Your provider is there to answer and address any questions or concerns you may have.

About Stefanie Hernet, CNM

Stefanie Hernet is a certified nurse midwife for Affinity Medical Group. She provides comprehensive gynecologic health care services to women of all ages, including complete prenatal, delivery and post-natal obstetrical care. Hernet believes in personalized care for women that goes beyond labor and birth.

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