Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss

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Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss
Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss

Experiencing pregnancy loss is often a devastating experience in a woman's life, both physically and emotionally.


Experiencing pregnancy loss is often a devastating experience in a woman's life, both physically and emotionally. It is normal to feel lonely and guilty, to wonder what went wrong, and to experience overwhelming sadness and even overwhelming anger.

Each woman experiences early pregnancy loss differently. In some, it is a miscarriage; in others, the causes may be genetic, physical or environmental.

What is a miscarriage?

A miscarriage occurs when a pregnancy ends unintentionally before the 20th week. In medical terminology, this is called a “spontaneous abortion”. Although women tend to blame themselves, more often than not there is nothing they can do to prevent a miscarriage. In fact, it's a relatively common experience - it's estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.

Many women have a miscarriage before they even find out they are pregnant, thethe only sign being the late onset of menstruation, which is often heavy.

Signs and Symptoms of Miscarriage

In some women, signs and symptoms occur before a miscarriage occurs, while in others no symptoms are present. Here are some signs of an early miscarriage:

vaginal bleeding, usually dark brown but changing to pink or red decreased breast tenderness and size no fetal heartbeat no fetal movement

Other symptoms a pregnant woman may experience if she has a miscarriage:

  • cramps
  • increased red vaginal bleeding

It is very important to call your doctor and take note of the amount of bleeding that occurs. If a small piece of tissue is pushed out, try to save it. Many doctors will use it to find the cause of miscarriage.

Possible causes of miscarriage

It is difficult to specify the cause of a single miscarriage. Although many women believe themselves to be responsible, it is very unlikely that they did anything wrong to bring about the end of their pregnancy.

Genetics is a major cause (about 50 to 60 percent of miscarriages). Other possible causes include infections, blood incompatibility, or environmental or physical factors. These causes are associated with aincrease in the number of miscarriages, but they are unlikely to cause repeated miscarriages.


Often a miscarriage is a natural way to end a pregnancy if the fetus is not developing normally. Genetic or family factors are common causes of birth defects and miscarriages. Genetic abnormalities often occur randomly, but can also run in families. It is important to seek genetic counseling if one is aware of a family illness or abnormality, or if miscarriages occur repeatedly.

Other causes

Womb infections can cause miscarriage because they can prevent the fetus from developing normally. Environmental factors like pollution and tobacco smoke have been linked to increased miscarriage rates, but whether they are a direct cause remains to be proven.

There are also times when a miscarriage can be attributed to physical factors. This does not mean that the mother's behavior is the cause. Sometimes the shape of the uterus is such that the fetus cannot develop normally. Other possible physical factors include a cervix that is too weak to hold the fetus in the womb.

After a miscarriage

The doctor may find it necessary to perform a procedure called D&C (dilation and curettage) toremove parts of the fetus or tissue that is still in the uterus. During a D&C, the cervix is opened and tissue is scraped away from the lining of the uterus by scraping or suctioning. If tissue remains in the uterus, the risk of infection increases.

The body takes time to recover from a miscarriage. The characteristic signs of pregnancy can last for several weeks, such as large and tender breasts and a rounded abdomen. Vaginal bleeding may continue for about seven to 10 days. There should not be a dramatic increase in blood volume and it should not be bright red in color or have an unpleasant odor. If you notice any of these problems, contact your doctor immediately.

We should wait two or three weeks before having sex. Doctors usually recommend that you wait until your next period is over before trying to get pregnant again. This gives the uterus time to heal. If you doubt that you are ready to become pregnant again, ask your doctor to provide you with suitable contraceptives.

Emotions after miscarriage

The period following a miscarriage is one of physical and emotional healing. As mentioned above, fear, sadness, anger and guilt are often common and perfectly normal reactions.

We usually ask ourselves questions like "Whyme? What did I do to cause this? and "What could I have done to prevent this?" ". It is important not to put the blame for a miscarriage on your own shoulders. It is very unlikely that you did anything to cause the event (or that you failed to do something).

Support from friends and family is essential during this time. Sometimes loved ones don't know what to say or how to react and may say hurtful things, even when they want to offer support.

Partners sometimes grieve differently, and it's important to keep the lines of communication open in order to share your feelings with each other.

Many people who have had a miscarriage find it helpful to talk with others who have had the same experience. It can be very helpful to join a support group during this time.

This article is provided by the Women's He alth Specialists at Women's College Hospital. To learn more about women's he alth, visit: SensitiveWomen.ca. © 2000-2006 Women's College Hospital.

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