Miscarriage and Loss
By definition, a miscarriage or ‘spontaneous abortion’ is the loss of the fetus before 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is relatively uncommon for miscarriages to occur after 20 weeks of gestation and are termed ‘late miscarriages’ if they do occur. It is surprising to note that 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriages—mostly before a woman misses her monthly period or even knows she is pregnant. There are situations when fertilized eggs are lost before implantation, that is, before pregnancy is even established and the woman gets her menstrual cycle around the expected time.
Meanwhile, 15-20% of known pregnancies result in miscarriages. The prime time for miscarriages to occur is within the first three months of pregnancy and 80% of miscarriages happen around that time.
Symptoms of a Miscarriage
Following signs accompany miscarriages and a healthcare practitioner should be called immediately to deal with the problems right away.
Bleeding or Spotting
Vaginal bleeding is the first early sign but some women experience spotting and bleeding in early pregnancy and most of the time, those pregnancies do not lead to miscarriage.
Abdominal cramps accompanied by vaginal bleeding can signal miscarriage. The pain can be sharp and severe and when it is felt after bleeding, then there are low chances of the pregnancy to continue. The person can be going through ectopic or molar pregnancy.
Other symptoms include fever, weakness and back pain. Often, the fetus stops developing before the signs are experienced or felt and the person usually finds out about the potential miscarriage on her first prenatal visit.
What Causes a Miscarriage?
Usually, the causes of miscarriage remain unknown. However, in the first trimester, the most common cause of miscarriage is chromosomal abnormality and is not related to any condition in the mother. Chromosomal abnormality means that something is not right with the baby’s chromosomes. They may be the wrong number of chromosomes, a damaged egg or sperm or any problem encountered during the cell division of zygote. As a result, the embryo could not develop normally.
The good news is that these miscarriages are a one-time thing and there are more chances of a healthy pregnancy next time if age and fertility are not an issue. Also, the risk of going through a miscarriage drops significantly if the baby has a healthy heartbeat (generally visible on the ultrasound after six weeks). And this risk continues to decrease as weeks pass by.
What triggers a high risk of miscarriage?
Though miscarriages can happen to anyone, women with the following particulars are at a higher risk of miscarriage than others.
- Age: Older women above 35 are more likely to have a miscarriage due to chromosomal abnormalities than women in their twenties.
- Past miscarriage history: Has had three or more miscarriages.
- Diseases and disorders: Autoimmune diseases, diabetes, hormonal disorders can increase the risk of miscarriages.
- Uterine and cervical problems
- Birth and genetic defects: If one of the parents or their family members have a genetic abnormality or the woman has previously given birth to a child with birth defects, then chances of miscarriage are high.
- Smoking, drinking and drugs
Coping with Loss after a Miscarriage
It is perfectly normal to go through the same grieving process after losing a baby as you would after the loss of a loved one. Researchers are unable to link the duration of the grieving process with early and late miscarriages. The devastating sorrow that every woman goes through is different for each, based on whether the loss occurred at an earlier point in pregnancy or later.
To go from being pregnant to non-pregnant is saddening as all future hopes and dreams are swept from underneath one’s feet in one swift motion. Women bond with their baby as soon as they get a positive result on their home pregnancy tests, it is different for dads-to-be though. They usually connect after seeing an ultrasound scan or after listening to the first heartbeat or when the baby is finally born.
If you have gone through a miscarriage, allow yourself to feel what you feel. There is no right or wrong way to respond. There is turmoil of emotions that results partly because of the loss and partly because of the weak brain chemistry following the hormonal imbalance associated with miscarriages. You may feel any or all of the following:
Guilt: You must understand that many miscarriages happen for no reason whatsoever. There was nothing that you did or didn’t do to make it happen.
Angry: You may still blame yourself and seeing your friends and family members cherishing their babies do not help your state and that makes you angry too.
Denial: You still do not believe that it happened.
Perplexed: You are still looking for answers and a possible explanation of the miscarriage, but most have no rhyme or reason behind them.
Sorrow: You are overwhelmed with grief as all your hopes have been taken away in one blow.
Anxiety: Grief can feel like fear you cannot control. You may lose your appetite. If other people know about your pregnancy, you dread breaking the bad news to them, as you find it difficult to process sympathies and words of comfort.
Exhausted: You find yourself tired all the time. Sleep either eludes you or you find yourself sleeping a lot.
It is okay to not be okay. Miscarriage is an emotional trauma that can leave a lasting impact. Some women find it hard to let go even after the birth of a healthy baby. However, there are steps that you can take to move on with your life.
- Seek a counselor in your area to help both you and your partner. You do not have to survive this alone. Men may appear strong but they are as devastated inside.
- Reach out to friends and family. Your inner circle of close friends and family members can help you through this phase in your life simply by being there for you, comforting you and supporting you.
- Join a support group. You are not the only one going through this loss. By talking other women who have been there, it might relieve some of your stress. You do not have to do this alone.
Later on, when you think you have gotten over your miscarriage, you can get caught in those emotions again. That is perfectly natural. But try to not let it interfere in your routine life. If you feel you need more help, you can always set up an appointment with a psychiatrist who can help you heal better.