A miscarriage occurs when a fetus dies before 20 weeks. While miscarriages can be concerning, they are extremely common, impacting about one in five women who have been confirmed pregnant.
So what is a miscarriage, why do they occur and what are their symptoms? Read on to find out everything you need to know about miscarriages.
What is a miscarriage?
Miscarriage is when a fetus stops growing and dies before 20 weeks of pregnancy or if the fetus dies weighing less than 400 grams. It is most common for miscarriages to occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, also known as the first trimester and can quite often occur before a woman even finds out they are pregnant.
Not only can a miscarriage be devastating for a woman who is wanting to conceive, it is no surprise that a miscarriage can cause concern about fertility and health. It is important to note that absolutely anyone can have a miscarriage – even if they are fit and healthy. A miscarriage can occur due to many reasons, but it is usually because the fetus isn’t developing properly.
There are many different types of miscarriage. Depending on your symptoms and the stage of your pregnancy, your doctor will diagnose your condition as one of the following:
- Complete: All pregnancy tissues have been expelled from your body.
- Incomplete: You’ve passed some tissue or placental material, but some still remain in your body.
- Missed: The embryo dies without your knowledge, and you don’t deliver it.
- Threatened: Bleeding and cramps point to a possible upcoming miscarriage.
- Inevitable: The presence of bleeding, cramping, and cervical dilation indicates that a miscarriage is inevitable.
- Septic: An infection has occurred within your uterus.
Most causes of miscarriage are natural and unpreventable such as genetic or chromosome issues. There are also a number of underlying conditions and lifestyle habits which can come into play. These may include:
- drug and alcohol use
- poor diet
- advanced maternal age
- untreated thyroid disease
- hormones issues
- problems with the cervix
- abnormally shaped uterus
- severe high blood pressure
- food poisoning
- certain medications
It is essential to discuss the risk of miscarriage with your doctor to ensure you are making the right lifestyle choices to protect your baby.
A miscarriage can occur suddenly and be fast, or alternatively, they can occur over a longer period of time such as days or even weeks. The most common signs of a miscarriage are:
- heavy spotting.
- vaginal bleeding.
- discharge of tissue or fluid from your vagina.
- severe abdominal pain or cramping.
- mild to severe back pain.
It is essential that you receive medical attention straight away if you believe you are having a miscarriage; however, it is important to note that once a miscarriage begins, no medical treatment is able to stop or undo it.
Treatment is often required if you suffer from a miscarriage unless all pregnancy tissue has been expelled. Otherwise, treatment may include:
- waiting for the remaining tissue to pass naturally from your body
- taking medications to help you pass the rest of the remaining tissue
- having any remaining tissue surgically removed
Miscarriages can have a multitude of effects on a woman and the people within her support network, especially her partner and family. It is normal to go through immense sadness and emotional stress as well as experiencing trouble sleeping and low energy. It is important to reach out for the help needed to overcome such a hard time and to wait until you feel ready to conceive again. A miscarriage is typically only a one-time occurrence; however, if you’ve had two or more consecutive miscarriages, your doctor will recommend testing to ensure health and fertility.
Experiencing a miscarriage is challenging, but no one has to go through it alone. Dr Bevan Brown is one of the most trusted obstetricians in Sydney and will give you complete and compassionate care in every way possible. If you have any questions regarding miscarriage and minimising its risk, or would like to book an appointment, please do not hesitate to get in touch.