Everything You Need To Know About Pregnancy Loss
Miscarriage is a difficult experience, but a very real risk that comes with every pregnancy. Unfortunately, it’s very common. It also occurs even more often than reported because it happens before any signs of pregnancy start to show. ‘Grieved’ doesn’t even begin to describe what most women feel when they experience a miscarriage. But as early as now, you must know that pregnancy loss isn’t the fault of anybody. Most importantly, it’s not your fault.
In this article, we will tell you what pregnancy loss is, its symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment. We will also discuss the recovery process and safety of trying to have a baby again after a miscarriage.
What Is Pregnancy Loss?
Pregnancy loss, also called miscarriage or spontaneous abortion, is a type of perinatal loss that happens before the 20th-week mark. It usually happens when a fetus doesn’t develop normally. It is different from neonatal death, which is when a baby dies within the first 28 days after being born.
Early Pregnancy Loss
A pregnancy loss is called early miscarriage if it happens during the first trimester, or before the 13th-week mark. Most miscarriages happen within this period, and the cases are most likely underreported. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology states that “Common symptoms of early pregnancy loss, such as vaginal bleeding and uterine cramping, also are common in normal gestation, ectopic pregnancy, and molar pregnancy,” making it difficult to detect. Many women experience pregnancy loss before they even know they’re pregnant.
Aside from miscarriage, intrauterine fetal demise is another type of perinatal loss. It is when a baby dies, or is stillborn, past the 20th-week mark. Stillbirths only amount to the small number of miscarriages as most happen early in the pregnancy. Another example is an ectopic pregnancy and it’s when a fertilized egg attaches to an area outside the uterus. All ectopic pregnancies can’t proceed and need to be terminated immediately.
How Common Is Spontaneous Abortion?
Spontaneous loss of pregnancy is very common and happens in 10-20% of known pregnancies. But again, many miscarriages happen even before women know they’re pregnant. Pregnancy losses are a relatively common experience, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy for those involved. It can be even more difficult and devastating for the woman. If you experience it, know that you’re not alone and there are people who are with you in this trying experience.
What Are The Symptoms Of Miscarriage?
The different symptoms of pregnancy loss include:
- Vaginal spotting, fair or heavy bleeding, the most common sign of miscarriage
- Passage of fetal tissue through the vagina
- Fluid gushing from the vagina
- Pain or cramps in the lower back or abdomen
Most women who experience vaginal spotting and bleeding during the first trimester still have successful pregnancies. If you observe any of these symptoms, you should reach out to your healthcare provider for medical assistance. They can conduct different tests to determine whether you’re experiencing miscarriage or not. In some cases, it may be too early to detect pregnancy loss. If that happens, you may be requested to come back for more tests.
What Causes Early Pregnancy Loss?
The ACOG states that “about half of early miscarriages happen when the embryo does not develop properly.” This is usually due to problems with chromosomes: the structure in your cells that carry genes. Complications may arise if the number of chromosomes is excessive or lacking. Some examples include intrauterine fetal demise or blighted ovum, which means an embryo doesn’t develop.
Another condition caused by chromosomal problems is molar pregnancy where chromosomes only come from the father because of improper fertilization. The placenta will grow but the fetus won’t develop at all. In the case of a partial molar pregnancy, there will be one set of chromosomes from the mother and two from the father. This will result in placental and fetal abnormalities.
The Risk Factors
Risk factors pertain to refer to conditions, habits, or instances that put you at a higher risk of pregnancy loss. Some examples include:
- Hormonal problems, like problems with thyroid or progesterone
- High blood pressure or uncontrolled diabetes
- Uterus problems, like scar tissue
- Incompetent cervix, where the cervix can’t stay closed during the pregnancy
- Autoimmune diseases, cause your body to attack its own healthy tissues
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Age, as miscarriages occur more often for women older than 40
- Smoking, drinking alcohol, and doing drugs
There’s no fixed method you can follow to secure a guarantee against miscarriage. However, you may work with your provider to keep your health in check to lower these risk factors. You may also avoid habits like smoking, drinking, and doing drugs, which puts you at a greater risk of miscarriage.
As we’ve mentioned before, most cases of fetal death are due to developmental abnormalities. Most of the time, it’s not anyone’s fault, and the mother certainly shouldn’t be blamed for it. A common misconception about pregnancy loss is that it’s caused by stress or a recent fall or trauma. However, very rarely is this true. Because of these misconceptions, mothers become consumed by guilt, loathing, and self-blame on top of the grief from their loss.
You should know that it’s not your fault, and if you need someone to talk to, you may approach your loved ones. You may also join support groups or get professional help, especially for your emotional and mental health.
How Is Pregnancy Loss Diagnosed?
There are different ways to find out if you’ve had a miscarriage. The first one is a pelvic exam where your provider checks if your cervix has started to dilate or open. This dilation means that you may experience pregnancy loss.
The second test is an ultrasound, which uses sound waves to detect heartbeat and check for development. If there’s no cardiac activity, the embryo has stopped growing or it’s too early to detect a heartbeat. Your provider may request you to come back after some time for another ultrasound.
You can also undergo blood tests to check your levels of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. It’s what pregnancy tests detect. Your provider will look at the pattern of changes in your hCG levels to detect any abnormalities. A low or decreasing presence of the hormone may be indicative of a miscarriage. Your doctor may perform other tests along with hCG testing to confirm your diagnosis.
If you experience tissue passage through your vagina, you may bring it to your provider to have it examined. They can confirm with a tissue test if your symptoms are due to miscarriage or other conditions. The last one is a chromosome test especially meant for women who’ve experienced multiple miscarriages. The test may reveal if there’s something in your chromosomes or your partner’s that prevents an embryo from developing properly.
There are six types of diagnoses you may hear from your provider:
- Threatened miscarriage – there’s a threat of miscarriage, but the pregnancy may proceed normally.
- Incomplete miscarriage – you expel only part of the placental or fetal tissue while some remain in your uterus.
- Missed miscarriage – the embryo has stopped developing but tissue still remains in your uterus.
- Inevitable miscarriage – a miscarriage is bound to happen.
- Complete miscarriage – you’ve expelled all fetal tissue, which is typical for most cases of early pregnancy losses.
- Septic miscarriage – your uterus has an infection.
What Are The Treatments For Miscarriage?
The treatment you should get depends on the kind of miscarriage you have and the symptoms you experience. The first one, expectant management, involves letting the miscarriage progress naturally. The process may take anywhere from two to four weeks. If you don’t expel the tissue naturally, you may seek medical treatment.
The ACOG states that “some of the pregnancy tissue may be left in the uterus.” Removing it might not be necessary, but it’s best to consult your healthcare provider.You may benefit from nonsurgical treatments to help remove remaining tissue or if you want to finish the miscarriage quickly. We understand that it can be devastating and difficult to let the pregnancy loss drag for long. If you prefer to make the process faster, your provider may recommend taking medication. You can take it orally or insert it into the vagina.
Surgery may be recommended if you have severe symptoms, like fever, chills, and heavy bleeding, or if you have an infection. The first surgical procedure is vacuum aspiration, which uses a suction tool to help remove tissue. The other is dilation and curettage, or D&C, where your provider dilates the cervix to remove tissue. Surgery may benefit you if you have underlying health conditions.
What Does Recovery Look Like?
Many factors are involved in the recovery for the loss of a pregnancy. It’s not just the physical aspect. It also includes mental and emotional healing.
Gender differences may also factor in terms of the feelings of aspiring parents who experience pregnancy loss. Many cases see that women may be more aggrieved than men. Of course, this is not to diminish the grief reaction of the father. Rather, it’s more about how women usually feel more attached because they carry the pregnancy. Women also often harbor personal feelings of blame and guilt for the miscarriage.
Again, it is not your fault. This is a difficult time, but know that you are not to blame for what happened. You may talk to your loved ones or to support groups and mental health professionals to help with your healing.
As for physical recovery, it usually takes only a few hours to a few days. However, you should avoid vaginal insertion for two weeks after a miscarriage happens. Refrain from using tampons or engaging in penetrative sex, which involves the insertion of fingers, a penis, or sex toys. You should also schedule regular follow-ups with your provider for some time following a miscarriage.
Is It Possible To Try Again?
It is completely possible to have a successful pregnancy following a miscarriage. In fact, you can try again as soon as your next menstrual cycle. Usually, miscarriages are one-time and very rarely do they happen multiple times. Successful pregnancies are also totally common, even following pregnancy loss. If you want to try again, you may want to see that you’re ready physically, emotionally, and mentally.
For Multiple Instances Of Miscarriage
Recurrent pregnancy loss is very rare. If you experience this, your doctor may recommend a test to see if it has to do with your chromosome or your partner’s. But even with recurrent losses, healthy future pregnancies are still very much possible. Your provider may help you manage your pregnancy and track your progress when you decide to try again.
Managing The Risk Factors
There’s no guaranteed way to prevent miscarriage, but you can take measures to manage the risk factors. For example, you should maintain a healthy weight, eat a nutritious diet, and exercise during pregnancy. It’s also recommended for pregnant women to take prenatal vitamins and attend regular check-ups.
If you feel any symptoms like pain, bleeding, or tissue-passing, you should consult with your doctor. Seek immediate assistance if you feel fever and chills too.
To Wrap Up
The loss of a pregnancy can cause sadness and grief, but know that you’re not alone. It’s also not your fault, regardless of the common misconception mothers are to blame for a miscarriage. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to avoid pregnancy loss, but you may try to lower your risk factors. For one, avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs. You should also eat a balanced diet, exercise, and take full rests to help your baby develop.
Regular checkups can help you stay on top of your pregnancy too. Consult with your provider if you have any underlying health conditions, especially illnesses like diabetes or thyroid problems. If you feel any symptoms of miscarriage, like pain or bleeding, seek medical assistance immediately.
It’s difficult to experience a miscarriage, but healthy pregnancies are still a hundred percent on-the-table even after a loss. Just make sure you are ready physically, mentally, and emotionally before you try again. We sincerely wish you well in recovery and future pregnancies!
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