Miscarriage is a term used for a pregnancy that ends on its own, within the first 20 weeks of gestation. The medical terms used to identify this potential complication or loss gives most women an uncomfortable feeling, so throughout this article, we will refer to this type of threatened complication or pregnancy loss under 20 weeks as a miscarriage.
Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Studies reveal that anywhere from 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Chemical pregnancies may account for 50-75% of all miscarriages. This occurs when a pregnancy is lost shortly after implantation, resulting in bleeding that occurs around the time of her expected period. The woman may not realize that she conceived when she experiences a chemical pregnancy.
Most miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. Pregnancy can be such an exciting time, but with the great number of recognized miscarriages that occur, it is beneficial to be informed about miscarriage, in the unfortunate event that you find yourself or someone you know faced with one.
There can be many confusing terms and moments that accompany a miscarriage. There are different types of miscarriage, different treatments for each, and different statistics for what your chances are of having one. The following information gives a broad overview of miscarriage. This information is provided to help equip you with knowledge so that you might not feel so alone or lost if you face a possible miscarriage situation. As with most pregnancy complications, remember that the best person you can usually talk to and ask questions of is your health-care provider.
The reason for miscarriage is varied, and most often the cause cannot be identified. During the first trimester, the most common cause of miscarriage is chromosomal abnormality – meaning that something is not correct with the baby’s chromosomes. Most chromosomal abnormalities are the cause of a damaged egg or sperm cell or are due to a problem at the time that the zygote went through the division process.Other causes for miscarriage include (but are not limited to):
- Hormonal problems, infections or maternal health problems
- Lifestyle (i.e. smoking, drug use, malnutrition, excessive caffeine and exposure to radiation or toxic substances)
- Implantation of the egg into the uterine lining does not occur properly
- Maternal age
- Maternal trauma
For women in their childbearing years, the chances of having a miscarriage can range from 10-25%, and in most healthy women the average is about a 15-20% chance.
- An increase in maternal age affects the chances of miscarriage
- Women under the age of 35 yrs old have about a 15% chance of miscarriage
- Women who are 35-45 yrs old have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage
- Women over the age of 45 can have up to a 50% chance of miscarriage
- A woman who has had a previous miscarriage has a 25% chance of having another (only a slightly elevated risk than for someone who has not had a previous miscarriage)
If you experience any or all of these symptoms, it is important to contact your health care provider or a medical facility to evaluate if you could be having a miscarriage:
- Mild to severe back pain (often worse than normal menstrual cramps)
- Weight loss
- White-pink mucus
- True contractions (very painful happening every 5-20 minutes)
- Brown or bright red bleeding with or without cramps (20-30% of all pregnancies can experience some bleeding in early pregnancy, with about 50% of those resulting in normal pregnancies)
- Tissue with clot like material passing from the vagina
- Sudden decrease in signs of pregnancy
Miscarriage is often a process and not a single event. There are many different stages or types of miscarriage. There is also a lot of information to learn about healthy fetal development so that you might get a better idea of what is going on with your pregnancy. Understanding the early fetal development and first-trimester development can help you to know what things your health care provider is looking for when there is a possible miscarriage occurring.
Most of the time all types of miscarriage are just called a miscarriage, but you may hear your health care provider refer to other terms or names according to what is experienced.
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