Miscarriage - The Signs

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miscarriageConceiving a baby is a journey - sometimes a step forward followed by two backwards. Miscarriage is sadly an all too common phenomenon and each year millions of women around the world are affected by it.

What is a miscarriage?

A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy prior to the 24th week, due to natural causes. The majority of the 10-20% of pregnancies which end in a miscarriage do so early in pregnancy, mainly during the first 12 weeks.


Symptoms of a miscarriage

Among the symptoms, the most common one is the vaginal discharge of blood and fragments of tissue, or sometimes of a sac-shaped tissue. Cramps, pelvic and back pain could mean the loss of the pregnancy, as well as the sudden stoppinf of pregnancy symptoms (nausea, sickness, tender breasts. For more information, check our article on signs of pregnancy).

If you have pelvic or back cramps or light spotting during your pregnancy, call your midwife or GP at once. Sometimes the ultrasound will show the end of pregnancy before any symptoms occur.

Signs of a miscarriage

One of the most frequent signs of a miscarriage is bleeding combined with an open cervix.

Causes of miscarriage

Most of the causes of miscarriage are still a mystery, but it is believed that miscarriage mainly occurs as a result of low quality genetic material during fertilisation. Sometimes, miscarriage can occur due to the mother's natural incapability of carrying a full time pregnancy. It can relate to hormonal or immunity deficiencies. It could also be related to the quality of the egg, if the mother is over 35 years old. And, yes, it could relate to lifestyle causes, too, mainly frequent and irresponsible alcohol consumption, drugs and excessive smoking.

In the case of a multiple pregnancy, the chances of a miscarriage are also higher. It is believed that the contraceptive pill taken before the pregnancy can reduce the risk of a miscarriage. However, stress and sex are not related to miscarriages, whatever the myths might be saying.

What to do during miscarriage

If a miscarriage has started, there is very little to do in order to save the embryo/fetus. If you notice even the slightest spotting, call the midwife or GP immediately and ask for a consultation. This is very important, even if it might sound pointless at the time. If the cervix is still closed, that means it is only a so called 'threatened miscarriage' and a lot can be done to help the baby and keep the cervix closed.

At the hospital, they will perform an ultrasound exam and check for the baby's heartbeat. Very early in pregnancy (prior to 8 weeks) it's unlikely to detect a heart beat. If after 8 weeks, no heart beat is detected, there is not much that can be done and it means that miscarriage has occurred. The patient then has two choices: let nature take its course, which means that a natural discharge of the embryo tissue will occur in a number of days, or take a D and C (dilatation and curettage). This is a surgical procedure for removing the tissue by suction from the uterus, under general anaesthesia. The bleeding will stop in around 10 days, or even earlier, and you can start tracking your cycles again in about 4-6 weeks. It is advisable to wait at least one cycle before trying to conceive again.

Can miscarriage reoccur?

Yes, it can. It is quite common to have two or more miscarriages, although experts recommend asking for further exams if three consecutive miscarriages occur in order to rule out any potential cause.

Is pregnancy still possible after miscarriage?

Yes! Even after more than one miscarriage, pregnancy is achievable and it's believed that a pregnancy cannot be affected in any way by previous miscarriages, if all the tissue and discharge have been cleared and no infection or any problems have arisen.

It can be one of the toughest things that ever happen to somebody and it's totally normal to feel empty and  after the experience. It might make us feel that everything is senseless and it might even lead to depression. If you feel that you can't cope with the grieving and the feeling of loss is too overwhelming, ask for help from your GP.

You might also find useful the support and advice from The Miscarriage Association who offer miscarriage info and unique pregnancy and miscarriages statistics, or you could share your experience and offer your support to people affected by miscarriage on the BabyWonderland forum.