Miscarriage is much more common than people think, affecting 1 in 6 pregnancies. A miscarriage occurs when the baby is lost before the end of 22 weeks of pregnancy; miscarriages are most common during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
What causes a miscarriage?
The majority of miscarriages during the first trimester of the pregnancy occur as a result of the foetus having severe health problems; these are caused by problems relating to the number of chromosomes in the foetus. There are a number of risk factors, which may increase the chance of having a miscarriage; these include:
- Age: the chance of having a miscarriage increases as you get older (women under the age of 25 have a 9% chance of miscarriage, women aged between 30 and 34 have a 15% chance of miscarriage and women over the age of 45 have a 75% chance of miscarriage
- Smoking during pregnancy
- Drinking heavily throughout pregnancy
- Being overweight or obese
- Drinking lots of caffeine
- Taking illegal drugs during pregnancy
Miscarriages after the first trimester usually occur as a result of health problems or infections in the mother; examples of health conditions that may contribute to miscarriages include diabetes, severe hypertension (high blood pressure), problems with the thyroid gland, lupus and kidney disease. Examples of infections include German measles (rubella) and toxoplasmosis. There may also be several other causes of miscarriage including problems with the structure of the womb, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and antibodies (this is usually a problem when a woman has had a number of miscarriages; the number of antibodies known as aPL is higher than usual and this can cause blood clots, which may cause a woman to miscarry because it stops the supply of blood to the foetus.)
Symptoms of miscarriage
The most common symptom of miscarriage is bleeding from the vagina, which may be heavy or light (light spotting is common during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and it may not necessarily mean you are having a miscarriage but it is best to get yourself checked out by a doctor). Other signs of miscarriage may also include abdominal pains or cramps and fluid discharge from the vagina. It is advisable to see your GP if you experience any abnormal bleeding or discharge. If you have sudden heavy bleeding, severe abdominal pain and feel faint, you should seek urgent medical help (these symptoms may present as a result of an ectopic pregnancy).
Will I be able to have a baby if I’ve had a miscarriage?
Many women that have had a miscarriage go on to have healthy babies; recurrent miscarriages (3 or more consecutive miscarriages) affect only 1 percent of couples.