Losing a pregnancy can be one of the most painful experiences a woman goes through. With 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies ending in miscarriage, it’s something that is relatively common - but doesn’t make the experience any less devastating.
Miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks; it’s believed most miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks. While we know the general stats, the number may actually be higher because some pregnancies - and subsequent miscarriages - go unreported.
Chromosomal issues account for most miscarriages; about 50% are due to extra or missing chromosomes when the embryo divides and grows.
In some cases the mother’s health can also play a role, particularly if she has any infections or diseases, or if there are problems with her uterus or cervix. Certain lifestyle factors, including a history of drug or alcohol abuse, also result in a higher risk of a developmental issue for the fetus.
Age, chronic conditions, invasive prenatal tests, and structural uterine or cervical problems are other potential risk factors for a miscarriage.
Miscarriage is often a one-time occurrence, and most women who have experienced a miscarriage will go on to have a healthy pregnancy. What are the chances of having a second miscarriage in a row? According to the Mayo Clinic, “a small number of women – 1 percent – will have two or more miscarriages.”
The same article states that the predicted risk of miscarriage in a future pregnancy remains about 14 percent after one miscarriage. After two miscarriages, the risk increases to about 26 percent, and after three miscarriages the risk is about 28 percent for another.
Once a woman feels emotionally ready to conceive after a miscarriage, there are typically few medical reasons stopping her. Once her doctor has given clearance for intercourse (about 2 weeks later) and her period returns (it typically takes about 6 weeks to ovulate after a miscarriage) she can start trying again. There is research to indicate that conceiving within 6 months of a miscarriage results In fewer complications overall, but the woman’s own readiness must be taken into account as well.
If there have been multiple miscarriages, a doctor may want to rule out other potential issues prior to another pregnancy. A few common procedures the doctor may recommend include:
Blood and chromosomal tests: the woman, and potentially her partner, may have blood samples taken to determine hormonal problems. If it’s available, tissue from the miscarriage can even be tested to indicate if there were genetic issues.
Ultrasounds: uterine problems, like fibroids, that could cause structural issues may be detected through this kind of imaging, which is produced with high-frequency sound waves.
Hysteroscopy or Hysterosalpingography: internal exams through the cervix to diagnose potential intrauterine problems.
If you have experienced a miscarriage, it is natural to grieve. It is important to take time to process your loss and the emotions it brings up in order to move forward. Whether it is your first miscarriage or you are struggling with secondary infertility, know that there are still many opportunities to build your family when you’re ready. We are here to support you and discuss your options every step of the way.