Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss and can be devastating to couples who are trying to build families. Fortunately, miscarriage is rarely a sign of chronic infertility, and conceiving after miscarriage is often possible without any special treatment.
The majority of miscarriages occur because the egg did not develop normally in the uterus. In most cases, doctors cannot determine the exact cause of pregnancy loss. However, they can advise their patients about the risk factors that can increase a couple's chance of suffering a miscarriage.
Miscarriage Risk Factors
The following factors can increase a couple's risk of suffering a miscarriage:
- Women aged 35 years or older
- Men aged 35 years or older
- History of recurrent pregnancy loss
- History of miscarriage in the mother's side of the family
- History of pregnancy that resulted in birth defects
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Structural problems of the uterus
- Physical injury
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Certain diseases and infections
Lifestyle Factors that May Lead to Miscarriage
Some lifestyle factors that could slightly increase the risk of a miscarriage include:
- Use of NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen or naproxen) during conception or early pregnancy
- Use of alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, or other drugs
- Heavy caffeine intake
- Certain snake bites
A miscarriage refers to pregnancy loss that occurs within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. According to WebMD, about 80 percent of miscarriages occur within the first three months of pregnancy. Those that take place after the first trimester are considered late miscarriages.
Signs of Early Miscarriage
Common early miscarriage symptoms include:
- Vaginal bleeding (can be light or heavy, constant or irregular)
- Abdominal, pelvic, or lower back pain
- The passage of tissue through the vagina
Signs of a Late Miscarriage
Late miscarriage symptoms are often similar to those experienced by women who suffer a miscarriage during their first trimester. Bleeding or cramping during the later stages of pregnancy may be the sign of a late miscarriage, pre-term labor, or placental abruption, so it is important to report these problems to your doctor as soon as possible to have them checked out.
Many miscarriages occur due to severe genetic abnormalities which cannot be prevented. In such cases, the woman's body typically ends the pregnancy in the early stages. In many cases, though, a doctor cannot determine exactly what caused a miscarriage. Doctors do, however, have suggestions for preventing miscarriages, and there are a few conditions that are known to cause miscarriages, which should be treated before trying to become pregnant.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy will increase your chances of conceiving; as well as provide a healthy environment for your baby once you become pregnant, thus minimizing the risks of suffering a miscarriage.
Before Becoming Pregnant
Before you become pregnant, it is important to become as healthy as you can by:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Taking daily folic acid supplements
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Managing stress
Once pregnancy is confirmed, you should also:
- Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages
- Not smoke and avoid second-hand smoke
- Not use illegal drugs and not misuse prescription drugs
- Limit or eliminate your consumption of caffeine
- Protect your abdomen, and avoid sports or activities that include any risk of injury
- Avoid exposure to radiation, including X-rays, and other environmental hazards
- Consult with your doctor before taking non-prescription medications, including NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen
Although the majority of miscarriages are caused by genetic problems that cannot be prevented, there are a few treatable conditions that have been known to cause pregnancy loss.
Hormone Deficiencies: Some miscarriages are caused by a deficiency in progesterone, which is needed to sustain pregnancy. Women who don't produce enough progesterone in the beginning of pregnancy may experience repeated miscarriages. Progesterone supplements may help to prevent such miscarriages.
Infections and Illnesses: Certain serious infections, including STDs, can cause miscarriages. Similarly, illnesses, such as immune system disorders, lupus, diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease, and kidney disease, can cause miscarriages as well. It is important to speak with your doctor to determine if you have any of these conditions, and if you do, it is important to seek treatment to increase your chance of having a healthy pregnancy.
Physical Problems: Women who have certain physical problems may experience recurrent miscarriages. Fertility problems due to an irregularly shaped uterus may require corrective surgery. Miscarriages due to a weak cervix may be minimized with a cervical stitch to hold the cervix closed during pregnancy.
Pregnancy after Miscarriage
Miscarriage is a devastating but sadly common phenomenon. It's estimated that about 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Others put the estimate higher, as many miscarriages occur before the woman knows she is even pregnant. Early miscarriage - miscarriage that occurs before 12 weeks of pregnancy, sometimes before the woman even knows she is pregnant - is especially common.
Fortunately, a miscarriage is not necessarily a sign that you are unable to have a successful pregnancy. Most miscarriages occur as a result of a chromosomal defect in the fetus, not because of infertility in the woman or her partner.
How Long Should You Wait Before Trying to Get Pregnant Again?
While a miscarriage will not affect your future fertility, it is recommended that women wait until at least one menstrual period before again attempting pregnancy after a miscarriage. This period lets the woman recover, both physically and emotionally. However, if a woman experiences recurrent pregnancy loss - three or more consecutive miscarriages - she and her partner should be evaluated for male fertility problems or female factor infertility and might want to look into IVIg fertility treatments, a treatment that can correct the conditions that make a woman's body repeatedly miscarry embryos.
Successfully Conceiving after a Miscarriage
Since most miscarriages aren't a sign of fertility problems, conception after a miscarriage usually doesn't pose any physical challenges. However, a woman may experience trepidation, fear, and sadness upon conceiving after a miscarriage. Explain your emotions to your friends, family, and partner - this may help you to feel more optimistic about your pregnancy. Visit your doctor regularly, insist that your pregnancy be carefully monitored, and stay healthy by exercising regularly, eating well, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, taking folic acid daily, and avoiding smoking and potentially harmful drugs.
If you experience recurrent pregnancy loss, you might want to look into fertility treatments to improve your chances of conceiving after a miscarriage. Depending on the reason for the repeated miscarriages, treatment may be available to help you have a positive and successful pregnancy after miscarriage.
Intravenous immunoglobulin G (IVIg) is one such treatment. It is helpful for those who have experienced recurrent pregnancy loss due to autoimmune factors (that is, their body's immune system being hostile to the embryo or fetus).
IVIg Infertility Treatment
Miscarriage can result from too-high levels of natural killer (NK) cells, which can prevent the implantation of embryos and interfere with the proper development of the placenta. IVIg infertility treatments consist of the intravenous administration of a drug made of human antibodies derived from donor blood. These antibodies help your body maintain a successful pregnancy, though the reason behind their effectiveness isn't exactly clear. They might help block the antibodies that cause your body to fight a pregnancy, or help diffuse the harmful antibodies that interfere with a pregnancy and cause a miscarriage.
Doses are usually given monthly, from the first month of pregnancy and continuing through the 28th week. Some benefit can be gained from starting treatments before conceiving, so you may want to discuss that option with your fertility specialist if you suffer from recurrent pregnancy loss. Each treatment takes a few hours, as the drug is slowly released into the bloodstream. The first treatment should be performed in the office of your fertility specialist, so that he or she can gauge side effects. Subsequent treatments can be done at your home under the supervision of a nurse.
IVIg Costs and Success Rates
IVIg infertility treatment has been shown to have about an 80 percent success rate. Unfortunately, IVIg infertility treatments are relatively expensive. Each treatment costs about $1,500, putting the entire line of treatments at about $10,000.
Consult a Fertility Specialist
Many couples who suffer a miscarriage want to consult a fertility specialist to ensure that the pregnancy loss was not the result of fertility problems. If you are interested in getting more information on your miscarriage, consult an infertility doctor in your area.