A miscarriage, also known as a spontaneous abortion, is the natural loss of a pregnancy before the foetus is viable, typically within the first trimester.
It is estimated that approximately 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, with many occurring before a woman realises she is pregnant.
It is a deeply emotional and challenging event that affects numerous women around the world. While it can be a heartbreaking experience, it is important to remember that most women who experience a miscarriage go on to have successful pregnancies in the future.
What Causes A Miscarriage?
Around 50% of miscarriages during the first trimester are due to chromosomal abnormalities, meaning that something was wrong genetically and the foetus was not viable.
Miscarriages are also caused by:
- Infections such as toxoplasmosis, Herpes simplex or Rubella
- Pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, kidney or heart disease
- Lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking or using recreational drugs
- Radiation or certain medications (such as Accutane)
If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is important to consult your doctor immediately. They can assess your condition and provide guidance based on your specific circumstances.
It is important to trust your intuition when it comes to pregnancy symptoms and miscarriage. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, or you no longer feel foetal movement if you did feel movement before, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Bleeding during pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester, can be a sign of a miscarriage. It may vary from light spotting to heavy bleeding, often accompanied by cramping or abdominal pain.
Mild to severe cramping or abdominal pain is often experienced during a miscarriage. The pain may feel similar to menstrual cramps or be more intense.
Passing blood clots or tissue from the vagina is a typical symptom of a miscarriage. This may include the gestational sac, placenta, or foetal tissue.
Decreased Pregnancy Symptoms
A sudden decrease or disappearance of early pregnancy symptoms, such as breast tenderness, nausea, or fatigue, may indicate a miscarriage.
Some women may experience lower back pain or aching during a miscarriage, which can be accompanied by pelvic pressure.
White-Pink Mucus Discharge
A white or pink mucus discharge from the vagina can occur during a miscarriage. This may be accompanied by a foul odor.
How Is A Miscarriage Diagnosed?
Your doctor will conduct an ultrasound to determine the presence of a foetal heartbeat and yolk sac.They will also conduct a blood test to measure human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels. Under normal circumstances, hCG levels rise rapidly early in pregnancy. Low levels of hCG might indicate the occurrence of a miscarriage.
Lastly, your doctor may conduct a pelvic exam to assess the condition of your cervix. An opened cervix is often an indication of an impending miscarriage.
What Happens After A Miscarriage Has Been Diagnosed?
In cases where a miscarriage is suspected but not confirmed, bed rest might be advised, with the option of being observed in hospital. If your doctor detects that your cervix is dilated, they might perform a cervical cerclage procedure to close the cervix.
In the unfortunate event that the pregnancy is lost, it is important to ensure that all the foetal tissue is removed from your uterus. Leaving any remnants inside could lead to potential complications such as infection or bleeding.
If your pregnancy was less than 10 weeks along, you doctor might recommend waiting to see if the body naturally passes the foetal tissue, or they might prescribe medication to help.
If your uterus expels all foetal tissue, no further intervention is required and the miscarriage is diagnosed as complete. An ultrasound is typically performed to verify that the uterus is clear.
However, if your body doesn't expel all tissue naturally, or if bleeding hasn't commenced, your doctor might suggest using medication or surgery to remove the remaining tissue.
If a miscarriage is confirmed but your body has been unable to pass the foetal tissue on its own, surgery might be necessary. Surgical solutions include dilation and curettage (D&C) or dilation and evacuation (D&E). Surgical procedures involve dilating the cervix and gently removing any remaining pregnancy-related tissue from the uterus under anesthesia.
Coping With Miscarriage
Experiencing a miscarriage can be emotionally challenging, and it's important to seek support from loved ones, friends, or support groups. Allow yourself time to grieve and heal both physically and emotionally. Each person's journey is unique, and it's essential to prioritise self-care during this difficult time.
It is important to remember that experiencing a miscarriage does not mean you cannot have a successful pregnancy in the future.