A miscarriage (or spontaneous abortion in medical terminology) is when a person loses their pregnancy before reaching 20 weeks. This is because during this early stage in the pregnancy, the fetus or embryo is not able to live outside the uterus on its own. Many women experience miscarriages without realizing that they are reasonably common. In fact, between one and two of every ten pregnancies result in miscarriage and most of these occur early on during the pregnancy. Eight out of ten of them happen during the first trimester.
What Does a Miscarriage Look Like?
It is possible for women to experience very different symptoms of miscarriage and sometimes the symptoms will occur together, forming a single event, while other times they will occur in a sequence over the course of several days. Despite the following symptoms, sometimes it is very difficult to tell if a miscarriage is occurring.
One of the most noticeable symptoms of a miscarriage is if vaginal bleeding is seen and that can vary from person to person, being either constant or irregular and either light or heavy. If you are pregnant, it is important to remember that bleeding does not necessarily indicate a miscarriage as normal pregnancies can include bleeding during the first trimester. When the bleeding occurs with pain, then a miscarriage is more likely to be occurring. The pain related to a miscarriage can begin anywhere from several hours to days after the bleeding. It can include a dull and persistent ache in the lower back, belly pain or pelvic cramps. Another symptom is grayish tissue (which is fetal tissue) or blood clots leaving the vagina.
What Are Different Types of Miscarriage?
- Missed Miscarriage: A missed miscarriage or missed abortion is when the fetus dies at an early point during the pregnancy but the tissues related to pregnancy are not expelled. In some cases the placenta will continue to release hormones causing the woman to still feel pregnancy signs and sometimes these signs will slowly fade. It is also possible for a woman with a missed miscarriage to have no specific symptoms of miscarriage despite having cramping and vaginal discharge. The body can either eliminate the fetal tissue itself or at times a procedure is required.
- Threatened Miscarriage: The term, threatened miscarriage, refers to a condition that may or may not result in a miscarriage (with about 50/50 chances for each possibility). It refers to when vaginal bleeding occurs at some point within the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy and also includes symptoms such as abdominal cramps and lower back pain. Whenever a pregnant woman experiences unexplained bleeding, they should be examined by their doctor. Usually when a threatened miscarriage occurs, the cervix will stay closed but if it is open, the chances of miscarriage increase greatly.
- Inevitable Miscarriage: When an inevitable miscarriage occurs, the woman will experience unexplained abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding during the early stages of their pregnancy. In this type of miscarriage the cervical canal will dilate and both the cramps and bleeding will be more severe. When the cervix is open, this is a sign that the body has already started miscarrying the pregnancy.
- Incomplete Abortion: If an incomplete abortion or incomplete miscarriage occurs, the woman will experience intense abdominal pain and heavy vaginal bleeding. Their cervix will be open and at least some of the pregnancy tissue will pass. It is possible to notice the passing of the tissue or to only see the evidence during an examination. In an incomplete abortion, not all of the tissues will have passed, meaning that some may still be detected with an ultrasound.
- Complete Miscarriage: A complete miscarriage is also known as a complete abortion and when this occurs all of the tissue related to pregnancy will be expelled out of the uterus. The symptoms include completely passing the pregnancy tissue, severe abdominal pain and heavy vaginal bleeding. When a complete miscarriage occurs, the pain and bleeding usually stop quickly.
What Are Causes and Risk Factors of Miscarriage?
Some women feel that a miscarriage is their fault but this is rarely the case. Most medications, mild falls, exercise and sex will not lead to a miscarriage. Sometimes it is hard for a health provider to determine what caused a miscarriage. Despite that, there are some things that increase a woman’s chance of having a miscarriage:
- In some cases the embryo or fetus will develop abnormally due to a certain chromosome. In most cases, this is simply a chance occurrence when during the division and growth of the fertilized egg so it will not usually affect future pregnancies. This cause is fairly common, causing at least 50% of miscarriages.
- As a woman gets older, she has an increased chance of miscarrying.
- Certain severe chronic illnesses can lead to miscarriage and some of these include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes that is poorly controlled.
- Sometimes very serious infections or severe trauma can lead to miscarriages.
- It is possible for a late miscarriage to occur (one happening after three months) if there are uterine abnormalities such as uterine fibroids or scar tissue.
- Using certain substances can increase the chance of miscarriage and this includes heavy use of caffeine or use of cigarettes, alcohol or cocaine.
- If a woman is overweight or underweight, she will have an increased risk of miscarriage.
- If a woman has had more than two miscarriages one after another then her risk of future miscarriages increases.