Miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks. Usually miscarriage happens because the fetus isnt developing as it should. Miscarriage is common -- about 15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, usually before the 12th week of pregnancy (first trimester).
Some miscarriages may happen even before a woman knows for sure that she is pregnant. But it can still be a traumatic emotional experience. Most women who have miscarriages go on to have successful later pregnancies -- a second miscarriage occurs in only about 1% of women. Some women may have several miscarriages, however.
Signs and Symptoms
These signs and symptoms often happen with a miscarriage:
What Causes It?
Normal activities -- work, exercise, sex -- wont cause a miscarriage, nor will nausea and vomiting (even severe morning sickness). Most often a miscarriage happens because there is a problem with the babys genes. But some health conditions can make the mother more prone to miscarriage, including:
Who's Most At Risk?
Women with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for having a miscarriage:
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
If you think you are having a miscarriage, see your doctor immediately. Your doctor will do a pelvic examination to check for any problems with your uterus and see if it has begun to dilate. Your doctor will do an ultrasound to check on the baby's heartbeat and see how it is developing. If you have miscarried, your doctor may do a blood test to make sure that no tissue is left inside your uterus.
In most cases, there is no way to prevent a miscarriage. You can avoid known risks, such as being overweight, having caffeine or alcohol, and smoking cigarettes, as well as other risks listed above. Keeping your body healthy -- by eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep -- may help lower the risks of a miscarriage.
If you are threatening miscarriage, your doctor may tell you to rest and avoid sex and exercise. If your cervix is dilated and your uterus has started to contract, the miscarriage cant be stopped. In that case, your doctor may give you medication that causes your body to get rid of the placenta and tissue from the pregnancy. If any of the tissue remains inside your uterus, your doctor will perform a dilation and curettage (D & C), which involves dilating your cervix and gently suctioning out the tissue. If you have a history of unexplained miscarriages, in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, or artificial insemination may be used to achieve a successful pregnancy.
If you have an underlying medical condition or have had repeated miscarriages, your doctor may prescribe medications to try to help you have a successful pregnancy. The medications will depend on what the specific health problem is.
Surgical and Other Procedures
Dilation and curettage (D&C) can remove pregnancy tissue if it is not expelled naturally from the uterus. Other surgical procedures may help problems with the uterus.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Keeping your body healthy maylower your risk of a miscarriage. Before getting pregnant, it is a good idea to have counseling about the risks, including the importance of staying healthy and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and recreational drugs.
Miscarriage is a serious health issue. Ask your doctor about alternative therapies that may help you stay healthy during pregnancy, and never take any herb or supplement while you are pregnant without first checking with your doctor.
Nutrition and Supplements
These nutritional tips can help you stay healthy before and during pregnancy:
Pregnant women may need these nutrients:
Do not use herbs during pregnancy unless you are under the care of a qualified health care provider. Work with your health care provider to see which herbs may be right for you.
Nostudies show thathomeopathy can prevent miscarriage. However, homeopathic literature does have reports of women who have had successful pregnancies after miscarriage when being treated with homeopathy. An experienced homeopath would consider your individual case and may recommend treatments to address your underlying condition and support your overall health.
Prognosis and Possible Complications
Many women who have one or two miscarriages go on to have successful pregnancies. Women have only a 1% chance of having another miscarriage after the first one. However, the risk goes up with each miscarriage. Possible complications include infected pregnancy tissue, which could lead to pelvic abscess, septic shock, or even death.
Many women feel depression or guilt after a miscarriage. A support group or individual counseling may help to deal with these feelings.
Your health care provider will monitor you until the miscarriage is complete. If you have had a miscarriage and become pregnant, you should see your doctor right away.
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Review Date: 6/26/2012
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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