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How to Prevent a Miscarriage

The joy and gift of life is not only one of the most memorable journeys that parents embark on, but also one of the most complicated to understand. As the jumble of cells, hormones, blood, tissue, and other substances work together to create a baby – there are many factors that can threaten the success of producing a viable fetus. An unfortunate outcome that every woman looking to conceive dreads is having a miscarriage, which devastatingly crushes the dreams of giving birth to a child.

How to Prevent a Miscarriage

What is a Miscarriage?

A miscarriage (or spontaneous abortion) is a natural or unexpected end of a pregnancy that signifies a point where an embryo or fetus is unable to survive [1]. Usually, this occurrence takes place in women prior to 20 weeks of gestation. Women in the early stages of pregnancy are often notified that this is the most common complication that they may encounter. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), about 15% of known pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Actually, the true number is much higher due to the numerous miscarriages that take place so early in a pregnancy that a women isn’t even aware that she is pregnant.

The majority of miscarriages occur before the 12th week of pregnancy, accompanied by vaginal spotting (or bleeding), lower back pain, and cramping in the stomach. Fluid or tissue may also pass from the vagina. Also, keep in mind that it is common for a woman to experience light bleeding during the first trimester, meaning that this symptom does not always signify a miscarriage [2]. There are also women who undergo heavy bleeding and still accomplish a successful pregnancy.

One of the most common ways to detect a miscarriage is through the onset of bleeding, which is often referred to as a “threatened abortion.” About half of the women who contact a physician regarding this symptom will experience a miscarriage. A doctor may also indicate a miscarriage by performing an ultrasound exam, as well as performing a test called serial human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). If a woman has displayed a history of miscarriage, her doctor may closely monitor her progress in following pregnancies.

Causes of Miscarriage

While numerous factors can cause a miscarriage, not all occurrences are easily identifiable. During the first trimester, more than ¾ of all miscarriages take place at this time [3]. Within the first 13 weeks, more than ½ of embryos of a miscarriage display chromosomal abnormalities. If a woman is carrying a baby with a genetic problem, she faces a 95% chance of suffering a miscarriage.

Age also plays a role in miscarriage, as the older a woman is, the higher their risk becomes. An early miscarriage also occurs through progesterone deficiency, as seen in women with low levels who are not taking progesterone supplements during their first trimester.

As a woman enters her second trimester, up to 15% of all pregnancy losses occur at this time – often caused by malformation in the uterus, growths in the uterus (fibroids), problems with the umbilical cord, or issues with the cervix. In a great number of later-term miscarriages, issues with the placenta were to blame. Additionally, in a few cases, a pregnant woman may showcase a health condition that threatens the birth of her child, such as uncontrolled diabetes, infection, thyroid disease, or blood-clotting issues.

Also, it is important to become familiar with the couple of myths surrounding the miscarriage. One cannot suffer a miscarriage from having too much sex, exercising, going to work, or lifting heavy objects. Nausea or vomiting early in a pregnancy (even if it is violent and unbearable) additionally does not cause a miscarriage.

Miscarriage Risk Factors

When planning for a new addition to your family or have just received good news about a current pregnancy, miscarriage is often the last thing on a woman’s mind. However, becoming familiar with the following typical risk factors allows a woman to prepare her pregnancy in the healthiest manner:

a) Multiple Fetuses:

Giving birth to more than one fetus increases the risk of miscarriage.

b) Diabetes:

A woman who does not keep her diabetes under control will place her pregnancy at a higher risk for suffering a miscarriage. However, also keep in mind that a woman who hasn’t been diagnosed with diabetes may develop gestational diabetes, which is detected through efficient prenatal care.

c) Age:

Women who are older than the age of 35 faces a higher risk of miscarriage over a younger woman. The age of the father also plays a role, as a study conducted in 2006 revealed that a woman with a mate that was 40 years or older displayed an increased risk for miscarriage over a woman whose partner was younger than 25 years old.

d) History of Miscarriage:

A previous miscarriage means that a woman may suffer more in the future.

e) Chronic Conditions:

The risk of miscarriage increases when a woman suffers from chrondic medical concerns, such as thyroid disease.

f) Conditions of Uterus and Cervix:

A woman who suffers an abnormal uterus or possesses a weakened or short cervix will face a higher risk for miscarriage.

g) Drugs:

Women who smoke tobacco products, drink alcohol, or use illicit drugs (especially cocaine) while pregnant will increase their chances of suffering a miscarriage. The consumption of caffeine has also been looked at as a possible cause of miscarriages, prompting doctors to suggest a limit of less than 200 milligrams on a daily basis.

h) Invasive Procedures:

Some of the prenatal testing that women opt for may cause a slight increase in the risk associated with miscarriages, including chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis.

i) Polycystic Ovary Syndrome:

This particular syndrome leads to first-trimester miscarriage in 30 to 50% of pregnant women who suffer from the condition.

j) Additional Medical Concerns: There are certain illnesses and other medical factors that increase the risk of miscarriage, including rubella, chlamydia, and high blood pressure.

How to Prevent Miscarriage

In many cases regarding miscarriage, there isn’t much you can do for prevention. However, there is still an array of approaches towards prenatal care that a woman can follow in order to maximize her chances for a successful pregnancy, such as:

a) Routine Prenatal Care:

In order to monitor the success of your pregnancy, it is important to keep prenatal care appointments and become familiar with important changes in the body – especially during the first trimester.

b) Avoid Known Risk Factors:

Stop smoking tobacco products and drinking alcohol, which are well-known risk factors that can threaten a pregnancy and easily lead to miscarriage and birth defects.

c) Control Chronic Conditions:

Once you become pregnant, making sure baby is safe and healthy means keeping Mom’s health in tip-top shape. It is important to discuss ways to especially handle and maintain chronic conditions when pregnant.

d) Aspirin:

Early stages of research suggest that taking aspirin or another blood-thinning substance can avoid the blood clots that can affect a pregnancy. Some doctors are starting to suggest this method of prevention for women who have experienced three or more miscarriages without any definite causes.

e) Check for Systemic Diseases [4]:

A lot of miscarriages take place when a systemic disease (a condition that affects a great deal of organs and tissues) is present. Detecting and treating these diseases (like diabetes, hypertension, and AIDS) before entering a pregnancy is highly recommended.

f) Avoid Environmental Threats:

Avoiding X-rays, other forms of radiation, and infectious diseases can make a miscarriage less likely.

g) Don’t Stress:

While a pregnancy may cause anxiousness and worry, British research has suggested that staying happy and feeling relaxed causes a 60% reduction in miscarriage risk.

h) Wait on the Intercourse:

If you have suffered a miscarriage in the past, it is suggested to avoid sexual intercourse until after the first trimester – when the embryo has been fully implanted. Did you know that semen actually contains a hormone that can encourage contractions?

i) Chromosome Testing [5]:

After suffering a miscarriage, you may opt for a chromosome analysis of fetal tissue to learn more about the cause. This type of test can reveal a chromosome problem, such as a fetus that possessed an abnormal number of chromosomes.

Resources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miscarriage
[2] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/miscarriage/PR00097
[3] Rosenthal, M. Sara (1999). The Second Trimester. The Gynecological Sourcebook. WebMD.
[4] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001488.htm#Prevention
[5] http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/lower-your-miscarriage-risk/

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