After a pregnancy loss, the first thing that comes to mind is what went wrong and caused the miscarriage. Pregnancy gives hope and happiness, but a miscarriage can be a devastating event with long-lasting emotional repercussions.
There are many reasons for miscarriage, one of them being low progesterone levels. Get insight into how progesterone helps to prevent miscarriage.
Another common cause of miscarriage is chromosomal abnormalities. There are countless other causes of miscarriage, read on to know more about them.
What is a miscarriage?
Before we start our discussion about the causes of miscarriage, it is important to know what a miscarriage is.
Miscarriage or spontaneous abortion is an unexpected loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week. A loss of pregnancy after the 20th week is considered a stillbirth.
Miscarriage is a naturally occurring event in which the embryo or fetus stops growing and passes out of your body along with vaginal bleeding.
Some other terms used for early loss of pregnancy are:
- Complete abortion: All the pregnancy tissue is passed out of the body.
- Incomplete abortion: Only some pregnancy tissue is passed out of the body.
- Inevitable abortion: The cervix gets dilated but pregnancy tissue does not leave the body.
- Missed abortion: There is a loss of pregnancy but no uterine activity to expel the pregnancy tissue.
- Infected abortion: The uterine lining and pregnancy tissue become infected.
Symptoms of a miscarriage
The symptoms of a miscarriage differ based on your pregnancy stage. In some cases, a miscarriage occurs so early in the pregnancy that you may not even realize you’re pregnant before you miscarry.
The following are a few symptoms of a miscarriage:
- Period-like pains – abdominal cramps and lower backache
- The passing of fluid or pregnancy tissue
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
While many miscarriages begin with symptoms of pain and bleeding, a missed miscarriage frequently does not. Your pregnancy hormones may remain elevated for some time after the loss of a fetus, making you feel pregnant. A pregnancy test may also show a positive result.
What are the common causes of miscarriage?
Your body supplies hormones and nourishment to your developing fetus throughout the pregnancy and promotes the development of your fetus. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus does not grow as expected. This can be caused by several different factors.
1. Abnormal Chromosomes
About half of miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities (extra or missing chromosomes). Chromosomes are thread-like structures that hold the DNA in a cell.
An abnormality in the chromosome of an unborn baby may lead to several problems. Some common ones are:
- Blighted ovum: There is no formation of the embryo.
- Intrauterine fetal demise: There is embryo formation but no growth and the embryo eventually dies.
- Molar pregnancy: The pregnancy tissue forms into a mass or a tumor and the cells of the placenta grow abnormally. In molar pregnancy both the chromosomes come from the father.
2. Medical conditions
In a few cases, several long-term health conditions might lead to miscarriage. Especially if they’re not treated or well controlled. Examples include:
Uncontrolled diabetes: Increased levels of blood glucose can increase the risk of a miscarriage or a stillborn baby.
Infections: Any infection that makes you very unwell and affects your baby too might result in a miscarriage. Example: Malaria, cytomegalovirus or rubella, STD infections like HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhea.
Thyroid disease: An overactive or underactive thyroid gland is associated with increased fetal loss.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Polycystic ovary syndrome is caused by hormonal imbalance. There is also some evidence that suggests it may be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. PCOS might also make it difficult to conceive as it can prevent the release of an egg (ovulation).
Tracking your ovulation improves your chances of becoming pregnant. Using a fertility monitor such as Inito can be helpful if you are trying to conceive.
Uterine or cervical problems: Certain uterine conditions such as the presence of fibroids, polyps, and abnormally shaped uterus, are all associated with miscarriage.
An incompetent or weak cervix has weaker cervical muscles and begins to open too early. The weak cervix is not able to hold the fetus, resulting in a miscarriage.
Blood clotting issues: Some hereditary blood clotting disorders might result in recurrent miscarriage. This happens because of the blocked blood vessels carrying blood flow to the placenta.
Taking some medications during pregnancy may potentially increase your risk of miscarriage. Some of them are:
- Misoprostol – used for conditions such as stomach ulcers
- Retinoids – used in the treatment of eczema and acne
- Methotrexate – used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – such as ibuprofen, are used for pain and inflammation.
It’s always better to be sure if a medicine is safe during pregnancy. Consult your doctor before taking any medicine.
According to one study, the chance of miscarriage is 8.9 percent for women aged 20 to 24, and it rises to 74.7 percent for women over 45. This is due to the fact that as you get older, the quantity and quality of eggs decreases. This is also why getting pregnant might take longer as you become older.
The chance of early pregnancy loss also increases as men get older. Most pregnancies end because of a chromosome abnormality in sperm. But for men, it is not clear at what age this begins.
5. Progesterone deficiency
Progesterone is a female sex hormone that helps to regulate your menstrual cycle and pregnancy. The hormone plays an important role during pregnancy. The level of progesterone increases after ovulation. It prepares the lining of your uterus for implantation of the embryo and maintains it throughout pregnancy. As progesterone plays such an important function throughout pregnancy, low levels of the hormone can lead to a miscarriage.
6. Food poisoning
Eating rotten or infected food can cause food poisoning. For example, Listeria is a bacteria found in unpasteurised soft cheese and raw or undercooked food. These bacteria can lead to an infection called listeriosis. Listeriosis can infect your baby which may lead to a miscarriage.
7. Environmental causes of miscarriage
Some lifestyle habits can increase your risk of a miscarriage. Habits like smoking, heavy drinking, or using illegal drugs can cause harm to your fetus and risk your pregnancy. Also, mercury levels in the diet, mostly from specific types of seafood, have been linked to miscarriage and birth abnormalities.
How to prevent miscarriage?
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to prevent a miscarriage. So, you should take good care of yourself and your baby. Also, follow some simple tips:
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, and drug use during pregnancy.
- Don’t miss any appointments with your doctor.
- Consult your doctor if you have any chronic medical conditions.
- An unexpected loss of pregnancy is called a miscarriage.
- Miscarriage is a natural process and happens when fetal growth stops.
- Chromosomal abnormalities, maternal health conditions, low progesterone levels, and a few environmental factors can cause miscarriage.
- Preventing miscarriage is beyond your control, but avoiding certain habits like smoking and alcohol consumption may reduce the risk.
- Miscarriage – Causes. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/miscarriage/causes/. Published 2022. Accessed April 18, 2022.
2.https://www.tommys.org/baby-loss-support/miscarriage-information-and-support/causes-miscarriage. Published 2022. Accessed April 18, 2022.