The Physical Side of Miscarriage

The spontaneous abortion of an unborn child prior to the 20th week of pregnancy is called a miscarriage; there are a myriad of reasons and causes for miscarriages, and sometimes there is no apparent reason or cause. Most miscarriages occur before the 12th week, and nearly 25-30% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. If the miscarriage occurs early in the pregnancy, the woman may not have even known she was pregnant. Many women blame themselves for the miscarriage, assuming they worked too many hours, engaged in sexual intercourse when they should not have, or exercised too vigorously, yet these normal behaviors have little, if any effect on the developing fetus. Many miscarriages are brought on by genetic abnormalities and are, in a sense, nature taking care of a genetic abnormality which is so severe as to render the pregnancy unsustainable in utero.

Possible Causes of Miscarriage

Miscarriages can be caused by scarring of the uterus, which may result in the inability of an unborn child to grow properly; if a woman has suffered more than one miscarriage, her doctor may perform an ultrasound to ensure the uterus is appropriately formed. In some cases there can be surgical options for a malformed uterus or uterine scarring. In some cases exposure to measles by a pregnant woman can cause malformations of the unborn child and, ultimately, a miscarriage. Women who desire to get pregnant are advised to have her immunity against measles tested to see if she needs a booster vaccine. Diabetes and lupus, as well as other chronic illnesses have been noted to result in higher risks of miscarriage. Diabetes which is well-controlled carries less of a risk to the fetus, however lupus can create an environment where normal cells do not distinguish between germs and the body's organs, causing the cells to attack the growing embryo.

Environmental Toxins as Miscarriage Risk

It is well-documented that nicotine crosses the placenta, interfering with blood supply and the growth and well-being of the fetus. Smokers have twice the rate of miscarriage as nonsmokers, and drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a day can also be associated with miscarriage. Obviously, using recreational drugs during pregnancy (or any other time) is foolish and can cause a miscarriage, and women who work in certain environments such as farms, operating rooms, dental offices and hospital laboratories, have a higher rate of miscarriage for reasons not yet known.

Signs of Miscarriage

Bleeding may be scant or heavy when a woman experiences a miscarriage; it can be constant, or it can come and go. Some women experience severe cramping and abdominal pain-like a really bad period-while others have a severe lower backache. If you have any symptoms of these during your pregnancy you should contact your doctor immediately. If your doctor tells you to come into the office, he will likely want to perform a pelvic exam to see if your cervix is dilated-this is known as a threatened abortion, meaning the miscarriage may or may not happen. If the membranes surrounding the fetus have also ruptured, then a miscarriage is a certainty. If you are unsure whether or not you have passed tissue, your doctor may use an ultrasound exam to determine whether there is a live fetus in the uterus.

Treatment for Miscarriage

If your bleeding is severe or you are in extreme pain, you may require hospitalization. Serious infections can occur when there is bleeding with fever, and the fetal tissue may need to be removed from the uterus by dilation and scraping. Most women who have had a miscarriage will go on to have a successful pregnancy, however your doctor may advise you to wait a while before trying to get pregnant again. Women who have undergone one or more miscarriages may find themselves feeling both guilt and depression, and it is important to understand that the grief which can accompany a miscarriage can be as severe as losing a child after a full-term birth.

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