Miscarriages are devastating. For many women, a miscarriage leaves a deep ache of grief, especially if she and her partner have been trying to conceive a baby. And, deep down, there is often a nagging feeling – a voice that says, “Is there something wrong with me? Why can’t I make a healthy baby like everyone else…?”
The reality, according to the American Pregnancy Association, is that as many as 25% of “clinically recognized” pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and medical experts feel that up to 50% of all pregnancies may technically wind up as miscarriages, although many of them occur so early that the woman never knew she was pregnant in the first place. Common or not, women who experience miscarriages typically want to know why it happened and what they can do to prevent a miscarriage in the future.
Common Causes of Miscarriages
The most common reason for a miscarriage is a called “chromosomal abnormality,” which means something was wrong with the chromosomes in the egg and/or sperm, or something went wrong when the egg and sperm were busy dividing during those first several weeks of pregnancy.
The most common causes of miscarriage after chromosomal abnormalities include:
- Maternal age. Just as age affects your ability to conceive, older women are more likely to miscarry than younger women. For example, women under age 35 have about a 15% of miscarrying, women 35 – 45 have up to a 35% chance of miscarrying and women who are 45-years or over miscarry up to 50% of the time.
- Hormonal imbalance. A healthy pregnancy is dependent on a delicate hormone balance. This is one of the reasons we encourage women with irregular periods to communicate with their OB/GYNs about the issue. Hormone imbalance can often be managed or treated, which will increase chances of pregnancy success down the road.
- Infection or other maternal health problems. Your body is wise, if you have an infection or health condition that may affect your baby or yourself through the pregnancy, the body often “decides” that now is not the time in an effort to protect your health.
- Drinking, smoking, drug use and other unhealthy lifestyle choices. While you are no doubt aware of the dangers of smoking, drinking and drug use – being over- or underweight is also a problem. Women who are obese struggle with infertility and miscarriages as do women who are underweight, often as the result of over-exercising.
- Exposure to radiation or other toxic chemicals. If you work in a job that is known to contain serious contaminants or may expose you to radiation, it might be worthwhile to switch positions while you’re trying to conceive and throughout your pregnancy.
- Improper implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine lining. The uterine lining is your baby’s life support, providing all the nutrients and oxygen she needs until she is born. If implantation doesn’t occur correctly, she will not get what she needs.
What Can I Do to Avoid a Miscarriage?
So, what can a woman do to avoid a miscarriage? In the case of chromosomal abnormalities, there is nothing you can do. If you have repeat miscarriages (three or more miscarriages in a row), your doctor may recommend further testing as well as a consultation with a fertility specialist. If your eggs or your partner’s sperm are determined to have higher-than-average chromosomal abnormalities, you may be a candidate for fertility treatment, which can be used to fertilize healthy sperm and eggs.
Otherwise, the best thing you can do to prevent miscarriage is to lead a healthy lifestyle.
- Make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet, with an emphasis on vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.
- If you are an athlete, you may want to scale back your exercise program and exercise moderately while trying to conceive and for the duration of your pregnancy.
- Add folic acid to your daily diet via leafy greens, fortified cereals, whole grains and beans.
- Keep your weight within the healthy range (a body mass index of 18.5 and 25)
- Do not smoke. Period. Smoking raises your chances of miscarriage and can cause lifelong health issues for your unborn baby. If you have struggled with quitting, talk to your doctor about effective smoking cessation programs.
Lastly, if you have suffered a miscarriage, we recommend establishing a relationship with a qualified therapist to help you work through your grief and other complicated feelings that a loss like that can bring up for you.