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16 Common Causes of Miscarriage

· Pregnancy

Miscarriages are common, which is why it is important for women to know the signs of a miscarriage. In this article, I’m uncovering the possible causes and signs of miscarriage and ways to help minimize risk of miscarriage.

If you’re coming to this post searching for answers about a recent miscarriage, please know that I am so very sorry for your loss. Losing a pregnancy is devastating, emotionally and physically. For a lot of women, however, a miscarriage is typically a temporary stop on the road to a full-term pregnancy, so please keep your faith alive. The most important thing right now is to give yourself space to fully grieve.

What Is A Miscarriage?

A miscarriage is the spontaneous end of pregnancy and loss of a fetus that occurs before the 20th week of gestation.

How Common Are Miscarriages?

The conversation of miscarriage is still taboo in our culture, which can make miscarriages seem much more rare than it actually is.

When you include pregnancies that were undetected, or mistaken for a late period, one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage. Some experts estimate that the number is even higher than that, but since not every miscarriage is counted, it’s hard to know for sure.

Bottom line – miscarriages are common.

Knowing just how common miscarriage is can shift your mindset from “what’s wrong with me?” to “this is something that happens sometimes.” Processing grief is much easier when we don’t have feelings of guilt on top of it.

What Causes Miscarriage?

For many miscarriages that happen early in pregnancy, we may not know the exact cause.

But here are some common causes of miscarriage:

  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Blighted ovum
  • Molar pregnancy
  • Illness or infection
  • Problems with sperm
  • Autoimmune disease
  • PCOS
  • Luteal phase defect
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Uterine fibroids 
  • Uterine abnormalities
  • Cervical incompetence
  • Placenta difficulties
  • Exposure to environmental toxins
  • Diabetes

Nutrient Deficiencies

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Chromosomal Abnormalities

The most common reason that an embryo (<10 weeks) or fetus doesn’t survive is that it is not viable, due to genetic abnormalities. This means that the fetus is developing with a genetic issue that would make it is unable to survive outside the womb or further along in pregnancy.

Certain genes in a developing baby may be missing or causing abnormal growth of the baby or placenta. The baby also may have the wrong number of chromosomes. This results in miscarriage because of the natural intelligence of mother's body and fetus. The mother’s body recognizes that the fetus is unable to survive and ends the pregnancy.

Blighted Ovum

A blighted ovum is also called anembryonic pregnancy. This means that there is no embryo, only a sac, and a placenta. This condition shows up as a positive pregnancy test because pregnancy hormones are still being created. Often, women with a blighted ovum will exhibit symptoms of pregnancy as well. They may feel breast tenderness, have nausea and become bloated. If this condition is discovered by your doctor before you have a miscarriage, you may have to choose between waiting for the pregnancy to terminate on its own or having a surgical procedure to remove the ovum.

Molar Pregnancy

Molar pregnancy, or hydatidiform mole, is a condition that causes miscarriage. There are two kinds of molar pregnancy:
  • Complete molar pregnancy. This occurs because the chromosomes from the mother are missing and both sets of chromosomes are from the father.
  • Incomplete or partial molar pregnancy. The mother’s chromosomes are present, but two sets of chromosomes from the father are, too. 

Symptoms of a molar pregnancy include vaginal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, pelvic pain, and cysts that pass through the vagina.

Illness or Infection

If a mother has an illness or infection, it can cause her to lose her pregnancy. Illnesses like the Zika virus, measles, or sexually transmitted infections can prevent a baby from developing to full term.

Problems with Sperm

While traditional narratives typically focus on the mother’s role in miscarriage and infertility, there is evidence to suggest that the quality of the father’s sperm can have an impact on miscarriage. In a recent study, researchers found a link between the quality of a man’s sperm and the incidence of recurrent miscarriage in their partner.

Autoimmune Disease

Sometimes, women who suffer from autoimmune diseases are at risk for miscarriage. While many, many women with autoimmune disease have healthy babies, sometimes it can be a contributing factor to miscarriage.

Some of the autoimmune conditions that researchers have linked to miscarriage include:

  • Lupus
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s syndrome

PCOS

Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are at 3 times higher risk for miscarriage. Researchers believe that elevated levels of insulin and inflammation in women with PCOS may cause this unfortunate phenomenon. Many women with PCOS can and do have full-term pregnancies. Please do not despair if you are trying to get pregnant with PCOS, with the appropriate lifestyle changes and support anything is possible!

Luteal Phase Defect

Luteal phase defect occurs when the lining of the uterus doesn’t develop properly. It is characterized by low levels of progesterone. Your doctor may recommend progesterone treatment if you experience miscarriage and have a luteal phase defect.

Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilized egg begins to develop outside of the womb. Typically, this occurs in one of the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancy is considered a life-threatening emergency, and requires immediate medical attention. If the pregnancy isn’t miscarried, the egg continues to grow outside of the womb and is very serious for the mother. Ectopic pregnancy can be accompanied by abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding.

Uterine Fibroids

Since they can hinder the baby’s blood supply and room for growth, uterine fibroids have been a suspected cause of miscarriage. However, a large, high-quality, recent study appeared to refute this commonly held belief, stating there is no association between fibroids and miscarriage. Still, if you have fibroids and plan on getting pregnant, taking the proper steps to help manage behavior that contributed to growth of fibroids is important.

Uterine Abnormalities

Some women are born with a uterus that is divided into sections by muscles. This condition is called a septate uterus. Unfortunately, this condition often remains undiagnosed until a woman experiences a loss of pregnancy. Once the septate uterus is discovered, surgery can be performed to correct it in most cases.

Other uterine issues such as endometriosis and Asherman syndrome – which causes scar tissue to form in the uterus – can also lead to a higher incidence of miscarriage. Endometriosis has been linked to an 80% increased chance of miscarriage.

Cervical Incompetence

When the cervix dilates early in pregnancy (it’s not supposed to open until you give birth) miscarriage can occur. This is called cervical incompetence or cervical insufficiency. Sometimes, the cervix can be stitched closed in a procedure called a cerclage to prevent miscarriage if cervical incompetence is discovered before a miscarriage occurs.

Placenta Difficulties

When the placenta does not develop properly, miscarriage can result. The placenta is the organ that develops during pregnancy to sustain the baby’s growth, blood and nutrient supply. The placenta provides nutrients to the baby and removes waste from the baby through the umbilical cord. It helps to pass on the necessary antibodies to the baby from the mother and emits the hormones that help keep a pregnancy viable. If the placenta doesn’t grow properly or grow large enough to do its job, miscarriage can result.

Exposure of Environmental Toxins

Smoking, alcohol, heavy metals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, solvents, pesticides, pollution, and radiation have all been linked to miscarriage, preterm delivery, low birth weight, and birth defects. If a mother is exposed to high levels of any of these chemicals, loss of pregnancy may result.

Diabetes

Experts recommend getting a good handle on your blood sugar levels before trying to become pregnant if you have diabetes. High blood sugar levels early in pregnancy have been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage. Women with diabetes often have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies, but they do need to plan for extra complications that pregnancy can bring to a woman’s body.

What Are The Signs Of Miscarriage?

It’s important to note that sometimes, women have the signs and symptoms of miscarriage but do not actually lose the pregnancy. Sometimes, women have normal spotting around 3-5 weeks into their pregnancy.

Some of the signs of miscarriage include:

  • Brown or bright red vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal bleeding with clots
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Painful cramping
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Sudden disappearance of pregnancy symptoms like nausea, vomiting or breast tenderness
  • Back pain

Contact your trusted healthcare provider if you suspect you have a miscarriage.

Miscarriage Prevention

Not all miscarriages can be prevented, and a miscarriage does not indicate you did anything wrong. In fact, you can do everything right and a miscarriage may still occur due to issues with the embryo.

  • Take a premium prenatal vitamin prior to conceiving and during pregnancy to ensure you and fetus has the nutrients it needs to develop.
  • Meet with your birth provider to ensure you're getting proper prenatal care.
  • Communicate with your provider and seek medical care if you have any concerns throughout your pregnancy.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, and drug use while pregnant.
  • Avoid infection and food borne illness. Ensure meals are properly prepared.
  • Maintain healthy blood sugar levels by eating a nutrient dense diet with plenty of quality protein and vegetables. You can contact me for nutrition support.
  • Limit caffeine, whether coffee or tea, to no more than 200 milligrams daily.

Test For Miscarriage

Some tests your doctor may be able to use to help determine the cause of recurrent miscarriage include:

  • Tests for autoimmune diseases
  • Chromosome testing
  • Hormone testing
  • Blood sugar testing
  • Uterine testing

There Is Always Hope!

Even though you may be experiencing unimaginable pain, grief, and loss right now, there is always hope to hold on to. Knowledge is power.

Remember, the majority of women who experience a loss of pregnancy go on to have happy, healthy babies.

Don’t forget to utilize your support system, and don’t be afraid to talk to a professional.

I hope you’re able to use this information here to find a small bit of comfort.

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