What is an early miscarriage?
An early miscarriage is defined as the loss of pregnancy in the first trimester, which is the first three months after conception. Most of these early miscarriages happen before the woman is 10 weeks pregnant, and can even happen before a woman finds out that she is expecting.
How common is early pregnancy miscarriage?
Unfortunately, early miscarriage is quite common. In fact, it is one of the most common medical conditions during pregnancy. According to studies, about 8 to 20% of women who find out that they are pregnant will go through a miscarriage.
The effects of early pregnancy loss on your body
After a woman experiences an early miscarriage, it has corresponding physical, mental, and emotional effects on the body and mind. For women who go through an early miscarriage, it may take a few weeks to a full month to recover physically. Mental and emotional recovery will depend on a woman’s support system and herself.
The following are common effects of early pregnancy loss, which can be experienced in varying degrees:
- vaginal bleeding
- light bleeding or spotting
- pain in the lower abdomen
- discomfort in the breasts, tenderness
- hormone changes
If the woman develops an infection after an early miscarriage, she may experience the following effects:
- lower abdominal tenderness
- foul-smelling vaginal discharge
What causes an early miscarriage?
In order to avoid something tragic and traumatic like an early miscarriage, everyone needs to know what causes it in the first place. This section will discuss the common causes of early pregnancy loss and how you can avoid them.
- Unhealthy lifestyle. It does not come as a surprise that one of the most common causes of early miscarriage is an unhealthy lifestyle. If a woman abuses illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco when she is pregnant, she has an increased risk of early miscarriage. Thus, it is important to modify your habits before trying to get pregnant. If the pregnancy is unplanned, you should try and eliminate bad lifestyle habits as soon as possible.
- Chromosome abnormalities. If there’s some kind of problem with the mother’s egg or the father’s sperm, this can result in a very early miscarriage. This type of miscarriage is found to be more common in women over 35 years old. Unfortunately, there are no preventive measures to avoid miscarriages caused by chromosomal abnormalities.
- Placental problems. Problems with the placenta, the organ responsible for providing oxygen and nutrients to the developing fetus, can lead to an early pregnancy miscarriage. Consult with your OB/GYN to make sure that everything is developing as expected during the pregnancy.
- Poorly controlled diabetes. Women with diabetes should ensure control over their condition before getting pregnant. Poorly or uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes can cause an early miscarriage in the first trimester.
- Infections. Infections such as HIV, rubella, syphilis, malaria, chlamydia, bacterial vaginosis, and gonorrhea may increase the risk of having a miscarriage.
- Incompetent cervix. An incompetent cervix, or a weakened cervix, may prematurely open before the fetus is in full-term. This is an uncommon condition, but you should still check with your doctor as you go along to make sure it wouldn’t be a problem.
- Mother’s age. As the mother ages, the risk of a miscarriage increases. Women over 35 have a higher risk of miscarriage than younger women.
- Medicines. Specific types of medication can increase the risk of an early miscarriage, such as NSAIDs, retinoids, misoprostol, and methotrexate. Consult with your doctor before taking any medication while pregnant.
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Early miscarriage symptoms
Now that you know the causes of early miscarriage and how to avoid them as much as possible, it’s also imperative that you know how to recognize the early miscarriage symptoms. In this way, you can seek medical help immediately.
If you are expecting and experience the following symptoms, it’s best to get medical attention as soon as possible.
One of the most common early pregnancy miscarriage symptoms is vaginal bleeding. Bleeding, however, does not always mean a miscarriage.
Pain and cramps
The cramps can be mild to severe and are usually located in your lower abdomen, much like a menstrual cramp that you experience during your regular periods. If you experience a mild cramp, it does not always mean a miscarriage. However, if you feel cramps, if the pain becomes severe (especially if it’s only felt on one side), go to the hospital immediately.
Severe or stabbing back pain may mean a miscarriage or an infection. If you start to feel unusually severe pain in your back, you should go to the hospital.
Recurrent early pregnancy loss: possible reasons
Some women experience recurrent early miscarriage, which can cause frustration and depression. What causes recurrent miscarriage? And how can it be prevented?
The causes of a recurrent early miscarriage are similar to the causes of a first miscarriage, for instance chromosomal, genetic abnormalities, unchanging lifestyle habits, and medical conditions. The risk of having another miscarriage after the first one increases. However, about 85% of women who miscarried carry the next pregnancy to full term.
For women with recurrent early miscarriage, the doctor will usually subject her to a complete medical, physical, and genetic examination to pinpoint the problem. When the underlying cause is diagnosed, treatment can be done in order to increase the chances of the mother completing the next pregnancy.
Coping with early miscarriage
An early miscarriage is a tragic event for the entire family, especially the mother who will experience the physical and mental effects of it. If you or someone you know goes through an early miscarriage, here are a few useful tips on miscarriage recovery in early pregnancy.
What happens after the miscarriage
After a woman goes through a miscarriage, it is important that she is given appropriate medical attention. Consult with health care providers to avoid complications such an infection, and stick with follow-up checkups as needed. A miscarriage, whether early or not, can take a toll on a woman’s body. Thus, recovery should start with medical treatment and then rest.
A woman who has a miscarriage should be given enough time to recover physically, emotionally, and mentally. The partner and family play an important role in recovery. A strong support system is key in the healing process. However, women should be allowed to grieve in their own way.
Where can you get help in case of early pregnancy loss?
If you think you are experiencing an early miscarriage, you can contact an Emergency Pregnancy Unit (EPU) nearest to your home or your local healthcare provider. If an EPU is not available, go to the emergency room if symptoms are severe. If the symptoms are mild and you are not in any pain, contact your doctor to tell them what you are experiencing. They will guide you from there and it’s possible that they tell you to stay at home. If your doctor is not available, you can contact your out-of-hours gynecology service instead.