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    Recurrent miscarriage: Why recurrent pregnancy loss happens and where to get support

    Updated 07 September 2022 |
    Published 23 December 2019
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    Reviewed by EBCOG, the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
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     Recurrent miscarriage occurs in a small number of pregnancies and can be incredibly traumatic. So what are the causes, what treatments are available, and where can you go for support? We asked a fertility expert.

    Miscarriage can be devastating, but sadly, it’s not uncommon — one in eight pregnancies will end this way

    One lesser-known type of pregnancy loss is recurrent miscarriage. This is when a person experiences two or more miscarriages in a row, and although exact numbers aren’t known, it’s thought to affect between 1% and 2% of women who get pregnant. 

    The effects of one miscarriage can be hard enough to deal with, but experiencing multiple pregnancy losses can be incredibly traumatic. Especially as we know that the causes of recurrent miscarriage are often not entirely clear (more on that below), which makes testing and identifying treatments tricky, too. Don’t lose hope, though, because studies show lots of people go on to have a family after recurrent miscarriage

    We spoke to Dr. Allison Rodgers, Flo board member and obstetrician, gynecologist, reproductive endocrinologist, and infertility specialist, to answer all of our questions around recurrent pregnancy loss. We also share how you can get support if you’ve experienced multiple miscarriages. 

    What is recurrent miscarriage? How common is recurrent pregnancy loss?

    Sometimes understanding more about what you’re experiencing can help you feel less alone. We now know that recurrent pregnancy loss affects between 1% and 2% of pregnant women. So while recurrent miscarriage is rare, it’s not unusual. But what exactly is it?

    The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) defines it as “the spontaneous loss of two or more pregnancies,” usually before the 20th week of pregnancy. 

    The ASRM also notes that recurrent miscarriage is “distinct from infertility,” so it doesn’t necessarily mean you have fertility issues if you’ve experienced multiple miscarriages, and you’re highly likely to be able to try again, should you wish to. They also note that each pregnancy loss is different, which means further assessment of the couple or person experiencing the pregnancy could be necessary. That’s why it’s so important to reach out to your doctor or health care professional for tests, advice, and support.

    Causes of recurrent miscarriage: What you should know

    Understandably, many people look for answers after experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss, but unfortunately, the cause is unknown in around half of all cases. “Typically, 50% to 75% of the time, no clear cause is identified,” explains Dr. Rodgers.

    Doctors believe there are potentially multiple factors that can affect your chances of having recurrent miscarriages, but — despite lots of studies and reviews — more research is needed to work out exactly what all of those causes are.

    However, of those we do know, what’s the most common reason for recurrent miscarriage? According to Dr. Rodgers, “The most common cause by far is embryos having too many or too few chromosomes [DNA molecules that are the building blocks of the human body]. This can happen randomly but [is] more common as we get older. Since 95% of miscarriages are from having too many or too few chromosomes, doctors need to determine if a loss was just ‘bad luck’ or if it was from something different.”

    That means that if you’ve experienced two or more miscarriages in a row, you should book an appointment with your doctor or OB-GYN for a checkup. 

    Some other potential recurrent miscarriage causes include:

    • Translocation (where a segment from one chromosome sticks — or becomes “heritably linked” — to another chromosome)
    • An unusually shaped uterus like a septate uterus (where the uterus is divided into two parts by a membrane or thin sheet of cells)
    • Hormonal illnesses like diabetes or thyroid disease
    • Antibodies created by the immune system that could attack the fetus
    • Low hormone levels, sometimes caused by increased prolactin levels, [6] which affect the function of the ovaries