Many of us are familiar with the unwritten “12-week” rule. This rule suggests moms-to-be not tell anyone they are pregnant before the 3-month mark, just in case “something happens.” It is a fact that pregnancy loss before 20 weeks, or miscarriage, happens in 10 to 15 percent of known pregnancies. Many women, however, can miscarry before they even know they are pregnant. This fact significantly raises the rate of miscarriages.
Symptoms of miscarriage that women can look out for include vaginal spotting or bleeding, cramping or pain in the lower back or abdomen, and passing fluid or tissue from the vagina. Women should consult a healthcare provider if any of these symptoms occur. Light bleeding or spotting can sometimes occur during pregnancy and does not always mean a miscarriage has happened.
When a miscarriage occurs couples facing this physical and emotional trauma of pregnancy loss, are faced with many questions. “Why did this happen?” “Can miscarriage be prevented?” “When should we try to get pregnant again?”
Causes of miscarriage
Determining the specific cause of a miscarriage is difficult however; the most common cause is generally related to a genetic defect that happens during conception. Genetic defects are out of the control of the woman or man. For example, the embryo having the wrong number of chromosomes. Other possible causes can be related to uterine, cervical, or hormone abnormalities or conditions (i.e. PCOS), autoimmune disorders such as lupus, infections such as cytomegalovirus, foodborne illness, and conditions of diabetes or hypertension that are not controlled. Uterine fibroids (benign masses that affect the shape of the uterus) have long been thought to be a cause, but a 2017 study of more than 5,500 women found no difference in miscarriage risk between women with or without fibroids.
There are certain risk factors for miscarriage as well:
- Advanced Maternal Age (over 35 years)
- Smoking, drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs
- Intake of caffeine over recommended levels
- Exposure to chemicals and/or environmental toxins
The good news is many routine activities such as exercising or having sex do not increase miscarriage risk. Eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, getting plenty of rest, engaging in physical activity, and taking a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin, can help a woman recover more quickly from miscarriage and better prepare her body for another pregnancy.
There is no doubt that pregnancy loss, especially repeated miscarriages, comes with a large emotional burden. Couples can experience a range of short and long-term feelings of anger, guilt, jealousy, and depression. Symptoms of depression include loss of interest in normal activities, difficulty focusing or making decisions, and changes in eating or sleeping habits. These symptoms should be promptly shared with a health care professional so that needed help can be quickly provided.
Reflect on and identify these feelings while adopting healthy coping strategies can make a difference. These strategies can include the couple talking with each other, talking with friends, family, a therapist, or a support group, and taking the time to journal or capture thoughts, feelings, and memories around the baby that has been lost. While women are generally the recipient of help and support post-miscarriage, men should be equally cared for.
Trying to get pregnant again
A 2016 National Institutes of Health study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, looked at over 1,000 women and found that those who tried to get pregnant within three months of miscarriage were more likely to get pregnant. Women who waited longer were less likely. A subsequent 2017 study out of Vanderbilt University had similar findings. While these studies show that trying to conceive sooner rather than later may be more effective, it is important for couples to feel emotionally ready and to consult with a health care provider.
The road to a successful pregnancy can be harder and longer for some couples. Fortunately, there are resources and support tools available to couples on their pregnancy journey. Online and in-person support groups can provide comfort following pregnancy loss. Pregnancy loss groups can also be an opportunity to share joy at the birth of a “rainbow baby”. This is a popular term on blogs and social media for a baby born after a miscarriage.
Medicines and herbal supplements for when you decide to try again
It is important to check with your healthcare team before taking any over the counter or prescription medicines or herbal supplements. There are certain medications that can be harmful to the fetus. In addition, compounds in some herbal supplements can be a concern. A June 2019 statement from the US Food and Drug Administration advised women of childbearing age to avoid consuming supplements with vinpocetine. Vinpocetine, also known as Vinca minor extract, lesser periwinkle extract, or common periwinkle extract is often found in supplements that promote increased energy or memory. A report from the National Institute of Health’s National Toxicology Program identified risks of fetal defects and miscarriage from consuming vinpocetine.
Regardless of when a couple chooses to try to conceive following miscarriage, the most important thing is that they have the care and support they need. How a couple copes and recovers from this loss, as well as their timetable for trying again are personal decisions and entirely based on their needs.For more information, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @Theralogix! Don’t miss an article! Sign up for our newsletter below and we’ll let you know when our next article comes out.