According to the National Institutes of Health, pregnancy miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. One in five pregnancies end in miscarriage; most of the time a cause is never found. But that doesn't stop grieving moms and dads from wondering if there was something they did or shouldn't have done that might have hurt baby. It's a common fear and most of the time it's unfounded. More than a third of women surveyed about their beliefs surrounding pregnancy miscarriage and birth defects said they thought that a pregnant woman's foul mood could negatively affect her baby.
Common Myths About Miscarriage
Myth No. 1: Being frightened can hurt your baby.
Just because a near accident, or loud noise, or other event scares you doesn't mean the baby even noticed. Even if baby jumps when hearing something loud, this is just a startle reflex and actually a healthy sign that he or she is developing normally. Adds one OB, I had a call not long ago, before Halloween, from a pregnant woman asking if it would be OK to go to a haunted house. I told her it was fine."
Myth No. 2: The baby "knew" it was unwanted.
Lots of babies are surprises. Sometimes mom even considers having an abortion before deciding to continue the pregnancy. Those feelings of ambivalence are normal and don't cause harm, to your baby. Unfortunately, even lots of planned (and desperately wanted) pregnancies end in miscarriage.
Myth No. 3: Mom was too stressed out.
Every pregnant mom gets stressed. Whether its money, marriage, work or even family tragedies, it's virtually impossible to get through nine months emotionally unscathed. You will get through it, and while you should take care of yourself, you're not going to hurt your baby by worrying.
Myth No. 4: Having sex can cause miscarriage.
Orgasm may scare you when your uterus enlarges because you can feel the contractions, but it doesn't do anything to the baby other than maybe rock him to sleep (or get him to kick you to stop and let him sleep already.). You only need to curtail your loving if your doctor has told you to do so.
Myth No. 5: Lifting your toddler can cause a miscarriage.
Your body will complain to the point of making you drop them well before you can do anything that is harmful. Remember to pick up anything heavy by squatting and lifting with your legs, not bending over and lifting with your back.
Why a Miscarriage Happens
Most pregnancy miscarriage result from genetic or chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, or from medical complications relating to hormonal imbalances or problems with the uterus or placenta, noted Jonathan Schaffir, a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State. Most of these things are beyond anyone's control and can happen to anyone," he said. In general, minor day-to-day experiences don't have an effect on whether a pregnancy is successful or not."
What You Can Do to Prevent Miscarriage
The risk of pregnancy miscarriage is increased if the mom smokes, has an infection, has exposure to toxins, has a multiple pregnancy or if she has poorly controlled diabetes. Marsha Jackson, C.N.M., certified nurse explained, "You can take steps to prevent miscarriage before you conceive. Test for gynecological infections and anemia and start eating right."
According to the Mayo Clinic, other factors that do cause pregnancy miscarriage are:
- Women older than age 35 have a higher risk of miscarriage than do younger women. Paternal age also may play a role. In a 2006 study, women whose partners were age 40 or older had a higher risk of miscarriage than did women whose partners were younger than age 25.
- Previous miscarriages
- The risk of miscarriage is higher in women with a history of two or more previous miscarriages. After one miscarriage, your risk of miscarriage is the same as that of a woman who's never had a miscarriage.
- Chronic conditions
- Women with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes or thyroid disease, have a higher risk of miscarriage.
- Uterine or cervical problems
- Certain uterine abnormalities or a weak or unusually short cervix may increase the risk of miscarriage.
- Smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs
- Women who smoke or drink alcohol during pregnancy have a greater risk of miscarriage than do nonsmokers and women who avoid alcohol during pregnancy. Illicit drug use also increases the risk of miscarriage. Smoking prevention and alcohol use prevention is key.
- Avoid caffeine during the first trimester and limiting the amount of caffeine you drink to less than 300 milligrams a day during the second and third trimesters.
- Invasive prenatal tests
- Some prenatal genetic tests, such as chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis, carry a slight risk of miscarriage.
American Pregnancy Association: Miscarriage
Rakusen J. The new our bodies, our selves–Infertility and pregnancy loss. 3 ed. London: Philips-Rakusen: 1996: 437
Ford JH, MacCormac L. Pregnancy and lifestyle study: the long-term use of the contraceptive pill and the risk of age-related miscarriage. Human Reproduction 1995; 10(6): 1397-1402
The management of early pregnancy loss. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. www.rcog.org.uk/