Miscarriage (Spontaneous Abortion)

What is a miscarriage?

Miscarriage is the spontaneous termination of pregnancy in the first 20 weeks. In medical terms it is called a spontaneous abortion. An abnormally developing fetus is the most likely cause of a miscarriage.  About 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage and almost 80% occur in the first trimester. However, this may be somewhat inaccurate as many miscarriages occur very early, even before a period is missed or the pregnancy is confirmed. While most miscarriages do not pose any significant threat to the general and reproductive health of the mother, it have a major psychological impact and lead to depression.

What are the symptoms of a miscarriage?

Miscarriage is a very common occurrence and there may be no major symptoms in some cases apart from a very heavy period. Typical signs and symptoms include:

  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • Pain or cramps in the abdomen or lower back
  • Fluid or tissue discharge from the vagina
  • Spotting or bleeding in early pregnancy is fairly common. Usually, light bleeding during the first trimester denotes successful pregnancies.

What are the causes of a miscarriage?

A fetus that is not developing properly triggers a spontaneous abortion. Chromosomal defects are the common cause of the miscarriages that occur during the first trimester. Inherited disorders on the other hand do not lead to a miscarriage.

Chromosomes are dividing structures inside the cells that carry several genes. Genes, in general, determine the physical and mental attributes of a person. Every cell contains a defined number of chromosomes carrying genes. If the embryo possesses the wrong number of chromosomes, it may cause abnormal development of fetus and lead to miscarriages.

Some other common causes of miscarriages are:

  • Blighted ovum – a fertilized egg that has no embryo but develops a placenta. It is the common cause of the early pregnancy failures that occur in the first 12 weeks.
  • Intrauterine fetal demise – the embryo is still present in the uterus but has died without presenting any symptoms of abortion.
  • Improper implantation of embryo to the walls of uterus.
  • Mother’s health conditions also contributes to failed pregnancy that includes:
    – Hormonal problems
    – Uterine abnormalities
    – Early opening of cervix without labor pain
    – Infections
    – Thyroid disease
    – Severe diabetes

Certain risk factors in terms of the mother that may lead to a spontaneous abortion includes :

  • The mother’s lifestyle, including smoking and drinking alcohol, increases the risk of miscarriages.
  • The risk of chromosomal abnormalities increases with age. Women older than 40 years of age are more likely to experience miscarriage compared to younger women.
  • A history of two or more miscarriages increase the chances of spontaneous abortion.
  • Exercise, having sex or severe physical and psychological stress do not cause pregnancy failures.

What is the treatment for a miscarriage?

Primary treatment aims at removing the fetal tissue from the uterus. Once detected, miscarriage can be allowed to progress naturally. Usually it occurs within a couple of weeks of the death of embryo. However, there are medication to hasten the process. Administered orally or through the vagina, these drugs have proven to be effective within 24 hours of utilization.Surgical procedures involve draw8ht out the dead fetus from the uterus (suction dilation) or scraping it off from the uterine walls (curettage).

Medication for pain and bleeding is helpful is treating the associated symptoms. Avoiding exercise, traveling long distances or sexual activity during pregnancy.  Seeking regular prenatal care, and taking care of oneself during pregnancy may minimize the chances of a miscarriage.

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