What is a Miscarriage: Types, Signs, Symptoms & Causes

Getting pregnant is a beautiful feeling, but unfortunately, not all pregnancies lead to a healthy birth. There can be many complications in pregnancy leading to miscarriage. Here is a complete guide of all the things that you should know about miscarriage.

What is a miscarriage?

A miscarriage is an event that results in the loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. In medical terms, a miscarriage is also known as a spontaneous abortion, generally happening during the first trimester of the pregnancy. 

Miscarriages can happen due to various medical reasons, many of which cannot be controlled or predicted at all. But knowing about the risks, signs of miscarriage, and causes of it can help a lot to understand what it is, what causes miscarriage and what kind of treatment and support is required during this situation. To understand what is a miscarriage properly, let us first discuss the symptoms and signs of miscarriage.

What are miscarriage symptoms and signs? 

Miscarriage symptoms vary with every stage of pregnancy. Sometimes, it occurs so quickly that you may not even know that you were pregnant. 

Here are some of the most common miscarriage symptoms:

  • Heavy spotting.
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Discharge of tissue or fluid from your vagina
  • Severe abdominal pain or cramping
  • Mild to severe back pain

Call your doctor right away if you experience any of these miscarriage symptoms during your pregnancy. It’s also possible to have these symptoms without experiencing a miscarriage. But your doctor will want to conduct tests to make sure that everything is fine.

Miscarriage symptoms and signs

What are the prime miscarriage causes?

What causes miscarriage? Well, there are certain factors that might increase the risk of a miscarriage. It is generally not a result of something you did or didn’t do. If you face any difficulties maintaining your pregnancy, your doctor might need to perform certain diagnostic procedures to check the cause of your complication. 

When you are pregnant, your body secretes certain hormones and nutrients that are supplied to your developing fetus. Largely, first-trimester miscarriage occurs due to abnormal development of your fetus or hindrances in proper growth. There are different factors that can cause this, some of them being the following-

1. Chromosomal anomalies or genetic issues:

In a developing fetus, one set of chromosomes is contributed by the mother and another by the father. Chromosomes hold genes and if there are anomalies in chromosomes, the genes are affected causing miscarriage. 

Some of these abnormalities regarding chromosomes include:

  • Intrauterine fetal demise: In this case, the embryo is formed but ceases to develop before you feel any symptoms of pregnancy loss. 
  • Blighted ovum: In this case, no embryo forms at all.
  • Molar pregnancy: In this condition, the fetus receives both the chromosomes from the father instead of receiving one from the mother and therefore, no fetal development occurs.
  • Partial molar pregnancy: In this case, the father provides two sets of chromosomes, while the mother also provides chromosomes. Hence, fetal development stops due to extra chromosomes. 

Irregular division of cells of the embryo, or damaged sperm or egg cells can also become the cause of complications. In some cases, delayed development of the placenta can also cause miscarriage.

Chromosomal anomalies or genetic issues

2. Underlying conditions and lifestyle habits:

There are various underlying health conditions and lifestyle habits which might interfere with proper fetal development. Exercise and sexual intercourse have been found to cause no harm to the fetus. Working and regular routine activities won’t affect the fetus either.

However, conditions that can disturb proper fetus development include:

  • Poor diet, malnutrition or food poisoning
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Advanced maternal age
  • Untreated thyroid disease
  • Issues with hormones
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Infections
  • Trauma
  • Obesity
  • Problems with the cervix
  • Abnormally shaped uterus
  • Severe high blood pressure
  • Certain medications

Always check with your doctor before taking any medications to be sure it is safe during pregnancy.

3. Other causes increasing the risks of miscarriage:

Most cases of miscarriage are a result of natural and unpreventable causes. You can do nothing about such cases, however, you can know about certain risk factors that can increase the chances of a miscarriage and try to avoid such cases.

  • Body trauma or injury.
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals or radiation
  • Alcohol abuse, drug use or a smoking habit
  • Excessive caffeine consumption
  • Multiple consecutive miscarriages
  • Being underweight or overweight
  • Getting pregnant during the 30s
  • Chronic, uncontrolled conditions like diabetes
  • Problems with the uterus or cervix
Risks of miscarriage

What are the major miscarriage types?

There are many types of miscarriages depending on the symptoms and stage of your pregnancy. When a doctor diagnoses a miscarriage, these are the categories from which the report is formed:

  • Complete miscarriage: As the name suggests, this is when all the pregnancy tissues have been expelled from your body.
  • Incomplete miscarriage:  In this type of miscarriage, your body has expelled most of the placental or pregnancy tissue, but there is some pregnancy tissue still remaining in your body. 
  • Missed miscarriage: When the embryo dies without your knowledge and the body does not expel it either. It is also called a silent miscarriage because there are no proper symptoms of miscarriage.
  • Threatened miscarriage: When you experience bleeding and cramping, it might indicate an upcoming miscarriage. Seek immediate help if you feel any such thing.
  • Inevitable miscarriage: In this type of miscarriage, there is excessive bleeding and cramping. Cervical dialysis is also confirmed by the doctor, there is not much left to do. It is then considered a case of Inevitable miscarriage. 
  • Septic miscarriage: This is caused due to an infection in your uterus making it hostile to carry a child and thus causing miscarriage. 

How to prevent a miscarriage?

Not all miscarriages can be prevented. Still, keeping in mind the signs of miscarriage, there are some precautions that you can take to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Get regular prenatal care throughout your pregnancy.
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs, and smoking while pregnant.
  • Maintain a healthy weight before and during pregnancy.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly, and stay away from people who are already sick to avoid infection.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine to no more than 200 milligrams per day.
  • Take prenatal vitamins to help ensure that you and your developing fetus get enough nutrients.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.

Always remember, having a miscarriage doesn’t mean that you would not be able to carry a child in the future. Most of the women who have had complications in their previous pregnancies give birth to a healthy child in the future. 

Prevent a miscarriage

What is the treatment for miscarriage?

Most of the pregnancies suffer complete miscarriage and therefore don’t require any treatment. However, if you undergo any other type of miscarriage, there are chances that you might have some pregnancy tissue present in your body. In such cases, medical attention becomes important. Here are a few different treatment options:

  • Expectant management- In cases like this, the doctor advises you to wait until the remaining pregnancy tissue has passed out naturally off your body. 
  • Medical management- In such treatments, the doctor will prescribe you certain medications that will help you to expel the rest of the placenta and pregnancy tissues.
  • Surgical management- These miscarriages get complex which leads to a situation where the doctor surgically removes the rest of the tissue from your body. 

In the case of miscarriage, you need to seek immediate help. Get to the nearest hospital and clinic and have yourself diagnosed as it will help the doctor to choose the best treatment method for you. 

Physical recovery

Your body has just faced rapid change in hormones and therefore requires recovery time. This recovery time depends on how far along your pregnancy was before the miscarriage.  After a miscarriage, you might experience symptoms such as spotting and abdominal pain. Pregnancy hormones might remain in your blood for a couple of months after the miscarriage, but you will begin with your normal periods again within four to six weeks. 

Support after a miscarriage

It is completely okay to experience grief, anger, sadness, loss, self-doubt all together after a miscarriage. You might also face trouble in sleeping or feel low on energy. Crying frequently is also normal as it is your hormones making you feel so. 

Take your time to grieve your loss but don’t hesitate to ask for support when you need it. You may also want to consider the following:

  • Reach out for help when you’re overwhelmed. Your family and friends may not understand how you’re feeling, so let them know how they can help.
  • Put away baby memorabilia, maternity clothing, and baby items until you’re ready to see them again.
  • Seek counseling from a therapist because grief counselors can help you cope with feelings of depression, loss, or guilt.

Miscarriage can lead to a lot of complications in your life and can cause both physical and emotional harm. Although it is not easy to always know what causes miscarriage and how to cope up with it, you should not worry too much. Keep yourself indulged in activities that make you happy and this will make you slowly forget about it all. 

FAQs related to miscarriage:

  1. How do you know whether it is miscarriage or periods?
    In 50% of the pregnancies, miscarriage occurs even before you know that you are pregnant. Additionally, some of the symptoms of miscarriage involve heavy bleeding and cramping, which are similar to the signs of your menstrual cycle.
    In some cases, severe abdominal and back pain along with expulsion of large clots and fluids can be seen which indicates a miscarriage. Such events occur very rarely in menstruation.
    Also, the major difference between miscarriage and periods is that symptoms of miscarriage last much longer and are more severe than periods. Seek immediate help if you face any such complications. Having diagnosed early, many cases of miscarriage can be properly treated. If you just have a feeling of doubt that the symptoms might indicate miscarriage, contact your doctor immediately. 
  2. In which week are the chances of miscarriage highest?
    Most of the miscarriage cases occur within the first trimester of pregnancy. The first few weeks of pregnancy pose the highest risk of a miscarriage. However, once a week of pregnancy reaches 6 weeks, the risk factor drops significantly. 
    Risks further reduce from weeks 13 to 20 of pregnancy. However, it is very important to keep in mind that miscarriage risk doesn’t change much after this, as complications may arise at any point in a pregnancy. 
  3. Can I Get Pregnant Following a Miscarriage?
    Yes, in fact, 85% of women who have had a miscarriage tend to have normal pregnancies and births. Having a miscarriage might cause you emotional distress but it doesn’t mean that you have any fertility problem and can’t have a normal pregnancy. But, If you’ve had two continuous miscarriages, you may reconsider trying to conceive as it can cause harm to your body. Try another method of having a child. Ask your health care executive to diagnose the cause of your miscarriages.

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