What causes miscarriage?

Often, the cause of miscarriage cannot be identified, but the most common cause in the first trimester is chromosomal abnormality. Other contributing factors can include, but are not limited to:

  • Hormonal problems, infections, or maternal health problems 
  • Lifestyle (smoking, drug use, excessive caffeine, exposure to toxic substances, etc.)
  • Incomplete implantation of the egg into the uterine lining
  • Maternal age
  • Maternal trauma

Medical care during miscarriage

When a woman is experiencing a miscarriage, it is important that the pregnancy tissue is expelled from the uterus so it does not cause an infection. Depending on physical recommendations, personal preferences, or how far along the pregnancy is, the following options are available:

  • Allowing the miscarriage to occur naturally, which may take several weeks or a month.
  • Taking a medication called Misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions and helps expel the pregnancy tissue. This medication is taken at home and followed by mild-to-moderate abdominal pain and cramping. Your doctor may recommend medication to manage the pain.
  • A minor surgical procedure called Dilation and Curettage (D&C), which uses an aspiration technique to remove any remaining pregnancy tissue. A D&C takes place in a hospital or obstetrical office on an outpatient basis. Patients are put under anesthesia and the procedure usually takes less than an hour.

Coping with emotions after a miscarriage

The loss of a pregnancy, no matter how early, can be a devastating experience. Many women experience feelings of grief, sadness, and anxiety that persist after they are physically healed.

Families can find comfort in commemorating their baby through ultrasound pictures, a special necklace, a ceremony with loved ones, a charitable donation in their baby’s name, or some other special observation or activity.

When feelings of depression last longer than a few weeks, it’s important to get help. With experience and knowledge about grief and perinatal loss, Allegheny Health Network provides care and support to families grieving the loss of an infant through miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death at one of our four locations (see list). Our professional staff is trained in grief counseling and bereavement issues, and can offer guidance and in-hospital support as they move through the initial crisis. We offer pregnancy loss support services to families both on an inpatient and outpatient basis.

What are the symptoms of miscarriage?

The most common symptoms of miscarriage are bleeding, cramping, and passing clots. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor so that he or she can determine the best course of action. If you experience heavy bleeding, fever, or chills, contact your doctor immediately or go to your nearest emergency room.

In some cases, women do not experience any symptoms of miscarriage, but find out during an ultrasound that their baby does not have a heartbeat.

The loss of a pregnancy is one of the most profoundly sad experiences a family can endure. Studies reveal that 10 to 25 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage—a pregnancy that ends on its own, within the first 20 weeks of gestation. That’s why it’s important to know the facts.

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