A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20 week mark; 80% of miscarriages happen before 12 weeks. The most common cause of a miscarriage is the lack of normal growth for the fetus. A miscarriage can sometimes happen without the knowledge of a woman especially if it happens too early into the pregnancy where she hadn’t found out that she was pregnant. When miscarriages happen, it can take a physical and emotional toll on the woman.
In 2016, I was surprised to realize I was pregnant. This was my second pregnancy and just like many women, I was ecstatic. But 8 weeks into the pregnancy, I started having severe cramps that I couldn’t ignore and ended up in hospital. A quick scan revealed that everything was fine as my uterus was still closed. My doctor explained that it was sometimes normal to feel discomfort during the early weeks of pregnancy.
2 weeks later, I started bleeding and I immediately headed to hospital where the doctor explained that it was a threatened miscarriage. After another scan, it was confirmed that my uterus was still closed but I was still bleeding. It was the hardest discussion as the doctor tried to explain that sometimes miscarriages just happen sometimes with no clear reason. I was put on some medication and complete bed rest but a few days later, the inevitable happened. I got the early signs of a miscarriage and as I headed to hospital once again, I knew in my heart that this time, something was completely wrong.
The doctor explained that I was having a miscarriage. I remember crying like a baby. Willing and hoping that God would hear my cries and save my unborn. I prayed, I broke down, and was inconsolable. I am the kind of woman who immediately connects with the fetus the moment I realize I am pregnant. I immediately bond and feel one with the child growing inside me. I talk, sing, and rub my belly just to create that attachment. So you can imagine the emotional turmoil I went through after the loss. I was angry, I was moody, I was livid. It took me a while to get myself together and it took me a whole year to conceive again as I had always wanted to fill in the void that the loss left.
So how do you know that you could be having a miscarriage? Although some symptoms may end up in healthy full term pregnancies, most of these are usually signs;
- Vaginal spotting or bleeding
- Abdominal cramps and lower back pains
- Tissue passing through the vagina
There are many reasons, some known while some unknown, that cause a miscarriage. Mostly, genetic problems in the fetus are normally the main reason. These genetics are usually unrelated to the mother. Other reasons may include;
- Severe infections in the mother
- Medical reasons e.g. chronic diseases
- Uterine abnormalities
- Abnormal genes and chromosomes
- Hormonal imbalances
- Food poisoning
- Severe high blood pressure
Sometimes, cervical insufficiency occurs in the second trimester where the cervix is weak and cannot hold the pregnancy.
There are also some risk factors that contribute to a woman having a miscarriage.
- Age; a woman who is 35 years and above is more likely to get a miscarriage than younger women
- Chronic conditions; women who suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes, have a high chance of experiencing a miscarriage
- Previous miscarriages; if a woman has had previous miscarriages, then the likelihood of them having another are higher.
- Weight; being underweight or overweight also creates the possibility of a miscarriage
- Alcohol, smoking and illicit drugs; women who partake in alcohol, who smoke and indulge in illicit drugs place themselves at a higher risk of having a miscarriage.
- Body trauma; when a pregnant woman undergoes physical body trauma e.g. an accident, she can have a miscarriage
- Exposure to harmful chemicals and radiation; harmful chemicals can definitely heighten the risks of a miscarriage
Mostly, there is nothing that can stop a miscarriage but following preventive measures like attending antenatal clinics regularly, avoiding alcohol and drugs, taking the necessary prenatal vitamins and having a laid out plan with your healthcare provider if you have a chronic disease can help lower the risks.
When a woman undergoes a miscarriage, there are 3 ways in which a woman can receive treatment.
- Expectant management where medical providers wait for the tissue to pass out naturally
- Medical management where a woman is given medicine to help with the remaining tissue
- Surgical management where the woman undergoes a minor surgery to remove the tissue
Usually, the healing period depends on how old the pregnancy was and how fast your body takes to heal. Symptoms such as abdominal pains and spotting are felt during this time.
A wide range of emotions might be witnessed during this time. It is essential for a woman to have support as it can affect her psychologically. One can get feelings of fatigue and weakness, low moods, and low energy. One can also crying frequently and have trouble sleeping.
All in all, miscarriages mostly happen due to unknown reasons and not due to the fact that a woman did or did not do something. Although it is physically and emotionally draining for some women who go through it, it is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Family members are encouraged to provide support to the woman as she goes through the process of loss.