According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, and 10 to 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. That’s a tough and scary number to swallow, so you may be wondering, what causes a miscarriage in early pregnancy? It turns out, the reasons for miscarrying are varied and don’t always have an identified cause, the APA said. And sometimes, unfortunately, it's completely out of your control.
In fact, according to Dr. Shilpa Babbar, an assistant professor and OB-GYN at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, "The most common reason for an early miscarriage is a genetic or chromosomal problem that would result in an abnormal pregnancy." And this is absolutely out of your control.
According to the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS), other things that can cause a miscarriage — and are out of your control — include a weakened cervix or Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). APS is a blood clot condition and can be treated with aspirin and heparin shots beginning in early pregnancy. If you have a weakened cervix, you can be treated with a cervical cerclage as early as the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy to prevent a miscarriage.
Babbar says in an email interview, "Other common causes include uncontrolled medical disorders in the mother — such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or thyroid disorders — an abnormality within the uterine cavity, and hormonally related issues such as low progesterone levels, or infections. High levels of stress can increase the risk of a miscarriage as well."
So what can you control? Mainly lifestyle choices. Dr. Kathryn Wright with Facey Medical Group Mission Hills tells Romper that substance abuse (drugs, drinking, and smoking), weight extremes (whether over or under), and fever during early pregnancy can contribute to a miscarriage.
It's important to create a healthy atmosphere for your growing baby, and NHS, APA, and Mayo Clinic recommended the following to help you conceive and have a healthy atmosphere for baby: eating healthy, managing your stress, not smoking, exercising regularly, keeping your weight healthy, and taking folic acid every day — which you can get from taking prenatal vitamins.
If you're having a hard time managing your stress (because let's face it, life can certainly be stressful), ways to reduce stress levels in early pregnancy include meditating, doing yoga, or exercising, Babbar suggests. "Using tools like meditation, exercise, or yoga can activate a part of the nervous system called the 'parasympathetic nervous system,' which helps to combat stress and leads to relaxation."
There's even an app for women to help them manage their stress levels. The "Expectful" app has 10 to 20 minute meditations each for fertility, every stage of pregnancy, and motherhood.
What are some signs you may be having a miscarriage? The Mayo Clinic noted that vaginal spotting or bleeding, pain or cramping in your lower back or abdomen, and fluid and tissue passing are some signs, and you should seek medical attention immediately. "If you have passed fetal tissue from your vagina, place it in a clean container and bring it to your health care provider's office or the hospital for analysis," the Mayo Clinic's website recommended. Additionally, if you have a sudden decrease in "signs of pregnancy," that could be a warning sign as well, according to the APA.
Good news: "Keep in mind that most women who experience vaginal spotting or bleeding in the first trimester go on to have successful pregnancies," the Mayo Clinic added.
Websites like the APA, and Womenshealth.gov are reliable resources for women to get pregnancy and health-related information, and of course, your healthcare provider is the best source to get information about trying to conceive and everything that comes after conception. The good news is, if you do have a miscarriage, this does not mean you’ll never be able to have healthy pregnancies and children in the future. When you’re trying to get pregnant, make sure you’re the healthiest you that you can be. Giving up smoking, eating healthy, getting plenty of rest, and exercising regularly are things you hear your doctors tell you all the time. And while it’s great for your overall health, it’s also super important to have a healthy early pregnancy.