Learning you are pregnant can be one of the happiest moments of your life. The future takes on a whole new meaning and your view of the things around you start to change. You are awed by the fact that you have a tiny human being growing within you and it is very humbling. Sharing the news with family and friends brings celebrations and congratulations and everyone is happy and excited.
Then your worst nightmare comes true about the new life you hold and you suffer a miscarriage. All of your hopes and dreams are dashed to pieces and no one really knows how to react. Even in today’s enlightened society a lot of people blame the mother for the miscarriage, including the mother. Do not blame yourself.
For your peace of mind and in your defense, although you really don’t need any, 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Miscarriage is not a rare event, although it can be devastating to the parents. Only around 3% of miscarriages may have been avoided if the mother had not participated in drug or alcohol abuse. That means that in 97% of miscarriages, there is nothing you did or did not do that caused it.
There are many reasons a miscarriage occurs and the majority of them are completely out of your control. Here is a list of some of the things that can cause miscarriage.
15 Illicit Drug Use
Among all miscarriages, 3% of miscarriages may have been avoided had the mother or father not used illegal drugs. However, addiction is very powerful. If you find you're pregnant and have been using illegal drugs, get help immediately for the health of your baby and yourself.
The use of meth, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, PCP, or LSD increases the risk of miscarriage. They are also believed to result in placental abruption, preterm birth, fetal death, growth restriction, genital defects, defects of the kidneys and brain, learning disabilities, hypoglycemia, intracranial hemorrhage, poor muscle control and a mix of many other problems and birth defects for the baby.
In addition, continued use during pregnancy means that your baby also becomes addicted to the substance and will go through withdrawal, either while still in the womb or after birth.
14 Alcohol Abuse
Drinking alcohol while pregnant can put the fetus at risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). FASD is a term that covers a wide array of adverse effects that can occur when a pregnant woman drinks. These include fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder, and alcohol-related birth defects.
- Alcohol constricts blood vessels and interferes with the flow of blood to the placenta, delaying the delivery of vital oxygen and nutrients.
- Consuming alcohol can cause the death of developing cells, causing abnormal development in the fetus.
- Alcohol disrupts how nerve cells grow which can cause abnormalities of the brain and nervous system.
- Byproducts of alcohol metabolism can be toxic and concentrate in the fetus brain.
The kinds of problems caused by alcohol usage during pregnancy include: learning disabilities, mental retardation, hyperactivity, problems with impulse control, memory, language and social skills, and attention deficits.
Not drinking during your pregnancy is a life-time gift you can give your baby.
Research has shown that smokers suffer from miscarriage twice as often as non-smokers do. Many OB/GYNs and pediatricians state that women smoking during their pregnancy is the one of the worst things they encounter for mother and for baby. Diseases they can treat, but not the addiction to smoking.
Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, some of them are cyanide, carbon monoxide, nicotine and lead, plus over 60 compounds known to cause cancer. When you smoke you are feeding these toxic substances to your baby through the umbilical cord, yet you would never dream of putting a dollop of cyanide in your baby’s bottle, right?
Nicotine is a vaso-constrictor, meaning it narrows the blood vessels. This effects the umbilical cord, squeezing off the amount of oxygen and nutrients the fetus needs. If your baby does come to full term, he is likely to have damage caused by the cigarette smoke. In extreme cases, the fetus simply suffocates.
12 Incompetent Cervix and Uterine Abnormalities
This is something you may learn you have after you have a miscarriage. About 10% of miscarriages can be attributed to one of these problems. If your uterus is abnormally shaped the embryo may not be able to implant and receive the oxygen and nutrition it needs to survive.
An incompetent or weak uterus is actually too weak to hold the fetus once it grows to a certain size it will begin to bulge. Both of these problems can be solved with surgery.
11 Chromosomal Abnormalities
Roughly 60% of all miscarriages are attributed to this problem. We all get 23 pairs of genes each from our parents and when the chromosomes within can’t match up properly, the fetus cannot develop like it should.
When an abnormal chromosome is present, it can be a onetime fluke, and you very likely will soon have a successful pregnancy. However, it can be an inherited trait in either the eggs or sperm that cause no problem to the parent, but prevent a fetus from forming normally. After two or more miscarriages, couples should be tested for chromosomal abnormalities.
10 Untreated Illness
Although it may sound odd, some women may have diabetes or thyroid problems, or some other health condition and not be aware of it. If symptoms are mild or non-existent, it can be easy to remain none the wiser. Thyroid problems and uncontrolled diabetes are definite culprits in miscarriages. The environment these diseases, and others, create in the uterus make it unfriendly for a developing fetus.
9 Immunological Diseases
When you think about all the things that have to take place for an embryo to form, it seems like a miracle that women get pregnant at all. Sperm is seen as an invader by a woman’s body, so it’s a wonder any make it to an egg. However, once one does, the fertilized egg sends a message telling the mother’s body that it’s not a foreign object.
However, sometimes this doesn’t work out and antibodies begin to attack the embryo. New research has shown that the embryo may not be the only cause. Professionals are now beginning to believe that abnormalities in the mother’s immune system may also be a contributor.
Immunological diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis may be at fault. Seventy-five percent of those with these diseases are women.
Unfortunately, age isn’t something we can do anything about, but getting pregnant at certain ages can contribute to your chances of suffering a miscarriage. Research shows that women who become pregnant for the first time after age 35 are at a 20% higher risk of miscarriage. As a woman ages the risk increases to 80% by age 45. Teens are also at a higher risk as well.
For older women, the chance of chromosomal abnormalities in the eggs increases as age increases. There is also some evidence that older men may have damaged sperm.
7 Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is now coming to light as a reason for miscarriage. PCOS is a cause of insulin resistance and this keeps the endometrial lining of the uterus from maturing. It also results in small cysts appearing on the ovaries.
Women with PCOS have an imbalance of sex hormones that cause disturbances with menstrual cycle, cardiac functioning, fertility, insulin production, the circulatory system and sometimes appearance. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 5 million women in the US suffer from this. Anti-diabetes drugs can help.
6 Bacterial Infections
There are two bacteria in particular that are known to lead to miscarriage: ureaplasma urealyticum and mycoplasma hominis. Both are normally in the reproductive tracts of healthy men and women. However, if a woman’s uterus or cervix becomes infected with one of these, the lining of the uterus becomes inflamed and the embryo is unable to attach. There are no symptoms so it's difficult to diagnose except with testing. It's easily treated with antibiotics.
Food poisoning from Salmonella and Listeria have also been linked to miscarriage so it is vitally important that you are careful about the food you eat.
Bacterial vaginosis, Chlamydia and toxoplasmosis have also been linked to miscarriage. Toxoplasmosis is caused by the bacteria Toxoplasma gondii that can be carried in the waste of cats, so it is recommended that pregnant women not change the litter in the cat box.
5 Environmental Toxins
It's known that women who work in certain kinds of environments have a higher incidence of miscarriage, although the reasons are unclear.
Many miscarriages are attributed to exposure to a number of factors called teratogens, and these are known to disrupt the development of the fetus. Teratogens can include viral and bacterial infections, toxic chemicals, radiation, alcohol and cigarette smoke.
Not only exposure to teratogens by the mother, but exposure of the father as well can cause chromosomal abnormalities in the sperm. Generally, repeated, consistent, exposure is the culprit. Here's a list of some chemicals associated with causing miscarriages:
- Organic solvents (labs, industrial, dry cleaning)
- Heavy metals (industrial, dental assistants)
- Tetrachlorethylene (dry cleaning)
- Anesthetic gasses (surgical staff)
- Glycol ethers (semiconductor workers)
- Antineoplastic drugs (oncology staff)
- 2-Bromopropane (electronics industry)
If you work in an industry where these are used, talk to your employer about temporary relocation.
Things around the home such as degreasers, paint thinner, mercury from broken thermometers or fluorescent lights, and pesticides can also pose a risk.
4 Weight Problems
Being underweight has been shown to cause miscarriage, although research into overweight women and pregnancy has been more prevalent. It's theorized that stress, history of miscarriages and other health issues increase the chances of miscarriage in underweight women.
Usually minor factors can be controlled with dietary changes and stress reduction to increase a woman's chances for conceiving. Health reasons require a doctor's intervention.
Although in the US and most industrialized nations, measles is all but eradicated, it's still out there and poses a risk to an unborn baby. German measles or Rubella is generally a mild, but obnoxious virus that passes on its own. However, for women who have not been immunized or not had measles, contracting it during pregnancy could cause miscarriage. If you know you do not have immunity and plan to get pregnant, it's best to get immunized and wait a month before trying to conceive.
2 Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Women who have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and become pregnant carry a greater risk of suffering a miscarriage. If you know you have an STD and want to become pregnant, seek help from your healthcare provider first to see if the problem can be cured or treated to allow for a healthy pregnancy. Gonorrhea, herpes, and syphilis are especially known to cause miscarriage, but these can be easily treated.
1 Antiphospholipid Syndrome
Although not widely known, antiphospholipid syndrome can be the cause of recurrent miscarriage. This syndrome causes antibodies in a person’s bloodstream to attack certain phospholipids in the body. Phospholipids are a required part of healthy cells. When antibodies attack phospholipids it can create small blood clots, which usually resolve on their own, but can lead to deep vein thrombosis and contributes to other health problems such as cardiovascular problems and stroke.
Around 2 to 4 percent of the population have this syndrome, but if you're a woman in this group, it could cause miscarriage. It's believed that small blood clots form in the umbilical cord, cutting off vital oxygen and nutrients to the growing fetus.
If you have miscarried, do not blame yourself and don't despair. Although frustrating, you will probably never know the cause of your miscarriage and there's no point in trying to attribute blame or a reason. Just become as healthy as possible and you can eventually have a beautiful, healthy baby.