Miscarriages are common and not preventable. They can occur very early in pregnancy or much later. The bleeding may be like a period or more severe. They are not a result of behaviors such as exercise, stress, or poor diet.
15% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Typically this is due to the genetic information not sharing correctly between the sperm and the egg. This leaves the developing baby with not enough information to fully develop. The pregnancy starts, but then development stops. The body then realizes something is wrong and the miscarriage happens. If this occurs very early in the pregnancy, it may just feel like a late period. If development is more advanced before it halts, this can lead to significant bleeding and pain.
When the miscarriage occurs very early, some people call this a “chemical pregnancy”. Because pregnancy tests have become so accurate, it is possible to find out you are pregnant before any significant development of the baby has happened. You may only be a couple of days late for your period. The bleeding in this case may be like a normal or moderately heavy period. Had a pregnancy test not been done, this would be indistinguishable from a late menses.
A common time to miscarry is at about 5-6 weeks. Typically a women will have some bleeding, an ultrasound is done, and no heart beat is noted. Often we are not sure if there is a problem, or if it is just too early to see the heart beat. A follow up ultrasound is then done, still no heart beat is noted, and there is no progress in development. A miscarriage at this stage can have a lot of bleeding but usually not so much as to be dangerous.
Miscarriages at 7 weeks or later carry a more significant risk of serious hemorrhage. A surgery called a D&C is usually necessary.
The medical term for when the baby is no longer alive but miscarriage has not yet happened is a “missed Ab” or “missed abortion”. Abortion, as used here, does not mean elective termination of pregnancy but rather it is the medical term for miscarriage. The idea of the term is that miscarriage should have happened but the body has missed it up until now.
Miscarriages are not the fault of the women. They are basically just bad luck. There are many false beliefs about what causes miscarriages. They are not caused by poor diet, stress, exercise, heavy lifting, crying, working too hard, or anything else you can think of. They are caused by a problem at the time of conception that is beyond anyone’s control. This is good news because you don’t have to feel guilty that you caused the miscarriage. However, this is also bad news because there is no intervention to prevent it from happening.