7 Things Every Couple Should Know About Miscarriages
It's heartbreaking when it happens. Our hearts are grieving for Sam and Nia, the lovely YouTube couple who, sadly, miscarried just days after their pregnancy announcement went viral. And Mark Zuckerberg recently revealed that, while his wife Priscilla Chen is now pregnant and expecting a baby girl, the couple has been trying to conceive for years and have endured three miscarriages along the way.
Unfortunately, stories like Mark and Priscilla, and Sam and Nia, aren't out of the ordinary. About 1 in 5 women will experience a miscarriage at least once, says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., a practicing ob-gyn at Mount Kisco Medical Group in Westchester County, New York. And while it's not 100 percent preventable, there are a handful of facts every trying couple should know.
It may be called something different. If you hear your doctors say "spontaneous abortion" or "early pregnancy loss," don't worry—there isn't anything going on behind the scenes that you aren't aware of. Both terms are used interchangeably with "miscarriage," according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and there is currently no consensus on which terminology should be used across the board.
It usually happens early. About 80 percent of all miscarriages happen within the first trimester, reports the ACOG. And while it is still possible to suffer a miscarriage in the second and third trimester—Dr. Dweck says an incompetent cervix (a weak cervix that dilates without labor or contractions), infection, and placental abruption (when the placenta separates from the uterine wall too early) are common causes—it's much less likely.
There's a 50% chance a genetic abnormality was the cause. "Most miscarriages are caused by a random event in which the embryo receives an abnormal number of chromosomes," says the ACOG. "Sperm and egg cells each have 23 chromosomes. During fertilization...the two sets of chromosomes come together. An embyro with an abnormal number of chromosomes often cannot grow or survive."
But again, this is usually a random occurrence, and scientists say there isn't a lot that can be done to prevent it. What they do know is that your risk increases with age—it doubles from 20 to 40 percent at age 35 and 40, respectively, and rises to 80 percent at age 45.
There's no way to stop it. Many women wonder if a miscarriage can be halted, so to speak, if symptoms are caught early enough. Sadly, there isn't anything that can be done. That doesn't mean you should skip your doctor's appointment though—Dr. Dweck says it's critical that you do if there's severe cramping or heavy bleeding (going through more than two two pads or tampons in an hour) to avoid hemorrhaging and lower your risk of infection.
You have options. While many assume that surgical evacuation—when a suction device is used within the uterus to remove pregnancy tissue—is their only option when a miscarriage happens, it's not the only course of action available. It can be physically painful and, for some, may be too emotionally upsetting—and that's okay. So long as you don't have serious medical complications, like hemorrhaging or infection, you can also choose to try expectant management, which is when you naturally allow the pregnancy tissue to pass, says the ACOG. (Keep in mind, though, that it can take two or more weeks.There's also medical treatment, which typically involves a vaginal medication that studies show can speed up the process to 3 days.
You don't have to wait long to try again. Of course, take as much time as you need to grieve—there's no pressure to try again until you feel ready. From a medical perspective, you can ovulate and get pregnant as soon as two weeks after a miscarriage. Doctors generally recommend holding off on intercourse (or inserting anything, like tampons, into the vagina) for one to two weeks after treatment, though, as it helps reduce the risk of infection.
And if you find you're just not ready to try again for a while, that's okay too. In fact, it's perfectly safe to resume birth control—whether it's the Pill, an IUD, or another method—immediately after the removal of the pregnancy tissue, says ACOG.
You're not doomed. While it is true that having one miscarriage may increase your chances of experiencing another (some causes are chronic or recurrent in nature, says Dr. Dweck), that doesn't mean you won't be able to carry a child to full-term. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), about 85 percent of women who have suffered one miscarriage will go on to have a healthy, full-term pregnancy on their second try.
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