Everything you need to know about a miscarriage

Miscarriage and talking about it sometimes still seems like a taboo subject. Understandably, thinking and talking about losing a baby is something you’d rather not do. Still, it is important to know what a miscarriage means, how to recognize it, and how to process it. Should your pregnancy turn out differently than hoped, you will be prepared.

What is a miscarriage?

In a miscarriage, you lose your baby early in pregnancy. We speak of a miscarriage when the pregnancy is spontaneously terminated before 16 weeks. 

The cause of a miscarriage is in most cases caused by an abnormality during the coming together of the egg cell and sperm cell. As a result, the fetus cannot grow properly and is then rejected. However, an ectopic pregnancy, a fibroid, an abnormality of the cervix, or a congenital defect can also be the cause of a miscarriage.

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How do you recognize a miscarriage?

You can recognize a miscarriage by (slight) loss of blood. In most cases, the fetus stopped growing early in the pregnancy and is still very small. Often you do not recognize the fetus. However, you will see tissue and possibly blood clots. If you are further along in the pregnancy, you may experience more blood loss and the abdominal cramps may be more severe. Once the tissue has left the uterus, the loss of blood and cramps will quickly subside. 

No heartbeatĀ 

There is a possibility that you may not see a beating heart during the first ultrasound. This does not necessarily mean you have a miscarriage. Are you less than 6 weeks pregnant? Then it is normal that no heartbeat can be seen yet. If this is the case, the midwife will do another ultrasound 1 to 2 weeks after the first ultrasound.

Remember: during a miscarriage, a pregnancy test can still give a positive result because there are often still pregnancy hormones in your body.

What are the chances of a miscarriage?

The chances of miscarriage depend on the situation you are in. Have you had previous miscarriages? What is your gestational age? How old are you? Etc. Many different factors weigh into this. 

Overall: on average, 1 in 10 pregnancies results in a miscarriage. Possibly even more often, 15-20% of all established pregnancies in the Netherlands end in miscarriage. The chance of a new miscarriage after a first one is hardly higher, between 10-15%. If you have had a second miscarriage, the chance of it happening again is 25%. After three miscarriages, it is 35%.  

But remember, the chance of miscarriage depends entirely on your situation.

Can you prevent a miscarriage?

You cannot stop or prevent a miscarriage. Unfortunately, it happens, without anything you can do to change it. For example, you cannot miscarry from riding a horse, making love, or riding a bicycle. 

Risk factors for miscarriage

Of course, there are some factors that can increase the risk of a miscarriage. The age of a (future) mother or a previous pregnancy that was spontaneously terminated earlier, increases the chance.

Other risk factors:

  • Maternal obesity
  • Disease in the mother: a thyroid disorder, diabetes, an infection, or fever can cause a pregnancy to stop early.
  • Alcohol, smoking, and the use of drugs are bad for mother and child during pregnancy, but can also cause a miscarriage.
  • Some painkillers can also increase the risk of a miscarriage. Always read the package insert carefully and do not use diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, and paracetamol with codeine.

Processing a miscarriage

Every woman reacts differently to a miscarriage. Disbelief, sadness, anger, shock, denial, jealousy, insecurity: these are all common emotions. And every woman processes a miscarriage in her own way, and the time to process it is also different for each woman. Give yourself the time, rest, and space to recover both emotionally and physically from a miscarriage. 

Talking about the miscarriage can help with the coping process. This can be done with the person with whom you feel comfortable and safe. Your partner, your midwife, a friend, or whomever you feel comfortable talking to. Some women like to share their stories with others who are/were in the same situation. This can be with someone you already know personally, or anonymously, through a private Facebook group for example.

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