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Miscarriages Explained

Why miscarriage happens

An early miscarriage is usually due to a problem such as a chromosomal or structural abnormality in the fetus. It may also be caused by a fibroid (a non-cancerous growth in the uterus), an infection, or an immune system disorder. Miscarriage occurs more commonly in older women, in smokers, and in multiple pregnancies.

If you miscarry, it's important to know that it wasn't linked to anything you did, such as exercise, sex, or travel. Also, there is no evidence that rest reduces the risk of a threatened miscarriage going on to become inevitable.

What will be done

If you bleed in early pregnancy, contact your doctor immediately who will arrange for you to have a pelvic exam and/or ultrasound scan. If a scan shows a healthy fetal heart, the chance of miscarriage is reduced. If there is no heartbeat, or no developing baby, the doctor will assess if you've had a complete or incomplete miscarriage. A complete miscarriage doesn't require treatment. If it is incomplete, you may be offered medication to hasten the miscarriage, or a procedure to scrape the uterus, although your doctor may recommend expectant management-monitoring the situation while letting your uterus expel its contents. Expectant management means that you avoid risks such as infection from an invasive medical procedure, but its disadvantage is that you may bleed longer. Discuss the options with your doctor.

If you have two or more miscarriages in a row, known as "repeated miscarriage," your doctor may arrange tests to see if there is a cause. About half the time, no cause will be found but sometimes testing will find fetal chromosomal problems, uncommon uterine problems, or blood disorders or other medical conditions.

After a miscarriage

Your period may be delayed by 6-12 weeks. Once the bleeding stops, there is no medical reason to not try to get pregnant again. The only problem is that you may not know if your period is late since your cycle is readjusting after the miscarriage, or whether you are pregnant again. It's wise to wait until you both feel mentally ready to try again. Talking to a close friend, family member, or a counselor, can help you come to terms with your loss.

Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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