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Miscarriage Explained

Woman receiving an ultrasound

Miscarriage explained

What is a miscarriage?

A miscarriage is the term for a pregnancy loss that occurs on its own, before 20 weeks gestation. Though some factors can increase a woman’s risk for miscarriage, it usually occurs due to chromosomal abnormalities.

What if I am considering having an abortion?

For many women, the decision on whether or not to have an abortion is agonizing. Occasionally, a woman who is considering abortion finds out she has actually had a miscarriage. This is important for her to know as it can change the situation financially, emotionally, and medically.  Experiencing a miscarriage after an unplanned pregnancy can bring complicated emotions, including guilt, sadness, or sometimes even a feeling of relief when abortion was considered. Additionally, the type and cost of medical care is different than what would take place during an abortion procedure. Depending on the type of pregnancy loss, the woman may not need to have any additional medical procedures besides the follow up exam from her doctor. If a woman qualifies financially for state-funded pregnancy Medicaid, her medical services related to miscarriage will be covered through this program.

What are the chances of miscarriage?

A positive pregnancy test does not necessarily mean you are experiencing a pregnancy that will continue on to result in the birth of an infant. In fact, pregnancy loss occurs much more frequently than many people assume. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), a typical, healthy woman under the age of 35 has about a 15-20% chance of miscarriage in each pregnancy, with that risk being highest during the first trimester, or first 13 weeks. As a woman ages, her chances of miscarriage increase. The APA also states that women who are 35-45 years old have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage, while women over the age of 45 have a 50% chance. Other factors can increase the risk of miscarriage, such as health or hormonal problems, infections such as an untreated STI, drug and alcohol use, smoking, and exposure to toxins or radiation. A woman who has experienced 2-3 previous miscarriages may have an increased chance of having another one.

Why Do I need an Ultrasound? Wouldn’t I know if I was having a miscarriage?

Unfortunately, there are several types of miscarriage, and some of them cannot be detected without an ultrasound.

  • A missed miscarriage is the term for a loss that has occurred without the woman experiencing any bleeding or miscarriage symptoms.
  • A blighted ovum or an embryonic pregnancy occurs when you have a positive pregnancy test, and the embryo implants into the uterus, but fetal growth never occurs.
  • An ectopic pregnancy is an embryo that implants outside of the uterus. This, too, results in a positive pregnancy test and pregnancy symptoms, but the pregnancy cannot grow and develop, and can be very dangerous if not addressed quickly.
  • A molar pregnancy produces very pronounced pregnancy symptoms, and a positive pregnancy test, but only rarely involves a growing embryo.
  • Incomplete and Complete Miscarriages involve more noticeable symptoms, such as bleeding, passing tissue, cramping, and sudden decrease in pregnancy symptoms.

The good news? Once an ultrasound confirms a viable pregnancy (a pregnancy that appears to be developing normally) and the heartbeat is seen, chances of miscarriage decrease significantly. After the end of the first trimester, the risk drops even further.
The HOPE Center can provide a free ultrasound to confirm the viability of your pregnancy and assist you in determining your next steps.

How do I cope emotionally with a miscarriage?

Experiencing a miscarriage can be devastating. A woman may blame herself for the situation or wonder what she could have done differently to prevent the loss from occurring. It is important to know that the vast majority of miscarriages are caused by factors completely outside of the woman’s control, such as chromosomal or developmental abnormalities. In most cases, there is nothing that she could have done differently to change the outcome. It is normal to feel upset and grieve the loss, even if the pregnancy was unplanned, or if abortion was considered. The sudden drop in pregnancy hormones may contribute to an overwhelming feeling of sadness. Any time a woman feels that she does not want to get out of bed, cannot care for herself or others, or feels depressed, she should contact her OBGYN or other medical provider for advice. The HOPE Center can help with referrals and resources for those experiencing difficulty after a miscarriage.