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5 risks that increase your change of miscarriage (and 5 common causes you should know)

POSTED: March 18, 2017 12:51 p.m.
Courtnie Erickson/

Are you at risk to miscarry?

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I know the feeling all too well. My husband and I tried for several months when that pink line finally appeared. To say we were excited would be an understatement, but those feelings didn’t last long. Shortly after, I miscarried.

Even though I felt completely alone, I wasn’t. In the United States, a miscarriage is fetal loss that is less than 20 weeks, and approximately 10 to 15 out of every 100 recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. This number is actually higher as many women miscarry, but they do not know they are pregnant.

Miscarriage can happen for hundreds of reasons but unfortunately, some women are more at risk than others. Women with the following circumstances are at a higher risk to miscarry:

Age

The older you are, the greater chance you have to miscarry. Women under 35 years old have about a 15 percent chance to miscarry while 35 to 45 year olds have a 20 to 30 percent chance of miscarriage.

Previously miscarried

If you have miscarried in the past, you have a slightly higher risk of miscarrying once again.

Poor health habits

Frequent intake of alcohol, smoking and drug use can all increase your risk of miscarrying. Even poor eating habits and malnutrition can play a role in a miscarriage.

Diseases or disorders

Autoimmune disorders, diabetes and other chronic disorders can increase your risk of miscarriage as well as hormonal disorders such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Some research shows that obesity in the woman can also increase your risk of losing the baby.

Your first baby was a boy

Research from the University College Hospital Copenhagen found the chance for miscarriage was greater for women whose first baby was a boy. This is because carrying a male causes an unnatural immune response in some women.

Common Causes

There are dozens of reasons why a woman miscarries, but a few causes are more common than others. They include:

1. Chromosomal Abnormality

This is one of the most common causes of miscarriage. Everyone has 23 pairs of chromosomes and these chromosomes carry our genes. Many miscarriages occur because an egg or a sperm cell does not have enough or contains too many chromosomes.

2. Blighted Ovum

A blighted ovum is when a fertilized egg contains no embryo but has a placenta. Because there is no embryo, the pregnancy ends and you will often feel your pregnancy symptoms have stopped.

3. Immune System Responses

When you are pregnant and everything is working correctly, the mother’s immune system turns from protecting the mother from dangerous entities in the body to protecting the embryo. But if the immune system isn’t working correctly, this process doesn’t happen. Instead of protecting the embryo, your immune system attacks it, causing miscarriage.

There are many issues with the immune system that can contribute to miscarriage. If you have concerns or are aware of issues with your immune system, you should work closely with a doctor and/or a specialist to treat your own immunologic issue.

4. Abnormalities in the uterus

Some women are born with abnormalities in the uterus and are not aware of them until they try to conceive or become pregnant. Not all abnormalities will cause a miscarriage but they can greatly increase your risk. A few common uterine abnormalities that increase your risk of miscarriage include:

Septate uterus: This is the most common abnormality, and it is when a muscle or tissue divides your uterus into two. In some cases, you will need surgery to reduce your risk of miscarriage.

Fibroids: Fibroids are benign growths of muscle tissue in your uterus. Large fibroids can cause numerous issues including infertility, placental abruption, heavy bleeding and miscarriage.

Uterine Scars: These are scars or scar tissue inside your uterus. These scars damage your uterus lining. They can cause infertility and frequent miscarriages. In some cases, surgery is required to remove the scar tissue.

5. Infections

Unfortunately, some infections can increase your risk of miscarriage.

Bacterial vaginosis: This is an infection caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. It causes a thin white or gray discharge and has a fish-like odor. It is the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15 to 44. Studies show a link between bacterial vaginosis and second-term miscarriage.

Toxoplasmosis: When you’re pregnant, doctors urge you to stay away and not change any litter boxes. Some cats carry bacteria that causes toxoplasmosis. Women have a small chance of becoming infected with toxoplasmosis but the infection greatly increases your risk of a miscarriage and stillbirth.

Foodborne illnesses: Not only should you avoid litter boxes, but pregnant women should stay away from certain foods such as deli meats, uncooked eggs and unpasteurized cheese. These foods increase your risk of contracting listeria and salmonella, which also increases the risk of miscarriage.

Miscarriage is a tragic thing, only made more tragic because there is very little you can do to prevent it. However, the better you take care of yourself, the greater your chances are for a healthy pregnancy.
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