By Fidelia Asogwa
A miscarriage, which is also known as spontaneous abortion occurs when a baby (fetus) is lost spontaneously before the 24th week of pregnancy. It is the unfortunate result of a genetic abnormality that occurs in fetus, often characterized by the tripling of a chromosome.
Suffering a miscarriage is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a woman. If you have suffered a miscarriage, it is natural to be concerned about why it happened, and would want to prevent a recurrence. Like many women, you may have been subjected to a number of tests, all of which have been inconclusive and you keep on wondering what could be causing the miscarriage. There may be medical or no medical reason why you are miscarrying and that leaves you critically concerned to evaluate and find out other possible factors that make you to miscarry.
Causes of miscarriage:
Chromosomal Abnormalities: Mismatched chromosomes account for at least 60 percent of miscarriages. Chromosomes are the tiny structures in each cell that carry our genes. We have 23 pairs of them, one set from our mother and one set from our father. Sometimes, when the egg and sperm meet, one or the other is faulty and then the chromosomes can’t line up properly. In that case, the resulting embryo has a chromosomal abnormality and the pregnancy usually results in a miscarriage. Couples who experience two or more miscarriages in a row sometimes learn, through medical tests, that they have chromosomal anomalies that do not affect them, but do prevent a pregnancy from taking hold.
What you can do: If you have one miscarriage, be patient. The odds are strongly in your favour that you will get pregnant again and deliver a healthy baby. If you miscarry again, however, consider preserving the tissue you pass (if possible, save it in a sterile saline contact-lens solution) and take it to your physician to be sent to a lab for chromosomal testing. If it is chromosomally normal, then you start looking for other factors that may be responsible for the miscarriages.
Uterine Abnormalities: If you have a uterus that is abnormally shaped or divided called uterine septum -miscarriage can easily occur. Miscarriage occurs because the embryo either can’t implant or once it does implants, can’t get the nourishment it needs to survive. Uterine anomalies account for about 10 percent of miscarriages.
A weakened or incompetent cervix is another problem that can lead to miscarriage, because toward the end of the first trimester the fetus has grown large enough that the cervix starts to bulge. If the cervix is weakened, it can’t hold the fetus in.
What you can do: Your physician may not discover this problem until you have had recurrent miscarriage, or until your pregnancy stops developing. The good news is that uterine septum can be corrected with surgery. And if you have an incompetent cervix, your physician will put a stitch in the cervix to keep it closed, a procedure called cerclage. You may also require bed rest or hospitalization for part of your pregnancy.
Untreated illnesses such as thyroid problems (both Hyper-and Hypo-thyroidism) and uncontrolled Diabetes: Thyroid conditions and uncontrolled diabetes are both associated with unfavourable uterine environment. The effects of these conditions make it difficult for the embryo to survive. Thyroid disease occurs when the thyroid gland does not supply the proper amount of hormones needed by the body. Remember that thyroid is a small gland located below the skin and muscles at the front of the neck, just at the spot where a bow tie would rest.
What you can do: If after testing and the result shows you are suffering from these conditions, make the lifestyle changes you doctor recommends and follow any recommended treatment regiments to get your diabetes under control. Thyroid conditions can usually be corrected with medication.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): This is now an emerging cause of recurrent miscarriage. Women with PCOS have too high levels of male hormone-testosterone which, among other things, causes irregular ovulation and menstruation. Even in women who do not have diabetes, PCOS causes insulin resistance, which prevents the endometrial lining from maturing properly. Between 5 and 10 percent of reproductive-age women have PCOS.
What you can do: Treatment with oral antidiabetic drugs, such as metformin (Glucophage) has been successful in reducing miscarriage in women with PCOS.
Bacterial Infections: Many micro-organisms live harmlessly in the male and female reproductive tracts. But certain bacterial can cause problems, including an increased risk of miscarriage. Two in particular mycoplasma hominis and unreaplasma unrealyticum live in the genital tracts of healthy men and women and can raise the risk of miscarriage. In women, infection with these bacteria can inflame the endometrium (the lining of the uterus), making it impossible for an embryo to develop. Sometimes there may be no symptoms, however, the only way you and you partner can detect this is to be tested.
What you can do: These infections can easily be treated with antibiotics.
Lifestyle (Cigarettes, Alcohol, Drugs, Environmental Toxins): Nicotine crosses the placenta and interferes with blood supply and fetal growth. Smokers have twice the rate of miscarriage as nonsmokers. Drinking more than two bottles of alcoholic beverages a day is also associated with miscarriage. Also women who work in certain environments including farms, operating rooms, dental offices and hospital laboratories have a higher rate of miscarriage for unknown reasons.
Stress: Stress can also cause a woman to miscarry. When a pregnant woman is involved in strenuous activities such as excessive trekking, riding a bike, carrying concrete at building sites etc, at the early stage can exert undue pressure on the growing fetus which can result to miscarriage. Even emotional stress coming from family pressure, marital disharmony, etc can make a woman to miscarry.
What you can do: Once you test positive to pregnancy, you are expected to avoid stressful activities until the fetus is fully implanted to avoid miscarriage. Even when the pregnancy is fully implanted, you should not still get involved in activities that would affect you and your unborn baby. Also learn how to let go of anger and live in peace with everyone around you as emotional stress coming from people around you can affect you negatively.
Symptoms of miscarriage
In the case of threatened miscarriage, where the risk of losing your baby is increased, you may experience:
bleeding from the vagina, often containing clots
blood in the vaginal mucus
abdominal pain and cramping
back pain etc.
How to prevent a miscarriage: It is important for you to know that there are plenty of precautions you can take to prevent or decrease your chances of miscarrying. Simply taking control of your health and maintaining good eating, exercising and sleeping patterns can help to ensure that you will have a health pregnancy. Follow the steps below to learn how to reduce your chances of experiencing a miscarriage.
Before you get pregnant
Get a STD check: Untreated sexually transmitted diseases can increase the risk of a miscarriage. Before considering getting pregnant, be sure to have your doctor check you for STDs such as gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, herpes, diabetes, as these diseases may increase the risk of miscarriage.
Know your vaccination history: some diseases can increase your risk of miscarriage, though many of these diseases can be prevented through simple vaccinations. If you are unsure of your vaccination history, check your vaccination record.
You may need to undergo blood testing to determine whether or not you received certain vaccinations as a child.
It is best to get vaccinated before you plan to conceive, so check your childhood vaccination record to be sure.
Understand that some chronic conditions may increase your risk of miscarriage: Thyroid disease, epilepsy etc are thought to increase the risk of miscarriage, though it is likely that you can still have a health baby if you have one of these diseases. But be sure to disclose your family disease history to your doctor so you can be taken care of to avoid miscarriage.
Take at least 600mg of folic acid per day: You should begin this dosage one to two months before you plan to conceive. Folic acid helps to reduce the chance that your baby will be born with birth defects.
Limit your caffeine intake: While trying to get pregnant, do not drink more that two cups of coffee (200mg) per day. Caffeine is a drug that can affect your hormone levels and is not healthy in large quantities.
During your pregnancy
Exercise Lightly: It is beneficial to you and your baby to get moderate exercise everyday, but avoid over exerting yourself. Extreme exercise may increase your risk of miscarriage because it heightens your body temperature and reduces the blood flow available to the fetus. Avoid contact sports that might cause you to jolt or fall and potentially injure the baby.
Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and raw meat: Infections caused by these products include listeria and toxoplasmosis, which can increase your risk of miscarriage. So it is better your meat are properly cooked and dairy products pasteurized.
Restrain from using tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs: As with any pregnancy, drugs should be avoided completely while attempting to conceive and especially once you know you are pregnant. In addition to being extremely unhealthy for you and your baby, using these things can also increase your risk of miscarriage.
Avoid radiation and poisons: Do not do x-trays of any kind during your pregnancy. Stay away from materials Such as arsenic, lead, benzene and ethylene oxide, as these may harm your baby.
Reduce your stress level: When you are stressed out, your body has a more difficult time fighting off sickness, and keeping you healthy. Try to keep calm throughout your pregnancy by practicing any techniques that may help you relieve stress. For some, this may be deep breathing, meditation, watching movies or painting.
Explore the possibility of taking progesterone: A female sex hormone, progesterone causes secretory changes in the uterus lining that are necessary for a fertilized egg to thrive. Some miscarriages may be as a result of inadequate progesterone secretion. During the first trimester of pregnancy, progesterone may help reduce the risk of miscarriage. You may ask your doctor if progesterone is an appropriate option for you to avoid miscarriage.
Consider the following fertility diet
Consume organic vegetables and fruits daily: Avoid eating conventional produce that contains herbicides and pesticides that may negatively impact fertility.
Choose organic, grass fed, whole fat and dairy products: Conventional dairy products or sources may contain hormones and antibiotics that can increase estrogen levels in the body and harm fertility. If dairy does not agree with your stomach or diet plans, you can avoid dairy altogether and opt for a nut-based milk. Do not drink soy milk.
Eat only grass-fed, organic meat: Avoid consuming hormones and antibiotics that may increase estrogen levels by choosing to eat only grass-fed, organic meat. Protein is essential during your pregnancy, but be sure to avoid conventional meat. Additionally, if you are concerned about endometriosis, limit your consumption of red meat, as the two have been linked by scientific study.