Science

7 Common Risks and Causes of Miscarriages

A miscarriage, the spontaneous ending of a pregnancy before the 20th week of gestation, is probably one of the most painful and devastating experiences a pregnant woman can go through. It may be caused both by biological factors as well as other external factors that are within our control.

If you have actually experienced a miscarriage, the first thing you would want to know is why it happened. And if you haven’t, I am sure you would want to avert any chances of it happening in the future.

Below are the most common causes of miscarriage. Needful to note is that ‘spontaneous abortion’ as is the term used by medical practitioners to refer to a miscarriage, may occur during the first, second or third trimester of the pregnancy, but it is most common in the first trimester.

1. Chromosomal Abnormalities

These are one of the most common causes of miscarriages. They account for at least 60% of miscarriages according to MD, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Bryan Cowan. It refers to a problem with either the egg or sperm’s chromosome such as Down syndrome, which points to extra chromosomes, during the formation of the embryo.

Essentially, the embryo’s development just stops. Miscarriages attributed to chromosomal abnormalities are mostly found among older women above 35 years since as they age, so do their eggs. Similarly, paternal age may also be a contributing factor. It can be easily be identified but remains unavoidable.

2. Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid disorders, low or high, are associated with unfavourable uterine environments and can lead to infertility issues or repeated miscarriages. In the event of low thyroid function, a woman’s body responds by producing hormones that can suppress ovulation. Conversely, a high thyroid function may interfere with estrogen’s ability to do its job and, in turn, make the uterus unfavourable for implantation or even lead to abnormal uterine bleeding.

3. Diabetes

Diabetes could be one of the more common causes of miscarriage. If you have diabetes, it’s best to see your fertility doctor before becoming pregnant to optimize your health. Remember, uncontrolled insulin-dependent diabetes, especially in the first trimester of the pregnancy, may increase miscarriage rates as well as the risks of birthing a child with significant defects.

Other chronic medical disorders such as hypertension, autoimmune diseases, and hypothyroidism should also be addressed before pregnancy.

4. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a major cause of recurrent spontaneous abortions. Research suggests that between 5% and 10% of women of reproductive age have PCOS. It occurs due to extremely high levels of the male testosterone hormone in the female, which causes irregular ovulation. Multiple cysts develop in the ovaries, making them larger compared to normal ovaries. This may ultimately cause infertility due to a reduction in egg production.

PCOS also causes insulin resistance, which may inhibit the growth of the endometrial lining. The condition may be treated with antidiabetic drugs such as Glucophage.

5. Lifestyle

Fact; most pregnancies are unplanned for. By the time you realize it, you are already a few weeks in. The fetal spinal cord has been formed, and there is a heartbeat. You may not have had the chance to prepare, but at this point you should definitely change your lifestyle habits, particularly with regards to smoking, alcohol use and drug use since these are risk factors of miscarriages in later trimesters. Get on a healthy diet as quickly as possible, exercise moderately, avoid stress, optimize chronic medical disorders, and begin prenatal vitamins.

If you live in a city, consider moving to a less polluted environment. This is per the findings of a February 2019 study published in Fertility and Sterility, which revealed that increased exposure to nitrogen dioxide is linked to a higher risk of miscarriage.

6. Bacterial Infections

There are certain bacteria such as ureaplasma urealyticum, which live in healthy people’s genital tracts that may cause an increased risk of miscarriage.  In women, an infection may inflame the uterus lining, making it impossible for an embryo to develop. The only way to know if you or your partner have these bacteria is to get tested. Usually, these infections are easily treatable with antibiotics.

7. Immunological Disorders

Immunological disorders have spurned a heated debate among women’s healthcare providers. Whether these cause miscarriages or not has not been conclusively established, but there is a consensus that specific antibodies present in the body may be among the most common triggers of recurrent miscarriages. Some research has found that certain antibodies such as antiphospholipid (which attack one’s own tissue, including embryos) could cause autoimmune diseases that consequently increases one’s chances of getting a miscarriage.

A good number of miscarriages occur in situations that were not entirely preventable. You don’t have to keep blaming yourself anymore. However, if you are considering pregnancy, visit your doctor to review any chronic conditions that may be present and optimize your health so you can offer your unborn child a great start to life.

Ronald Ryan

I'm a self-proclaimed science geek and all-around nerd. Useless fun trivia seems to be my forte. If you ever need to hear a good dad joke, I'm your guy!

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