The topic of miscarriage is sensitive and often shrouded in misconceptions. These misconceptions can lead to shame, personal silence and lack of social support.
The truth is that miscarriage—the loss of a pregnancy at less than 20 weeks gestation—is a heartbreaking event affecting countless people and couples worldwide. If you’ve been pregnant and experienced a miscarriage, you know how gut-wrenching it can be.
Because there is so much information swirling around about miscarriage, Emilee Sandsmark, MD, an OBGYN with Banner Health, helped dispel some common myths and presented factual information to help increase awareness and understanding.
Additionally, we will explore preventive measures that can help reduce the risk of miscarriage and offer sources of support to help you get through this trying time.
Myth vs. Fact: Unraveling the truth about miscarriages
1. Myth: Miscarriage is rare.
Fact: Miscarriage is more common than widely believed.
It is the most common reason for losing a baby during pregnancy. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, it is estimated that between 10 to 15% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage.
“This statistic could be even higher since some miscarriages happen so early in pregnancy before someone even is aware they are pregnant,” Dr. Sandsmark said.
This highlights the importance of discussing and acknowledging the emotional impact of miscarriage.
2. Myth: Miscarriage is always caused by something the pregnant person did or didn’t do.
Fact: You may have heard that things like over-exercising, having sex or drinking too much coffee can cause a miscarriage, but these are not the causes of miscarriages. These lifestyle choices are safe unless your health care provider tells you otherwise.
“In the majority of cases, miscarriages occur due to chromosomal abnormalities (genetic problems) in the developing fetus—something that is beyond the control of the pregnant person,” Dr. Sandsmark noted. “Other reasons for miscarriage include uterine issues and cervical incompetence.”
However, there are certain lifestyle factors like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and drug use that can also increase your risk of miscarriage. Avoid the use of nicotine, alcohol and illicit drugs during pregnancy.
3. Myth: Taking the birth control pill while pregnant causes miscarriage.
Fact: The “pill” doesn’t pose any risks to your pregnancy. Believing otherwise can add to the guilt many people feel when they experience this loss.
Again, what does cause a miscarriage is generally out of your control.
In addition, intrauterine devices (IUDs) also don’t cause miscarriage after removal. However, if you have an IUD, make sure your provider removes the device before you start trying to get pregnant. If it stays in, you’re more likely to have a miscarriage or lose the pregnancy.
4. Myth: Stress will cause you to miscarry.
Fact: Stress alone doesn’t cause miscarriage. While excessive stress is not beneficial during pregnancy, it is not a direct cause.
“Extreme stress coupled with depression and/or other factors can increase the risk of preterm birth or delivering or having a low-weight baby, but normal day-to-day stress won’t make you more likely to miscarry,” Dr. Sandsmark said.
Find healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress, such as meditation, gentle stretching, walking, massage or a relaxing bath.
5. Myth: If you miscarried once, you will miscarry again.
Fact: Having a miscarriage doesn’t mean that future pregnancies will be unsuccessful. “It is not an indicator of future fertility,” Dr. Sandsmark said.
Most people who have experienced a miscarriage go on to have healthy pregnancies. In most cases, it’s safe to start trying again as soon as you feel physically and emotionally ready.
It’s important to consult with your health care provider, who can provide guidance and reassurance for future pregnancies.
6. Myth: Vaginal bleeding and cramping are always signs of a miscarriage.
In many cases, they can also be present due to processes your body undergoes during a healthy pregnancy.
“The only way to know for sure is to see your health care provider for an evaluation,” Dr. Sandsmark said.
Contact your provider if you have concerns or are experiencing other symptoms, including nausea, vomiting or fever.
Steps to have a healthier pregnancy
While some factors leading to miscarriage are beyond your control, you can take steps to lower your risk of a miscarriage.
- Preconception care. Before attempting pregnancy, visit your provider for a preconception appointment. They can assess your overall health and provide guidance on optimizing your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
- Healthy lifestyle. Maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Genetic counseling. If you have a family history of genetic disorders or have experienced recurrent miscarriages, genetic counseling can provide valuable insights into potential risks and guide decision-making.
- Prenatal care. Once your pregnancy is confirmed, see your provider for prenatal care. Regular check-ups, appropriate screenings and adhering to medical advice can help identify any potential risks early on.
Resources for support
Experiencing a miscarriage can be emotionally challenging and seeking support is essential. Here are some resources that can provide you or a loved one comfort, guidance and community:
- Support groups: Joining a support group, either online or in-person, can connect you with people who have shared the same journey. These groups offer a safe space to share feelings, seek advice and solace.
- Behavioral health: Professional counseling can provide emotional support during your healing process. Licensed behavioral health specialists can help you navigate the complex emotions of miscarriage.
- Online communities: Forums, blogs and social media groups provide a space to share your story, find support and access valuable resources.
- Non-profit organizations: There are numerous non-profit organizations dedicated to supporting those through the journey of miscarriage and pregnancy loss. They offer resources, helplines and educational materials.
Miscarriage is much more common and complicated than many people understand. By dispelling common misconceptions, we can foster empathy, increase awareness and support those who have experienced or are going through a miscarriage.
You aren’t alone in this journey. Seeking support is a brave and vital step toward healing and hope.
If you are planning or trying to get pregnant, schedule a preconception appointment with your provider. To find a Banner Health specialist near you, visit bannerhealth.com.