“Many women think they did something wrong to cause their pregnancies to fail, but chromosomal abnormalities are the most common cause of miscarriages and are not preventable,” Dr. Jane Frederick, a reproductive endocrinologist in Orange County, California, told MedTruth.
“It’s a taboo subject for many people as they believe that miscarriages are uncommon.”
“Medical conditions, such as thyroid disease or untreated high blood pressure, lifestyle factors, such as smoking, and environmental hazards, such as lead paint exposure, can also contribute to miscarriage,” explained Lindsay Meisel, Ava Science chief science editor and head of content.
Experts estimate that about 10 to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, Dr. Frederick said.
According to Meisel, outdated facts lead health care providers to offer incorrect information to their patients, such as guidance regarding the advisability of trying to conceive again immediately following miscarriage.
“There used to be a belief that it was safer to wait a few cycles after a miscarriage before trying to conceive again, but recent evidence has shown that for most miscarriages, there is no benefit to waiting,” Meisel said. “Pregnancies conceived within the first six months after miscarriage are more likely to be carried full term.”
“Most of the time, medical professionals tell patients to wait because of their emotional health,” Meisel said. “Increasing awareness around the research and continuing education can help close this gap.”
Thirty-five-year-old Autumn from New Hampshire was 11 weeks pregnant and just about to tell her parents the news. She noticed some spotting, and it prompted her to schedule a check-up.
“I found out that fetal growth stopped at six weeks. I had a missed miscarriage. That's what that's called," Autumn said. "I had no idea that was even a possibility — I was heartbroken.”
A missed miscarriage may be referred to as a missed abortion or silent miscarriage, Dr. Frederick wrote in an email. It occurs when the fetus died or didn’t form, but the placenta and embryonic tissue are still present in the uterus. The tissue may pass naturally, or medical and surgical options can assist in the removal.
About three or four months after experiencing a silent miscarriage, Autumn attended a baby shower. Without the proper support and guidance, she found herself using alcohol to cope with the impacts of loss. Since her miscarriage, she hasn’t tried to conceive.
“I haven’t tracked or planned but also haven’t taken birth control,” she said. "I have always wanted a baby and the pregnancy was filled with anxiety."
Meisel made it a point to draw attention to the timing surrounding the public announcement of a pregnancy. Women may be advised to avoid announcing a pregnancy before the end of the first trimester, which is when most miscarriages occur.
“Of course, no one needs to share her pregnancy news before she's ready,” Meisel said. "But a lot of women really do want to share early and stop themselves from doing so because of the social stigma. This creates the false impression that miscarriages are uncommon, which fosters shame and misinformation.”
Autumn still struggles with the stigmas of miscarriage. She wishes she could be more open about her loss. Until society works to better understand the emotional impact of miscarriage, women must find the strength to face each day as they carry a too-often untold story.
“It's so hard and awkward because we are told as a society not to announce until the second trimester because of the risk of miscarriage,” Autumn said. “But then the Catch-22 of not having told anyone leaves you alone with the grief.”
Lily is 28 and currently lives in Los Angeles. She was 26 when she had a miscarriage near the end of her first trimester. While traveling to New Orleans, she had a traumatic experience which all began with an incredibly high fever.
“After a day of high temperatures of more than 104 degrees I immediately went to the hospital when I started experiencing back pain. At the time, I was just worried about my illness and hadn't realized that it would lead to a miscarriage as well. I remember emotionally not being too upset and focusing on my health, but was in the hospital for several days recovering,” she said. “The next two weeks were a blur, and I felt very depressed.”
“Ultimately, the miscarriage ended up feeling simultaneously like the best and worst thing to happen to me. It was an awful experience — I had just started to get excited and tell people about the pregnancy, and my partner and I were really looking forward to starting a family. At the same time, my partner and I have since split up, and I am thankful in a way that things happened the way that they did. I have not sought therapy since my miscarriage,” Lily said.
Lily's doctor in New Orleans offered Lily and her then partner very general advice.
“[It was] mostly information about spotting and how feelings of depression are normal. She advised us on counseling,” Lily recalled.
The 28-year-old shares openly about her miscarriage with family and friends.
“I am always surprised by the amount of times that my women friends and family reply with, ‘me too’ or have responded by sharing their miscarriage experience,” she said.
According to Dr. Frederick, the stages of miscarriage grief include:
- The right to mourn
- Protection of yourself
- Seeking professional help
- Connecting to a pregnancy loss community
“Chances are you will feel many different emotions after your loss, including denial, guilt, anger, depression, envy, and yearning,” Dr. Frederick said.
Misconceptions About Miscarriage
A 2015 study in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that more than half of people think miscarriages are rare. Cisgender men were more than twice as likely to find it rare. Half of the female-identifying people in the study who had experience with a miscarriage said that they felt guilt and isolation.
Misconceptions about miscarriages hurt reproductive education and they also hurt society. Talking about miscarrying — the grief, the feelings afterward, the recovery — can contribute to eradicating myths that too often accompany this significant loss.