Miscarriage

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

Pregnancy After Miscarriage

Most women who miscarry later go on to have a healthy pregnancy and birth if no serious risk factors are present. Many women wonder about the right time to try to conceive again after miscarriage. From a purely physical point of view, the body heals rapidly from a miscarriage, and menstrual periods usually return within 4 to 6 weeks, meaning that it is possible for many women to become pregnant right away if they choose.

What is a miscarriage?

A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy from conception to 20 weeks' gestation. The term stillbirth refers to the death of a fetus after 20 weeks' gestation. Miscarriage is sometimes referred to as spontaneous abortion, because the medical term abortion means the ending of a pregnancy, whether intentional or unintentional. Most miscarriages occur in the first trimester of pregnancy, from seven to twelve weeks after conception.

How common is miscarriage?

Miscarriage is very common. As many or even most miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman does not even realize that she is pregnant, it is difficult to estimate how frequently miscarriages occur. Some experts believe that about half of all fertilized eggs die before implantation or are miscarried. Of known pregnancies (in which a woman misses a period or has a positive pregnancy test), about 10% to 20% end in miscarriage.

What causes miscarriage?

The majority of miscarriages are believed to be caused by genetic problems within the embryo that would prevent a baby from developing normally and surviving after birth. These fatal genetic errors are not usually related to genetic problems in the mother.

In other cases, certain illnesses or medical conditions can cause miscarriage or may increase the risk of miscarriage. Mothers who have diabetes or thyroid disease are at increased risk of miscarriage. Infections that spread to the placenta, including some viral infections, can also increase the risk of miscarriage.

In general, risk factors for miscarriage include the following:

  • Older maternal age
  • Cigarette smoking (>10 cigarettes/day)
  • Moderate to high alcohol consumption
  • Trauma to the uterus
  • Radiation exposure
  • Previous miscarriage
  • Maternal weight extremes (BMI either below 18.5 or above 25 kg/m2)
  • Anatomical abnormalities of the uterus
  • Illicit drug use
  • Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) around the time of conception may increase the risk of miscarriage

Women who had one miscarriage have an incidence of miscarriage of about 20%, whereas women who have three or more consecutive miscarriages may have a risk as high as 43%.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/4/2015

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