Miscarriage and Stillbirth Research


Miscarriage is the term health care providers use to describe the loss of pregnancy from natural causes before the 20th week of pregnancy. Most miscarriages occur very early in pregnancy, in some cases before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Researchers estimate that, among women who already know they are pregnant, nearly 15 percent will have a miscarriage.

There are many different causes for miscarriage, some of them known and others unknown. In most cases, there is nothing a woman can do to prevent a miscarriage. Having a miscarriage does not mean that a woman won't become pregnant again, or that she will not have normal pregnancies in the future. And, for most women, miscarriage is not a sign of a larger health problem.

Having a miscarriage can be devastating to a woman and her family. A woman or family who is having trouble coping with the loss of a miscarriage should ask a health care provider.

NICHD Research on Miscarriage

The NICHD supports and conducts research on the causes of miscarriage in hopes of finding ways to prevent women from having them. For instance, NICHD-supported researchers recently found that women with a disorder called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) are three times more likely to miscarry during the early months of pregnancy than women who don't have PCOS. Women with PCOS often have great difficulty getting pregnant naturally.

Research has found that women with PCOS also tend to have a condition called insulin resistance, which means their bodies have trouble using the insulin they make to get energy from their cells. Insulin resistance often occurs before someone develops diabetes. To treat this insulin resistance, researchers had been prescribing a drug called metaformin. What they found was that metaformin not only reduced insulin resistance, but it also brought about changes to the uterine lining that could help women with PCOS get pregnant and reduce the risk of miscarriage during their first trimester (the first three months) of pregnancy.

Studies are now underway to confirm the positive effects of the using metaformin in women with PCOS, and to evaluate the safety of taking the drug throughout pregnancy. The NICHD's Reproductive Sciences Branch, through its Reproductive Medicine Network (RMN) is currently conducting a clinical trial for the treatment of infertility related to PCOS, using metaformin. The RMN Web site provides more information on this trial and on the RNM itself.

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