Miscarriage: 10 important truths
Losing a baby at any point during your pregnancy is probably the most devastating experience an expectant parent would have to deal with. And if you miscarry more than once, your confidence takes a beating.When Diana Chan, 37, suffered a second miscarriage, she felt sorry for her husband and useless as a mother. Chan notes that she and husband got to a point where they were so sick of feeling happy and optimistic, only to have to deal with the grief of losing their baby.It’s hard to prevent a miscarriage ― also known as a spontaneous abortion ― as most are the result of medical emergencies. SmartParents ob-gyn expert Dr Christopher Chong has this down-to-earth advice for grieving parents, “It may well be nature’s way of not letting what is not good enough to progress, rather than letting it [turn into] an abnormal chid and suffering.”
“It may well be nature’s way of not letting what is not good enough to progress, rather than letting it [turn into] an abnormal chid and suffering.”
Both Dr Chong and Dr Peter Chew, senior consultant ob-gyn at the Peter Chew Clinic for Women, offer facts about miscarriage…
1) Genetic abnormality is the most common cause About 70 to 80 per cent of miscarriages are the result of faulty genes. Dr Chew explains, “It is nature’s way of cutting down the number of malformed babies.” Your gynae will obtain a cell culture of the foetus to determine if genetics is to blame for your miscarriage. If it is indeed due to genetic factors, there is no effective way — including bedrest or drugs — to save your pregnancy. The good news is genetic malfunctions seldom manifest themselves again.
2) Health issues should be addressed, stat! Getting regular health checks and prenatal tests before you try to conceive can address any issues that may affect your pregnancy. Womb health issues are another common cause of miscarriages among Singaporean women. Dr Chew points out, “When the womb is malformed or has multiple fibroids — muscle growths in the womb — and when the womb’s neck [becomes loose] from repeated abortions, a miscarriage can occur.” If you experience infrequent periods, your lack of hormones could also cause you to miscarry.
3) Healthy mother = Healthy baby It’s important to prepare yourself for a healthy pregnancy by making healthful lifestyle choices like eating well and exercising regularly. Dr Chew says your diet should also include adequate vitamins like folic acid and minerals like iron. Dr Chong advises that taking folic acid two months before you try for a child can help reduce your foetus’s risk of getting spinal defects during pregnancy. Leading an active life can help avoid chronic health conditions like hypertension and diabetes, which can cause foetal death. And if you are a heavy smoker or drinker, you should put an end to these harmful habits.
4) It may be difficult or even impossible to uncover the reason for your miscarriage This is because any number of factors can result in the loss of your baby, so getting to the root cause can be a complex process. Sometimes, your foetus’ organs or genes may be developing abnormally, explains Dr Chong. Other times, it can result from placental infections and issues. Most worrying of all, autoimmune diseases — where the body creates antibodies that reject the foetus — can cost a baby its life.Did you know that your miscarriage risk increases with age?
5) Get your jabs! Be sure to get vaccinated against infections like chickenpox, rubella (German measles) and hepatitis B. Although you might have received these jabs as a kid, the vaccine’s protective properties will wane over time.
6) You’ll heal faster if you miscarry at an earlier stage of pregnancy Most miscarriages occur during the first trimester of pregnancy ― if yours was an uncomplicated miscarriage, your body should heal within a week, notes Dr Chong. After a miscarriage, your gynae will carry out dilation and curettage — often referred to as D&C ― on you. In this common surgical procedure, he will scrape the uterus lining to remove any remaining tissue, for instance, bits of the placenta, since these can increase your risk of a womb infection. Dr Chong stresses that women should then refrain from trying to conceive in the three months following surgery to give the womb’s lining time to heal. If the lining is thin, this can increase a woman’s chances of enduring another miscarriage.
Also, he adds that you should only start thinking about planning another pregnancy when both your body and emotions are ready.
Take all the time you need to grieve over your loss… Turning to a support group you can count on can also make a world of difference.
7) You have a high chance of a successful pregnancy after your first miscarriage Most women will go on to enjoy a normal pregnancy — the success rate is well above 95 per cent ― if the miscarriage they suffered was the result of a non-recurring pregnancy complication, notes Dr Chong. If the reason is a genetic malfunction, Dr Chew stresses that at least 85 per cent of women will experience a successful pregnancy after one miscarriage. Even after three miscarriages, with no known causes, your chances of giving birth to a healthy full-term baby is about 70 per cent, Dr Chong adds.
8) Your risk of suffering a miscarriage increases with age Women aged to 20 to 29 face a 15 per cent chance of suffering from a miscarriage. The rate doubles to 30 per cent for those between 30 and 39 years, and if you’re aged 40 or older, your risk jumps to 40 per cent. This is why Dr Chew advises, “Don’t delay parenthood.” A late-in-life mother is also likely to experience more pregnancy complications than her younger counterparts. The baby also has a higher risk of experiencing developmental issues increase in tandem with the mother’s age.
9) Spot the warning signs Vaginal bleeding in pregnancy is the most common sign of trouble. Dr Chew says that you could be producing a bloody discharge that can range in colour from red and brown, to even black. Dr Chong points out that you should also be alert to abdominal cramps and the water-bag breaking. Other times, your miscarriage can manifest as a sudden relief from all your pregnancy-related symptoms like engorged breasts or swelling and fluid retention. If you experience or notice any of these signs, it is vital to make an emergency visit to the hospital and get examined by a doctor.
10) A good support group can do wonders for your recovery Needless to say, dealing with the loss of a pregnancy isn’t easy at all, especially if you and your hubby have been trying to conceive for a while. Take all the time you need to grieve over your loss. In the meantime, engage with your family and friends and get involved in meaningful activities! Turning to a support group you can count on can also make a world of difference ― Dr Chong stresses, “Ventilate!”
Dr Christopher Chong is a consultant obstetrician-gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital.