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Silent Miscarriage: Is It due to Exercise?

N gazed worriedly at the monitor screen while I searched intensely for the foetal heart beat by moving the ultrasound transducer around on her lower abdomen. This was her second antenatal visit at 12 weeks of gestation.

My heart sank when I could not see any flickering on the screen. After 15 minutes of search, I finally told N and her husband the bad news. Her baby had passed on.

“Doc, I can’t understand this. I didn’t bleed. I didn’t feel any pain. I still have the sore breasts and morning sickness,” she started to sob uncontrollably. “Could it be that I went cycling and jogging the last few days? Could that have caused the miscarriage?” she asked.  During her first antenatal visit 3 weeks ago, her baby’s heart was flashing clearly on the screen and N could hear and see her baby’s heart beating.

N was suffering from a silent miscarriage, known medically as “missed abortion” or “missed miscarriage”, in which the body fails to recognize that the fetus is dead or has not developed. The body also fails to expel the pregnancy tissue, which continues to produce the pregnancy hormones. As a result, some of the pregnancy symptoms and signs may persist for a while.

How common is missed miscarriage?

About 1-5% of all pregnancies will result in a missed miscarriage.

What are the causes and risk factors of missed miscarriage?

Causes of missed miscarriage are not fully understood. About 70 to 80 percent of miscarriages are the result of faulty genes. It is nature’s way of cutting down the number of malformed babies.

Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity

  • Infections, including sexually transmitted infections

  • Diabetes or thyroid disease

  • Malformations of the womb