February 12, 2018

Understanding Miscarriage


It’s not your fault.

Those are the words medical professionals want a woman who has suffered a miscarriage to remember — and believe — instead of blaming herself.

“As soon as a woman miscarries, she tries to figure out, ‘What did I do? Did I do something to cause this?’” says certified nurse-midwife Deborah Foster, with Baptist Health Medical Group in Richmond. “I try to ease their fears and say, ‘This is not something that you’ve done.’”

Understanding a Miscarriage

A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks, and most are caused by genetic issues, says Ramon Thomas, MD, with Baptist Health Medical Group Women’s Care in Lexington. Of confirmed pregnancies, 20 to 25 percent will end in miscarriage, Dr. Thomas estimates.

“Most of the time, a miscarriage is going to be caused by something genetic or anatomic in nature,” he says. “Something didn’t form correctly in the fetus, or something genetically would cause a baby to have developments that are incompatible with life.”

Maybe pelvic inflammation prevented implantation of the egg, or the egg or sperm might have carried faulty genetic coding. For example, a baby inherits one copy of a gene from Mom, another from Dad. If a baby inherits only one gene, a pregnancy generally ends in loss, Dr. Thomas says. Same if a baby inherits an extra gene.

In some instances, a woman will miscarry for other reasons, such as trauma from a car accident or because she received anesthesia during a surgery.

What Causes a Miscarriage

Pregnancy loss isn’t caused by working, running, dancing, weight training or having sex, both Dr. Thomas and Foster say.

In fact, the belief that exercise is dangerous to pregnancy has been debunked, Dr. Thomas says. Today, exercise is strongly encouraged for pregnant women, just as it is for everyone else.

“The healthier they are, the healthier the pregnancy will be,” he says. And while pregnancy is not the time to start intense new workouts, it is a good time to continue what you were doing before the pregnancy. For some women, that might mean low-impact walks after dinner. For others, it could mean weightlifting and running.

It’s wise to review your workout regimen with your obstetrician, as you might want to modify some activities.

Another myth that some people still believe is that pregnant women shouldn’t work, or they shouldn’t work far into their pregnancies. Unless your job involves hazardous chemicals, you can continue to work as long as you are physically comfortable, Dr. Thomas says.

What to do After a Miscarriage

And for women who do suffer a miscarriage, the obstetrician tries to encourage optimism about future pregnancies.

“The bulk of patients I’ve dealt with go on to have successful pregnancies if they’ve had one loss,” he says. “I tell them to give themselves a chance to get themselves mentally back in the game, because physically once they have their first menstrual cycle, their body is saying it’s physically prepared to try again. For most patients, it’s a mental hurdle they have to jump over.”

What can you control? Dr. Thomas and Foster encourage women to get into the best physical shape possible to ensure a healthy pregnancy: Aim for a healthy weight, review your medications with your doctor and don’t drink alcohol or smoke.

“If a patient is considering pregnancy, she should get to her healthiest,” Dr. Thomas says.

If you have experienced a pregnancy loss, support groups are available in Richmond and Lexington.

Learn More.