“I lost my baby because I was walking too much. It’s all my fault, I should have just stayed at home.”
This an example of what a woman might think when she miscarries.
In the practice of a gynaecologist and fertility specialist, miscarriage is one of the most difficult situations to deal with.
The difficulty is not posed by the medical treatment that is needed in such a situation, but by the “emotional” treatment that a couple needs.
The emotional challenge lies in treating their perception of why they lost their baby. It is even more stressful if the couple had conceived after a fertility treatment.
About one in six pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. This risk increases with the age of the woman, and less commonly, with the age of the male partner.
Thus, the risk of miscarriage is higher for an older couple than a younger pair.
Here are some of the myths about miscarriage that should be cleared:
Miscarriage is rare.
Even in a younger couple (less than 35 years old), close to 20% will lose their pregnancy. Many lose their pregnancy during the first 12 weeks.
In the majority of cases, nothing can be done to prevent this because most of the miscarriages are due to genetic problems of the unborn baby. The miscarriage occurs as part of the human body’s “quality control” process.
Miscarriage is due to stressful events and lifting heavy objects.
Once a woman is pregnant, she is often asked not to do anything except rest. Lifting any heavy objects is a big no-no.
The truth is, there is very little evidence supporting this idea. Most miscarriages are due to genetic problems of the foetus rather than physical exertion. Stressful events such as death of a family member, or even stressful events at work, are not the reasons for miscarriage.
It’s my fault.
Many women tend to blame themselves when a miscarriage occurs. They often think that it is related to their behaviour during pregnancy.
The fact is, the majority of miscarriages are not related to behaviours or lifestyle choices.
As mentioned before, the main reason for a miscarriage is related to genetic problems. The genes of the foetus are contributed equally by both parents – 50% from the mother and 50% from the father.
Sometimes, there could be errors in combining both these sets of genes and this gives rise to an abnormal number of genes in the offspring.
The most common genetic abnormality is Down’s syndrome. Most of the time, these errors occur by chance and are not hereditary. Thus, any woman who miscarried a pregnancy should not blame herself because she did nothing wrong.
What if the baby’s genes are normal? There must be something wrong with the mother’s health.
In cases of recurrent pregnancy loss, the genetics of the baby is tested.
What if the results show a normal genetic number? The logical thinking is that there must be health issues related to the mother that caused the miscarriage.
This is not entirely true because even when the genetic number is normal, there could still be abnormalities of the genetic arrangement or missing parts of the genes which can lead to the developmental arrest of the foetus.
Current genetic tests can assess genetic numbers and some genetic arrangements, but they are unable to detect all genetic abnormalities.
Thus, is it still very much possible that even when the genetic test of the foetus is normal, the miscarriage might still be related to undetected genetic abnormalities.
If you have multiple miscarriages, you can never be pregnant.
Most women will have between one and two miscarriages in their lifetime.
A small proportion of women, however, may have three or more miscarriages (recurrent miscarriage), sometimes in a row.
Recurrent miscarriage can be very devastating for a couple, but do not lose hope. Many couples with recurrent miscarriage go on to have a live birth.
Some of the causes of recurrent miscarriage are treatable, such as blood-clotting disorders, thyroid problems and structural problems of the womb (uterus).
You should take a break after a miscarriage
It is a logical thought that you need to take some rest after a miscarriage to overcome the physical and emotional stress.
I would advise a rest period of about two months before trying to conceive again.
More often than not, some couples tend to rest a bit too long (i.e. more than six months).
There is evidence to suggest that couples who get pregnant within six months of their miscarriage have a lesser risk of another miscarriage than those who wait longer.
Women who got pregnant sooner also had reduced risk of an ectopic pregnancy (a foetus that implants and grows outside the woman’s womb).
Thus, waiting too long after a miscarriage is not beneficial and a woman should try to get pregnant as soon as possible, provided the couple is physically and mentally ready to move forward.
No one wants to hear about my miscarriage.
Many woman tend to keep their miscarriage a secret. They do not want others to judge them because they had a miscarriage.
However, telling others about your miscarriage can help you emotionally and your story could help other woman who have had a miscarriage.
A survey in the United States showed that about 28% of the participants who had experienced miscarriage said learning about celebrities’ experiences helped them to be less lonely.
About 46% of them felt that way when it was their own friends sharing about their miscarriage.
These myths are among many that are strongly embedded in our community.
We should learn to separate the facts and myths of miscarriage. This will greatly help couples who are grieving, and more importantly, help them to move forward in their journey towards parenthood.
Dr Agilan Arjunan is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, and fertility specialist. For further information, e-mail email@example.com. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.