Whether planned or unplanned, a pregnancy is likely to stir up a roller coaster of emotions for parents. Therefore, when a loss occurs, adjusting to this new reality can be difficult. Miscarriage, or spontaneous abortion as it is known by medical providers, has been estimated to occur in up to 20 percent of pregnancies, usually before 12 weeks of pregnancy. This means many women will face the reality of miscarriage during their reproductive years.
As a nurse-midwife, I’ve noticed that patients who have had a miscarriage tend to have a lot of questions. Below are some of the most common ones I hear from my patients, and some important points to consider.
Did I do something wrong to cause this miscarriage?
Most likely not. Women are quick to blame themselves when a pregnancy ends in miscarriage. They wonder if it’s because they lifted something heavy at work, didn’t rest enough, ate something harmful, took a medication, experienced too much stress, etc. However, the majority of miscarriages occur due to simple genetic abnormalities of an embryo or fetus that cannot be controlled or undone. It is true that alcohol and drug abuse, as well as smoking cigarettes, make miscarriage more likely. Furthermore, some maternal conditions, like diabetes or an abnormally shaped uterus, can increase the chance of miscarriage. But in general, women should not blame themselves when miscarriage occurs.
Will I ever have a successful pregnancy?
While no midwife or doctor has a crystal ball to consult on this issue, women should remember that most couples attempting pregnancy will eventually be successful, and that most pregnancies do not result in miscarriage. Up to 85 percent of couples attempting to get pregnant will conceive within one year. However, it is important to acknowledge that fertility rates decrease and miscarriage rates increase with maternal age. Patients who are concerned about their individual fertility should discuss it with a medical professional. Furthermore, patients who have had three or more miscarriages or who have special health conditions that affect their fertility (such as diabetes or an abnormal uterus) may want to consult a specialist, usually an OB-GYN, who focuses on fertility.
Ann Ledbetter is a certified nurse midwife at Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers.
There are several organizations which provide resources and host support groups for families dealing with the loss of a baby.
March of Dimes-Wisconsin
Offers pregnancy and newborn loss services to help deal with grief, coping with friends and family while grieving, what parents can do to remember their baby, bereavement materials, miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss awareness and information, online resources/community, NICU support and more.
Resolve Through Sharing (RTS)
Rev. Catherine Neal, 262-656-2753
St. Catherine’s Medical Center Campus
Support group for parents who have lost their baby meets from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month.
Bereavement Support Group
Waukesha Memorial Hospital
Support group for families dealing with miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or newborn death meets monthly.