Early pregnancy loss, also known as a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion, occurs in the first trimester of pregnancy. It’s a fairly common occurrence, affecting an estimated 10% of known pregnancies. We say “known” pregnancies because it happens more often, however women don’t realize they were pregnant. Sometimes, early pregnancy loss appears like a period that came a little later than expected.
Causes of Early Pregnancy Loss
Each case of early pregnancy loss is different, and we may never know the exact cause. However, research shows that about half of early miscarriages result from the abnormal chromosomes in the embryo. Studies show that your risk of early pregnancy loss increases as you get older.
For your own peace of mind, it’s important to understand what actions do not cause early pregnancy loss. You will NOT cause a miscarriage by:
- Having sex
- Using birth control pills before pregnancy
- Getting hit in the tummy
- Being startled or “spooked”
Many researchers have looked into the question of whether substances like alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco can cause miscarriage, and the results are mixed. Some studies suggest that smoking increases the risk, while others found no impact. Drinking alcohol in the first trimester may slightly increase your chances of losing the pregnancy, but it’s hard to say for sure. Caffeine does not seem to have an effect on your chances as long as it’s no more than 200mg per day (one cup of coffee is about 100mg).
Symptoms of Early Pregnancy Loss
The most common signs of an early pregnancy loss are bleeding and cramping, but many women experience these symptoms in their first trimester and their pregnancies continue normally.
Diagnosis of Early Pregnancy Loss
If you have bleeding and cramping in your pregnancy, please contact us. Bleeding and cramping may be signs of other serious complications, such as an ectopic pregnancy. We can perform a physical exam and an ultrasound to check on the development of the fetus. We may order blood tests to further evaluate the cause of these symptoms. It’s important that we check on you and take every precaution to ensure your health and safety.
What Will Happen if the Pregnancy is Lost?
If you have miscarried, we need to make sure all the pregnancy tissues are removed from your uterus. There are both surgical and non-surgical options available.
If there’s no risk of infection, it may possibly allow the tissue to pass naturally, which usually takes 1-2 weeks. If necessary, your doctor can prescribe medication to help the tissue pass more easily.
You should expect bleeding that is longer and heavier than your normal period. You may also pass tissue that resembles blood clots. Symptoms can include nausea, diarrhea, and/or painful cramps, for which we can prescribe you medication. Afterward, you should have an ultrasound to make sure all of the tissue has passed.
Surgical removal of tissue is recommended if your bleeding is heavy or if you show signs of an infection. There are two common procedures:
This procedure can be performed in our office. It involves inserting a thin tube into the uterus and using gentle suction to clear out the tissue. A local anesthetic can be used to make you more comfortable during the procedure.
Dilation and curettage (D&C)
This procedure can be performed in-office or at a surgery center. It involves dilating the cervix and using a special instrument to remove all of the tissue. You may receive general or regional anesthesia.
What Should I Expect When Recovering from a Miscarriage?
You should contact us right away if you show any signs of infection, such as:
- Severe Pain
- Heavy bleeding (going through two or more maxi pads per hour for more than two hours)
Remember that early pregnancy loss are very common. The vast majority of women go on to have normal, healthy pregnancies after their first miscarriage. If early pregnancy loss becomes a pattern for you, please make an appointment for testing to determine the cause and a course of treatment.