Early pregnancy can be a scary time but Diana Hamilton Fairley, a consultant gynecologist and spokesperson for the Miscarriage Association, offers reassurance.
Why do miscarriages happen?
‘Miscarriage – the loss of pregnancy within the first 23 weeks – is usually the result of an abnormality in the baby’s chromosomes, the genetic building blocks that guide the development of the baby,’ Diana explains.
‘It’s nothing inherited, just bad luck and no-one’s fault. Part of the process has gone wrong though we’re unlikely to know what.’
There is another - though very rare - cause of miscarriage, Antiphospholipid Syndrome, a disorder that causes an increased risk of blood clots.
‘If you miscarried three times you’d be tested for it but only 1 in 100 women suffer recurrent miscarriage.’
What’s important to remember is you’re five times more likely to have a successful pregnancy than to miscarry.
How would I know if I was miscarrying?
In many cases you won’t – it happens before you even know you’re pregnant.
If you’ve had your pregnancy confirmed then bleeding – ranging from brownish discharge to heavy bleeding - and period-like pain are common signs. Sometimes women no longer feel sick and their breasts are no longer tender.
‘If you’ve any of those symptoms you mustn’t assume it’s miscarriage,’ Diana says. ‘It could be a little blood from the placenta or, if you’ve recently had sex it could be blood from the cells on the surface of the cervix that are more delicate in pregnancy.
‘And nausea and breast tenderness tend to disappear around 12 weeks anyway.’
What should I do if I’m worried I am miscarrying?
Contact your GP. He/she will examine you to see if the neck of your womb is opening. If they’re concerned they’ll send you to hospital where you may be given an ultrasound (sometimes performed using a small probe inside the vagina which will not increase your risk of miscarriage if your pregnancy is actually safe) to check the baby’s heartbeat and development. You may also be given a blood test to measure the hormone levels associated with pregnancy.
If you are miscarrying then sadly there’s nothing that can be done to stop it but it’s reassuring to know that should you decide to try again you have exactly the same chance of having a normal pregnancy as before.
Is there anything I can do to prevent miscarriage?
‘We know that being overweight makes it harder to push sugar out of your bloodstream and this seems to affect the development of the baby so if you’re considering pregnancy it might be worth losing a few pounds,’ Diana says.
‘We also know that smoking and drinking isn’t a good idea.’
Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and carry on exercising in moderation, she says. While it’s unwise to go from nothing to a marathon overnight there’s evidence to suggest gentle exercise – walking and swimming for example – is healthy during pregnancy.
Who can I talk to if I’m still worried?
The Miscarriage Association (www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk or 01924 200 799) is on hand to give advice and reassurance.
‘Remember there’s an 85% chance you won’t suffer a miscarriage and bear in mind even a woman who has had three miscarriages still stands a 65% chance of her next pregnancy being successful,’ Diana says.
So try to relax and enjoy the fact that you’ll soon be a mummy!