Recovering after a miscarriage

It’s an exciting time when you first get the results from a pregnancy test and find out you’re pregnant. Most pregnancies are normal, but during those first few weeks it’s not that uncommon to experience a miscarriage. Such news can be devastating.

Jade Elliott spoke with Dr. Jessica Page, a maternal fetal medicine physician with Intermountain Healthcare who specializes in managing high risk pregnancies and has researched and studied miscarriage, to answer some questions about miscarriage.

What is a miscarriage? What is the typical time frame when it occurs?

A miscarriage is the common term for an early pregnancy loss, or one that typically occurs during the first trimester at 12 weeks or earlier.

How common are miscarriages?

The percentage of pregnancies that end in miscarriage varies a bit, depending on if you’re taking into consideration women who had a positive pregnancy test, and then had pregnancy loss, it is about 10 percent. If you look at pregnancies that haven’t been confirmed by a test, that result in loss, the numbers may be as high as 30 percent.

What are the causes of miscarriage?

Generally it’s due to the genetics of the fetus. Other causes can be due to autoimmune conditions, uterine malformations or other underlying health conditions of the mother, that she may or may not be aware of.

Do women sometimes feel a miscarriage is their fault?

In the vast majority of cases, a miscarriage is not something a woman could have prevented or that could be intervened upon. You may have factors or conditions that you didn’t know about prior to attempting pregnancy. As maternal fetal medicine specialists, we work to optimize the underlying health conditions of pregnant women. If you have a chronic condition, it’s best to have a consultation with your doctor or a specialist before getting pregnant or early in your pregnancy.

Are there ways to reduce your risk of miscarriage?

There are no guarantees, but these general practices can help you have a healthier pregnancy.

  • Avoid all alcohol, tobacco products, illicit street drugs, and over-the-counter, prescriptions, and herbal remedies that haven’t been recommended by your OB provider
  • Keep your prenatal appointments with your doctor or midwife.
  • Take your prenatal vitamins.
  • Stay up to date on your immunizations

Why do some women experience more than one miscarriage and some experience none?

Most of the time we don’t know why women experience repeated miscarriages. Recurrent losses could be due to genetics or malformations or underlying health conditions. Risk factors for miscarriage include maternal age and history of prior miscarriage. In general for women aged 20-30 years the risk is about 10-15% but rises to about 20% at age 35 and 40% at age 40.

If you’ve had one miscarriage are you more likely to have another?

While one miscarriage does increase the risk of another one occurring, most women will go on to have a positive outcome. Even those women who experience multiple miscarriages that are idiopathic (or without a known cause), about 70 percent of them go on to conceive. And about 75 percent of those pregnancies result in a live birth.

What are the signs and symptoms of miscarriage?

Some miscarriages occur without any symptoms. The most common symptoms are bleeding and cramping. If you experience either of those, call your doctor.

Should you see a doctor after a miscarriage? Is treatment needed?

If you experience a miscarriage, reach out to your doctor. In some cases, the miscarriage may not have completely passed. Some women may need medications or surgery to complete the miscarriage.

How soon can you try to get pregnant again?

After you’ve talked with your doctor to address any medical needs and as soon as you and your partner feel emotionally ready, you can try to get pregnant again.

How can women recover emotionally after a miscarriage?

Even though miscarriage is common, when it happens to you, it is significant. You need to grieve that loss and reach out for social and family support. Give yourself time to go through the grieving process. Talking with other moms who have experienced miscarriage can help.

How does miscarriage affect your partner or family?

A miscarriage can place stress on your partner and the rest of your family as well. Each person may feel a sense of emotional loss. Families should offer support and help each other through the loss and not place blame. Sometimes your partner may feel powerless. But tell them that just their companionship and emotional support is key. Be mindful of the emotions or anxiety that can occur as you approach the anniversary of a previous loss or a new pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about your history and your loss, so he or she can closely monitor your subsequent pregnancy.

How might the COVID-19 pandemic magnify some of the feelings experienced after miscarriage?

We find support in being around others. The pandemic has been very isolating, because we’ve reduced the interaction we have with friends and family to help protect each other from the virus. Utilize resources around you and those in your household. Reach out virtually to friends and family. Take it easy on yourself. Take one step at a time.

You may experience a variety of emotions from denial to anger to sadness, to depression to acceptance. If your feelings of depression and sadness are affecting your ability to function or are long-lasting, talk with your doctor. A referral for counseling or other treatment may help.

What type of behavioral health resources are available?

Intermountain Emotional Health Relief Hotline number is 1-833-442-2211.

This free general emotional support hotline was started during the COVID-19 pandemic and can be reached seven days a week from 10 am to 10 pm. It connects callers with a trained care coordinator who can provide appropriate self-care tools, peer support, treatment options, crisis resources, and more.

Intermountain Walk-In Behavioral Health Access Centers

Intermountain LDS Hospital in Salt Lake, McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden and Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George offer walk-in general behavioral health access centers that are open 24 hours. Check with other Intermountain behavioral health locations to see if they have urgent appointments available.

The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.