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Miscarriage

Having a miscarriage can be one of the most traumatic experiences you’ll ever suffer.  Some women say it’s not only the physical loss that they feel, but also the hopes and dreams that die along with that baby. While your body will heal fairly quickly, the emotional toll could take much longer to get over.

So what exactly is a miscarriage?

A miscarriage is described as the loss of a pregnancy without obvious cause before the foetus is capable of surviving, usually before the 20th week. Approximately 15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but experts say that figure is probably higher, as many women have spontaneous miscarriages without knowing that they were pregnant in the first place.

Symptoms of miscarriage

You will probably experience severe abdominal cramping. The pain could also be felt in your lower back, buttocks and genitals.

You may also experience vaginal bleeding or spotting and see fluid or tissue passing from your vagina.

Bleeding isn’t entirely uncommon during the first trimester. If the blood is dark brown or light pink in colour there shouldn’t be a problem, but rather phone your doctor immediately just to make sure.

What should you do?

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the above symptoms. Also, phone him if you are weak or dizzy, have severe nausea or vomiting, a history of ectopic pregnancies or a very high fever.

Go to the hospital immediately, if your pregnancy has been confirmed and you are bleeding heavily or are passing what looks like tissue.

What causes miscarriage?

A miscarriage usually happens, when your baby isn’t developing properly.  It’s your body’s way of expelling a foetus that would not survive outside of the mother’s body or would be born with major physical abnormalities.

In some cases, problems with the mother’s health, may lead to a miscarriage.  This would include uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clotting problems or problems with the uterus or cervix.

According to the online medical site, emedicine.com, certain drugs, including excessive amounts of caffeine, tobacco and cocaine could also cause a miscarriage.

What could increase your risk of miscarriage?

There are a number of things that could increase the risk of miscarriage. This would include a woman’s age, a history of miscarriage and chronic illnesses.

Can you prevent having a miscarriage?

There’s not much that you can do to prevent a miscarriage. The best you can do is to look after yourself and visit your doctor regularly. Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, stop smoking and don’t take illicit drugs. Also avoid activities such as horse riding, heavy workouts at the gym and riding motorbikes.

How is a miscarriage treated?

If you haven’t started bleeding yet, your doctor may recommend bed rest. But should a miscarriage be inevitable, he may decide to allow the process to progress naturally.

If you’d rather speed up the process, the doctor will give you medication to allow your body to expel the tissue and placenta.  This could cause nausea, vomiting and cramping.

The doctor may also decide on a minor surgical procedure, if some of the tissue or placenta remains in your uterus. He’ll dilate your cervix and suction the tissue out. Another instrument may also be used to scrape the uterine walls.

Physical and emotional recovery

Your body should start the healing process almost immediately. The length of time it takes to recover will depend on how long you were pregnant when you miscarried. Your period should resume normally within 4 to 6 weeks.
It could, however, take much longer to heal emotionally. You may feel completely devastated at losing your baby. You could even see-saw between grief and anger. Should you feel like you’re not coping, speak to a friend or your doctor.

When can you try again?

You can try almost immediately, depending on your menstrual cycle. You may however want to wait a while, until you’re emotionally ready to try again.

The Compassionate Friends offers counseling for parents who have lost their children, including miscarriage. Call (011) 440 6322.

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