A miscarriage ( also called a spontaneous abortion) is defined as a loss of an unborn fetus at 20 weeks or less in a full term pregnancy (40 weeks). Although these are medical terms, sometimes it is easier to say pregnancy loss. It is also very important for a woman who experiences a pregnancy loss to know she is not alone. Approximately 1 in 5 women may experience a pregnancy loss for reasons unknown. Most pregnancy losses occur within the first thirteen weeks (1st trimester) of pregnancy.
Symptoms of a pregnancy loss can be:
1) Bleeding heavier than normal menstrual bleeding.
2) Pain/cramping in the pelvis, lower back or abdomen.
3) Passage of tissue or of a small recognizable fetus from the vagina.
Confirmation or diagnosis of a pregnancy loss can be:
1) A pelvic exam showing that the cervix has dilated (opened).
2) A sonogram (ultrasound) of the pelvic organs.
3) A decrease in signs of pregnancy.
4) Falling hormone levels in the blood through a lab test.
Some reasons that a woman may blame for her pregnancy loss, but probably do not cause it, are:
1) Emotional stress.
2) Birth control pills taken in early pregnancy.
3) Reasonable amounts of exercise.
4) Sexual intercourse.
Treatment for pregnancy loss:
It is always advisable to seek medical attention if a woman suspects she’s having a miscarriage. She should call her doctor of go to the nearest emergency room. She may be treated with medication and closely followed or may need a dilation and curettage (D&C) -a minor surgery – to remove it, in which case she would be given anesthesia or other effective pain medication.
Although a pregnancy loss can be very difficult for a woman and those around her to process, there is help. Available support groups can be found at www.mend.org and www.aplacetoremember.com.
Lisa Lanza, RDMS
Ref. 1) American Pregnancy Assoc., 2) BabyCenter.com., 3) Livescience.com.,