If you’re trying to get pregnant, or if you’re pregnant already, like many women you might be worried about the chances of miscarrying, especially if you’ve lost a pregnancy before. Some women will never experience a miscarriage, whilst others may have more than one - but each time, losing a much-wanted pregnancy can be difficult, emotionally and physically.
Around 10-15 in 100 pregnancies end in miscarriage, with most happening in the first trimester (before the 12th week of pregnancy). Once you enter into the second trimester, the risk is significantly lower at around 1-5 in 100. Most women who miscarry are able to conceive again and deliver healthy babies - but there are certain risk factors that can put some women more at risk of miscarriage than others.
What factors increase the risk of miscarriage?
Although most miscarriages happen due to a genetic abnormality in the fetus that prevents the pregnancy from progressing to full term, sometimes it can be due to other reasons. Including the health of the mother.
Some factors that can increase the risk include:
Age can have an impact on the likelihood of miscarriage. Although the age that women have children is gradually increasing, once a woman is over the age of 35, statistically the risk of miscarrying increases and continues to increase. There is also a higher risk for certain conditions such as Down Syndrome.
These are the average statistics for risk of miscarrying corresponding with age:
- Age 35+ - around a 20% risk
- Age 40 - around a 40% risk
- Age 45 - around 80% risk
(These figures are averages and not the same for every woman). If you’re over 35 years old and worried about your fertility, you can speak with your GP or health provider.
Chronic health conditions
If you suffer from untreated chronic health conditions such as diabetes, Chron’s Disease or hyperthyroidism, the chances of miscarriage are higher. Before getting pregnant, it’s a good idea to get treatment for any chronic health conditions you have, as this can lower your chance of losing a pregnancy.
Speak with your GP about any steps you can take now to help reduce any risk posed by chronic health conditions.
Weight can be an indicator of overall health, and being overweight or underweight has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage. Being overweight can also put you at more risk of pregnancy related conditions such as gestational diabetes.
If you’re trying to get pregnant and struggle to keep your weight, speak with your GP about what you can do to lose or gain weight. It could also be a good idea to seek the advice of a nutritionist. It could be that you just need to make some simple changes to your diet and exercise routine. If you’re already pregnant, your GP or midwife will be able to advise you.
Smoking, alcohol and drug use
All three of these things have been linked to a higher risk of miscarrage if you continue to use or take them whilst pregnant. Women who smoke or take illicit drugs during pregnancy have a higher risk of miscarrying compared to non-smokers.
Alcohol consumption in any amount is also not advised at any time during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. This is advised for lots of reasons, including the prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome. The affect of alcohol on a developing baby isn’t yet fully understood, but it could be possible that even a small amount can effect a developing baby, although this is not certain, so it’s probably better to avoid it altogether.
If you’re struggling to stop, it’s important to speak with your GP so you can get some advice, help and support.
Although many women have and will experience miscarriage at some point yet go on to have one or more full term pregnancies - if you’ve already experienced three or more consecutive miscarriages, you will be considered as being at higher risk. If this has happened to you, speak with your GP who will be able to refer you to a fertility specialist as there may be underlying issues that need to be investigated and addressed.
Problems with the cervix or womb
Certain uterine abnormalities, or problems with the cervix such as weak cervical tissues can increase the risk of miscarrying. Cervical problems can be difficult to diagnose, and aren’t always accurately picked up by using vaginal ultrasound - so unless you have strong risk factors (such as a premature delivery and/or second trimester miscarriage).
Invasive prenatal tests
Invasive prenatal tests like chrorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis are tests that involve taking some cells from the placenta or a sample of amniotic fluid to check for health conditions or chromosomal abnormalities.
Although it’s only a very small risk, they carry a slight risk of miscarriage. Invasive prenatal tests are usually recommended when initial non-invasive tests indicate a potential health or chromosome condition such as Down Syndrome. Or if your baby is at higher risk of certain conditions due to family history or previous children.
If you’re worried that you might be at a higher risk of miscarriage for any of the reasons mentioned above, speak with your GP or healthcare provider.
If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, there are also places and organisations that offer support. For more information, click here. [link to article]