From signs of miscarriage to confirmation of a miscarriage, read the answers to common miscarriage questions and learn about miscarriage signs and symptoms and the causes of miscarriages.

How often do miscarriages occur?

About 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Most of them occur in the first 13 weeks, or first trimester.

Does age affect miscarriage rates?

For women in their 20s and early 30s, the chance of miscarriage is about 15 percent. At 35 the chance of miscarrying rises to one in four, and at 40 the miscarriage rate is close to one in three.

What causes miscarriages?

Most early pregnancy losses are due to genetics and cannot be prevented. But losing a pregnancy doesn't mean that anything is wrong with a woman's health or that she can't have more children. Ninety percent of women who have one miscarriage go on to have a healthy pregnancy. Despite the fact that recurrent miscarriages may increase the risk of future pregnancy losses, even women who have had three or more miscarriages in a row may have a good chance of carrying the next pregnancy to term. However, these recurrent miscarriages may be an indication of problems that require medical help.

What are the symptoms of miscarriage?

  • Vaginal bleeding that may be preceded by a brownish discharge
  • Cramps in the pelvic area
  • Tissue or blood clots passing from the vagina
  • A decrease in the usual signs of early pregnancy, such as nausea and breast tenderness
  • Pain in the lower back or abdomen

What are the warning signs of miscarriage?

  • Spotting or bleeding without pain
  • Heavy bleeding with severe abdominal pain
  • A gush of fluid from your vagina but no pain or bleeding

What will the doctor want to know?

Your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms. She'll also want to know whether or not you've passed tissue out of your vagina. If you have passed tissue, save it in a sterile container for later examination.

How will my doctor be able to confirm a miscarriage?

Your doctor will give you an internal pelvic examination. This will determine the size of your uterus and reveal whether your cervix is open. An ultrasound will be performed to confirm whether or not your baby still has a heartbeat.

You will also have a blood test to check your hormone levels; decreases in pregnancy hormone levels may indicate that you've miscarried.

Can miscarriages be prevented?

A miscarriage that is about to occur usually can't be prevented. But you might be able to decrease your chances of miscarrying by taking good care of yourself early in your pregnancy and not smoking, drinking, or taking drugs. If you've had several miscarriages in a row, your doctor may recommend genetic testing to see whether you or your partner carry any chromosomal abnormalities that affect the egg or sperm.

Your doctor may also give you instructions to reduce your risk of miscarriage. These can include putting your feet up for the day, avoiding intercourse for a short period of time, or avoiding some forms of exercise.

What happens if I do miscarry?

After a miscarriage, any remaining tissue may be removed by dilation and curettage (D&C). This procedure involves dilating the cervix and gently scraping the tissue from the lining of the uterus.

You can expect spotting and some discomfort for a few days. However, call your doctor if you experience heavy bleeding, fever, chills, or severe pain — these can be signs of an infection. Your doctor will probably want to see you again in a few weeks to check your recovery.

It is generally recommended that women not try to get pregnant for three months after a miscarriage.

I've had several miscarriages. What does this mean for my current pregnancy?

If you have had repeated miscarriages, future pregnancies should be planned, diagnosed early, and monitored carefully.

Get a complete medical work up before you try to get pregnant again and try to have the cause of your earlier miscarriages diagnosed and treated by your doctor.

As soon as you think you're pregnant, seek prenatal care. The sooner you can receive any care you need, the more likely that you will delivery a healthy, full-term baby.

Don't forget to follow your doctor's instructions. She can instruct you on keeping you and your fetus healthy.

Sources: Intellihealth.com; medem.com; American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

Content courtesy of American Baby