Miscarriage is the most common pregnancy complication and whether it occurs in the first trimester or later, it is always an emotionally traumatic event. Although the majority of pregnancies lead to healthy babies, up to 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies may result in a miscarriage.  Adding to the frustration and disappointment of the 800,000 women who miscarry every year is the lack of information about the causes and consequences of this emotional event.

Because the subject of pregnancy loss is rarely discussed, we have listed answers to some of the most common questions regarding miscarriage:

If I am bleeding or spotting, does this mean I am having a miscarriage?

Spotting and worrisome bleeding is a common occurrence during pregnancy. Fortunately, most bleeding events do not usually result in miscarriage. A pelvic exam and diagnostic tests (ultrasound, blood hormonal monitoring, etc) can often determine the significance of the bleeding and the actual risks to the pregnancy.  Do not assume that a miscarriage is occurring and always seek medical advice.

When will I get my period?

Most cycles will resume by 6 weeks after a miscarriage.  The first period may be “different” from normal. The pattern, amount, duration, and cramping can be more or less than what you normally experience. In most cases, menstrual cycles will return to normal by the third cycle.  Consult your physician if unusual bleeding patterns persist.

When can we try again?

It is best to avoid having sex until any bleeding has stopped, to reduce the risk of infection.  Once bleeding has stopped, you can try again whenever you and your partner feel ready. If you had an ectopic or molar pregnancy this timing may be different. It is always best to consult with your doctor.

What causes miscarriages?

Approximately 60 percent of miscarriages are caused by a miscombination of the chromosomes of the egg and sperm when they fuse at conception. This results in a genetically abnormal embryo which will eventually cease development and result in miscarriage. Less commonly, miscarriages can also be caused by a range of issues from uterine fibroids, hormonal abnormalities, infections, trauma, or harmful environmental influences.  It is important to realize that most pregnancy losses are due to a non-viable embryo.

What can I do during pregnancy to reduce my risk of miscarriage?

Make sure that all your immunizations are up to date before pregnancy and maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet (including taking folic acid). Limit your alcohol intake, stop smoking and cease the use of recreational drugs when trying to conceive. If you are taking any other medications other than Tylenol or antacids, you should consult your doctor.  Ask about your and your partner’s genetic and family health histories to ensure that any inheritable diseases are uncovered in advance of conception. Finally, while attempting to get pregnant as well as during pregnancy, make sure that the environment is clear of any noxious substances that may be harmful.

If I have had a miscarriage, what are the chances it will happen again?

More than 85 percent of women who have had a miscarriage will eventually get pregnant again and deliver a healthy baby.  Even though some woman will experience more than one pregnancy loss, they, too, eventually go on to have as many healthy children as they desire.  Your doctor is the best source of information for your particular medical situation.