By Elisa Ross, MD
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A miscarriage can feel so discouraging, and some couples might be afraid to try again. The good news is that most women who have miscarriages – even multiple miscarriages – go on to have successful pregnancies.
Miscarriage is common. Studies show that the risk of miscarriage is 12 percent to 15 percent for women in their 20s and rises to about 25 percent for women at age 40. The risk of miscarriage increases as a woman – and her eggs – age.
Although miscarriage includes any pregnancy loss that happens before 20 weeks gestation, most of them happen in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
How they happen
The most common reason miscarriages happen in the first trimester is because of a chromosome abnormality in the father’s sperm or mother’s egg. The abnormality may be genetic or occur spontaneously through cell division. Fortunately, there is a 75 percent chance that the next pregnancy will be a normal pregnancy.
Sometimes, miscarriages happen because the mother has a dramatic shift in hormones or an infection. Occasionally, the mother may have an anatomical issue. Your physician can help sort these possible reasons out.
It’s much less common for a woman to have two or more miscarriages. In more than half of these cases, there is no underlying cause. Yet 60 percent of women with multiple miscarriages still go on to conceive and carry a baby to term.
After a miscarriage
Couples may need time to recuperate and heal after a miscarriage. Emotional attachment sometimes begins even before conception, and the sense of loss can be profound.
It’s natural to feel shock, guilt, failure and shame. But couples need to know that it’s unlikely they did anything to cause the miscarriage. Miscarriages are not caused by stress, drinking alcohol, having sex, or eating the wrong thing.
Friends and family can help by allowing the couple to grieve and by offering emotional support. If the couple continues to feel guilt or self-blame, joining a pregnancy-loss support group can help.
Women who experience repeated miscarriages should undergo a thorough medical evaluation. Follow-up is crucial for these women because many underlying problems can be identified and often corrected.
It’s also wise for prospective moms to get into the best physical shape possible. This can maximize the chances for a successful pregnancy. Steps to take may include stopping smoking, losing weight and getting diabetes or high blood pressure under control.
A miscarriage is a devastating event, but couples should know that there’s plenty of hope for a future successful pregnancy — or pregnancies.