Guest Blog by Dr. Jill Hechtman, an OB/GYN and the Medical Director of Tampa Obstetrics, Florida’s leading medical center for women, Tampa Florida.
If you or a friend has ever had a miscarriage, you know how heartbreaking it can be. But if you’re like many women, you’re probably not aware that what you don’t know about miscarriages can be harmful to your health and healing process.
Unfortunately, despite our share-everything culture, miscarriages are still a taboo subject, even among family and friends. This shroud of silence and secrecy often leaves women isolated and in the dark about one of the most devastating experiences in their lives.
What’s worse, many women blame themselves for their miscarriage. A recent survey in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that among those affected by a miscarriage:
- 47% said they felt guilty
- 41% said they felt like they did something wrong
- 28% reported feeling ashamed
- 38% said they felt like they could have prevented it somehow
Although each person has a unique way of coping, knowing the truth about miscarriages in general – and yours in particular – could help with your emotional healing. It’s time to bust some myths and bring the facts about miscarriages out into the open.
Myth: Miscarriages are rare (the survey cited found that 55% of both men and women believed that miscarriage happened in only 5% or fewer of all pregnancies).
Fact: Miscarriages happen in up to 25% of all known pregnancies.
Between 750,000 and 1 million U.S. women have a miscarriage each year. The risk increases with age, for example: between the ages of 20-30 the risk is 9-17%, at age 35 the risk is 20%, age 40 is 40% and at age 45 the risk is as high as 80%.
Myth: Miscarriage is caused by a stressful event or lifting a heavy object.
Fact: The great majority of miscarriages happen because of medical or genetic reasons, and not because of stress or heavy lifting.
About 60 percent of miscarriages occur because of a missing or extra chromosome in the fetus that prevents a baby from developing normally. These abnormalities are usually not inherited and typically happen by chance. They are not caused by anything that either of the parents did or did not do before or during the pregnancy.
Myth: My doctor can’t tell me what caused my miscarriage.
Fact: New tests are better (and faster) at identifying chromosomal abnormalities in fetal tissue, if a chromosomal abnormality was the cause.
Most of the respondents in the Obstetrics & Gynecology survey were not told what might have caused the miscarriage. Some were told, “It just happens,” or “we don’t know.”
But today it’s easy to find out if your miscarriage was caused by a chromosomal abnormality on losses as early as 6 weeks. The Anora™ miscarriage test from Natera provides a collection kit for your doctor and results are received in about a week.
Knowing the reason for your miscarriage may help you begin to heal and possibly avoid other costly and time-consuming medical tests. Testing can also help you to plan your next steps. If you have had more than one miscarriage, and a chromosome abnormality was found, special In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments with Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) may be an option.
Myth: It’s best to just forget about my miscarriage and not worry about why it happened.
Fact: Knowledge can bring peace of mind and help you prepare for the future.
The vast majority of survey participants (88%) said they’d want to know the cause of their miscarriage. The study also found that this knowledge can help women let go of the notion that they had somehow caused the loss. Another survey found that 95% of patients who had chromosome analysis for a miscarriage were glad they had the test done.
Even if your miscarriage was due to a chromosome abnormality, your chance of having a chromosome problem in another pregnancy is low. In fact, between 50% and 80% of women with recurring miscarriages eventually have a successful pregnancy.
Dr. Jill Hechtman is the Medical Director of Tampa Obstetrics and the Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital in Tampa. She is the past Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brandon Regional Hospital and served on the hospital’s Board of Trustees for 2 years. She is a frequent face in local media as “Dr. Jill” and currently is the obstetrics and gynecology expert for “Daytime,” a nationally syndicated talk show. Jill was also recently appointed as a member of the Florida House of Representatives Medicaid Low Income Pool Council. She is also featured in various videos about pregnancy.