Pregnancy loss – What you need to know!

You might have heard people talk about their pregnancy loss or miscarriage or mid-trimester loss or their fetal demise. But were they truly heard and understood? Was their voice loud enough? I don’t think so!

They are shamed and pitied for not having a happy ending (Not helpful at all). Well here’s the thing. It’s not happy, yes! But it’s definitely not the end. It’s the way people portray it and women are made to feel; they take it as a personal failure in the end.

Let's talk about the facts, shall we?

A pregnancy loss is the loss of a fetus that occurs before 20 weeks of gestation. A stillbirth is a pregnancy loss that happens any time after 20 weeks.

Around 80%* of pregnancy losses occur during the first trimester, which is between 0 and 13 weeks; which means pregnancy loss can occur before a person even knows that they are pregnant. For women who know they are pregnant, about 10 to 15 in 100 pregnancies (10-15%) end in miscarriage.

When it comes to pregnancy, you aren’t allowed to reveal the big news until 12 weeks. It’s because that’s when early pregnancy loss usually happens. But you know what it also means if you really suffer a miscarriage, you are stripped of your privilege even to mourn the loss. But also, just because you announced pregnancy doesn’t mean you’re obligated to update about pregnancy loss. There is no right or wrong way to mourn! Do what you feel; give yourself permission.

Know the symptoms

So since I mentioned that women may not even be aware of the loss, you might have the doubt of how to know it. Early pregnancy loss (i.e. before 20 weeks of pregnancy) may have the following symptoms.

  • Bleeding from the vagina (Do not freak out!  Bleeding doesn’t always mean a miscarriage. Many pregnant women have spotting and cramping in early pregnancy)

  • Pain or cramps in the lower stomach area (lower abdomen)

  • Low back pain

  • Fluid, tissue, or clot-like material coming out of the vagina

  • Weight loss

  • A decrease in pregnancy symptoms

Yup, I said “may” because some women do not experience any symptoms of pregnancy loss.

What causes pregnancy loss?

You might be breaking your head to figure out the reason and guilt trip yourself.  Any kind of fall or blow is rarely to blame; and if that’s the reason you would definitely know. Things like working, exercising, having sex, or morning sickness do not easily cause miscarriage. Cut yourself some slack; it’s the uncontrollables like,

  • Problems with chromosomes: About half of all miscarriages are caused when an embryo (fertilized egg) gets the wrong number of chromosomes.

  • Blighted ovum: This is when an embryo implants in the uterus but doesn’t develop into a baby.

  • Molar pregnancy: This is when tissue in the uterus forms into a tumor, instead of a baby at the beginning of pregnancy.  

  • Intrauterine fetal demise. This is when an embryo stops developing and dies.

  • Problems with the uterus or cervix: Septate uterus, where the uterus is split into two by a band of muscles; fibroids (growth) in the uterus; scar from previous surgery; Cervical insufficiency – also called incompetent cervix, your cervix opens (dilates) too early during pregnancy, usually without pain or contractions.

  • STIs – now that’s one more extremely important reason to have protected sex and  to not skip regular check-ups and take it lightly.

You may be at risk if...

You didn’t cause it, so you couldn’t have prevented it.

But there are certain risk factors that you should check on!

  • A previous miscarriage tops the list. Note: It may not always be this condition.
  • The older you are, the higher the risk. Yes, just like infertility, age impacts miscarriages as well.
  • PCOD – you probably know that your chances of conceiving is not 100% when you have poly cystic ovarian syndrome; now you know, so are the chances of a successful one.
  • If you have a history of diabetes, thyroid, auto immune disorders or any other problem with your immune system, you are at risk.

But hey! Many women with these health conditions have healthy pregnancies. So these risk factors do not mean doom.

The medical care for pregnancy loss!

If you have had a pregnancy loss, or experience one of the symptoms, the doctor will examine you. The physician will then confirm it by doing an ultrasound to check for heartbeat, followed by a few other tests like pregnancy hormones level, blood test, etc.

It then takes a few days to weeks for your body to pass out the remaining tissues. Most of the time it happens naturally; but for who struggle in pain and it’s taking too long, your doctor can prescribe medication that can help pass the tissue. An ultra sound in the end will confirm it. Any tissue remains, might lead to infection and pain. Surgical treatment is usually done if there are such complications with your miscarriage.

It includes,

  • Vacuum aspiration. In this procedure, a thin tube, connected to a suction device is inserted into your uterus. The pregnancy tissue is suctioned out of your body while you are under local anesthesia.

Dilation and curettage (D&C). This procedure opens the cervix and uses an instrument to remove the pregnancy tissue. It is usually done under regional or general anesthesia.

Yeah, this is what a women goes through physically during a pregnancy loss. But what is worse is the mental and emotional impact; and living with it!

Pregnancy loss could be psychologically debilitating for the couple. Everyone handles it differently. Some people find it difficult to recover from the shock and live in denial. Some live in anger and guilt, desperate to pin the blame for such a senseless tragedy on something or someone. Some live in despair, numb to the world and unable to carry on. Some seek refuge in distracting themselves one way or the other.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You can never forget the loss, but finally, one day you will accept and come to terms with it.  

And me? You don’t have to experience every pain to empathize. Sometimes, when your near and dear ones suffer, it impacts you significantly.

That is how I understood the agony afflicted by pregnancy loss.

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