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The Unexplainable:
What Happens When You Have a Miscarriage

What is a miscarriage?
What causes a miscarriage?
What can I do to prevent a miscarriage?
What are the symptoms of a miscarriage?
What is the treatment for a miscarriage?
Will I have problems having a baby in the future?

What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage happens when a pregnancy does not develop properly. It's also called a spontaneous abortion. Your body recognizes that something is wrong with the pregnancy and pushes the embryo out of your uterus. back to top

What causes a miscarriage?
The most common cause of miscarriage is a genetic problem in the developing embryo. The defect is so severe that the embryo develops only to a certain point, then stops growing, and dies. Miscarriage may be nature's way of preventing the birth of a child with very severe medical problems. back to top

What can I do to prevent a miscarriage?
Most miscarriages are caused by a genetic defect in the embryo. So there's nothing you can do to prevent a miscarriage; it just happens. There's also nothing you can do to cause a miscarriage.

There's no special medical treatment that can prevent a miscarriage. Many health professionals tell a woman to rest in bed if she had any vaginal bleeding in the first three months of her pregnancy. But there's no evidence to prove that resting in bed works. If the embryo has a serious genetic defect, no amount of bed rest will fix it.

In rare cases, a medical problem in the mother or an abnormality of the uterus can lead to a miscarriage. Treating the problem or repairing the uterus can prevent these kinds of miscarriages. back to top

What are the symptoms of a miscarriage?
The most common symptoms of miscarriage are bleeding from the vagina along with cramps in the lower belly. But vaginal bleeding or lower belly pain alone may mean other problems.

It may be obvious that a miscarriage is happening. The pregnant woman has heavy vaginal bleeding and cramps in her lower belly. A pelvic exam would show that her cervix is open, and some pregnancy tissue may have already come out. In those cases, no further tests are needed.

Many cases are not obvious. Getting an ultrasound can often clear up the confusion. After about six weeks of pregnancy, the embryo should be visible on the ultrasound test. If the health professional can see the embryo and hear a heartbeat, the pregnancy is usually healthy.

If the embryo can't be seen, it's often, but not always, a sign that a miscarriage will happen. It's always possible that the ultrasound was done too early to see an embryo. In those cases, getting another ultrasound a few days later may be helpful. back to top

What is the treatment for a miscarriage?
Often, the uterus does not get rid of the pregnancy tissue on its own. In that case, the best treatment is a D&C (dilatation and curettage). A D&C is a surgical procedure. It's usually done in the emergency room or in a doctor's office.

During a D&C, a small plastic straw is passed through the cervix into the uterus. The straw is connected to a vacuum machine and the pregnancy tissue is sucked out. You don't need to be put to sleep to get a D&C. Your doctor will give you pain medication through an IV and you shouldn't feel anything. back to top

Will I have problems having a baby in the future?
Just because you've had a miscarriage, there's no reason to fear that you'll have difficulty having a baby. The chances of having a second miscarriage are very small, which means you should be able to have a baby without any problems in the future. back to top

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Last Modified Date: 3/21/2001
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