Understanding Miscarriage: It's Not Your Fault

Don't play the blame game.

What you need to know
  • About one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage
  • A miscarriage is a loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks gestation
  • A still birth refers to baby who has died prior to delivery after 20 weeks
  • Miscarriage has nothing to do with anything you have or haven't done
  • After miscarriage, the next pregnancy usually proceeds to full term

Losing a baby through miscarriage can be devastating. It's a grief like no other. It can be especially traumatic for couples who’ve been struggling to conceive for some time or have had failed pregnancies in the past.

Whether the loss is early on, or just a few days away from the due date, it will undoubtedly trigger a maelstrom of emotions, with guilt being one of the most common reactions.

Gynaecologist at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health Dr Janine Manwaring told ten daily it's a sad reality that many women who miscarry experience feelings of guilt as they look back and question whether they did something that contributed to the failed pregnancy.

“There’s a lot of self blame involved, with women saying they could have done something differently to help protect against it. But in the majority of cases, that's not true at all," Manwaring said.

Don't play the blame game

When trying to come to terms with the devastation of miscarriage, Dr Manwaring said it's important to first understand, for the most part, if it's something that's out of your hands, and there's generally nothing you can do to prevent it or stop it from happening.

The reality is an estimated one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, but experts say this figure could be much higher as many women miscarry without having realised they were pregnant in the first place.

While there's no "right way" to feel after a miscarriage, Dr Manwaring said having an awareness of what's normal can help you to make sense of it all. It starts with knowing the facts.

"Women need to be aware that early pregnancy complications and miscarriages can happen to anyone for no obvious reason, so that their expectations are more realistic," she said.

Miscarriage is no one's fault. Image: Getty.
The truth of the matter

Some women will go as far as blaming a failed pregnancy on something they ate or did, but it's important to stick to the facts. Currently, there's no evidence that exercising, stress, working or having sex causes miscarriage.

The simple fact is the process of having a baby is a very complicated one, and if anything goes wrong with that process, the pregnancy will stop developing, resulting in a miscarriage. It's not a reflection of anything you did or didn't do.

"The main reason it happens is because there's a problem with the genetics for that particular pregnancy and your body is recognising it as an abnormal implantation," Dr Manwaring said. Put simply, your egg didn't embed itself properly in your womb.

Understand the causes

While there's nothing you can do to prevent miscarriage if a pregnancy is developing abnormally, there are certain medical conditions that can increase your risk. These include uncontrolled diabetes, fibroids and thyroid problems.

Other red flags include rare blood clotting problems and severe infections, but the biggest indicator of miscarriage is maternal age, largely because genetic abnormalities are more common with increasing age.

"We know that the quality of a woman's eggs decreases with her age and so the risk of miscarriage goes up," Dr Manwaring explained. "If you're in a position to try having a baby before the age of 35 it's advisable to do so."

Reduce modifiable risks

While miscarriages can happen to the healthiest of women, staying in shape increases your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.

Following a healthy lifestyle includes not smoking, limiting your caffeine intake, avoiding alcohol and, where possible, avoiding contact with others who have a serious infectious illness.

"There are other modifiable health related things women can do, such as taking pregnancy supplements -- to correct any nutritional deficiencies -- that can contribute to pregnancy success," she advised.

You don't have to grieve miscarriage on your own. Image: Getty.
Start a conversation

Dr Manwaring said it can help to talk about miscarriages -- if you want to.

"Women aren't very good with being open with each other. But by talking about miscarriage it can help to reveal you're not alone and that there are others around you who may have had failed pregnancies, too."

Family and close friends can be a terrific source of support, but you may prefer to speak to a professional.

"Often the best resource is your local doctor but there are online services -- such as SANDS -- that provide an excellent service with very experienced counselors," Dr Mawaring added.

The key thing is that you take it one day at a time and acknowledge your emotions, which may include feelings of emptiness, anger and disbelief, disappointment, or sadness and a sense of isolation.

What you need to know

Dr Manwaring said it's important to realise you're not alone and miscarriage is a relatively common thing that many women experience and get through. What's more, most women who miscarry usually go on to have a successful pregnancy.

"We know in the majority of cases [miscarriage] isn't necessarily predictive of what future pregnancy outcomes will be. If it's your first miscarriage, you still have a very high chance of having a normal pregnancy next time," she said.

If you need help, SANDS provides support, information and education to anyone affected by death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth, and can be contacted on 1300 072 637.

Feature image: Getty.