You’ve just found out you’re pregnant; it’s an exciting time, you can’t wait to start telling friends and family when the time is right, you’re already thinking up design concepts for the nursery, and are looking forward to what the future has in store. Unfortunately, not all pregnancies go to term. When this is the case, this is known as a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. Miscarriage affects as many as 15% to 20% of recognized pregnancies, while some women may also miscarry before they were even aware that they were pregnant.

The risk of miscarriage is highest during the first trimester of pregnancy, which is 12 weeks. It is, however, possible for a woman to miscarry in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Though according to a study done 697 women, rates of miscarriage declined between 6 to 10 weeks. Some of the most common symptoms that are associated with miscarriage include vaginal spotting/bleeding (although 1 in 4 women will have spotting during pregnancy, which doesn’t always necessarily mean miscarriage), passing what looks like clots or mucus appearing white-pink , mild to severe abdominal pain (often described as cramping), pelvic pressure, pain in the lower back, nausea, and vomiting.

As for what causes a miscarriage, there are a number of factors including pre-existing medical conditions as well as lifestyle habits – for example, drug use, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking. The risk of a woman suffering a miscarriage also increases if she has diabetes, a thyroid disorder, blood clotting disorders, physical complications (such as uterine abnormalities), and even immunological disorders. In addition, age can also play a factor (women over the age of 35 have a higher risk of having a miscarriage than those under the age of 35), if you’ve experienced any kind of physical trauma (such as having been in a car accident), develop listeria, or have had infections such as Lyme disease or Fifth disease. In some cases, the cause of a miscarriage may never be known.

Following a miscarriage, it’s not uncommon for a woman and her partner go through a series of emotions – from depression, sadness, guilt, and even anger. Physical symptoms can also develop following a miscarriage, including problems falling or staying asleep, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, frequent crying, withdrawal, as well as suicidal thoughts (and possibly attempts.) Grief is also a common emotion that a woman will feel, and it typically comes in three steps: 1. Shock/denial. 2. Anger/guilt/depression. 3. Acceptance. For some, reaching the stage of acceptance may seem far away, which is why it’s crucial to surround yourself with a good support system and reach out for help if you need it. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you accept or okay with what happened. It does, however, mean that you are able to accept the fact that it is real and are willing to take the steps you need to take in order to help yourself grieve properly.

The best way to help you along in your grieving process is to surround yourself with women who have experienced the same thing. For example, by attending support groups. This is a safe space where you will be able to freely express your emotions surrounding your loss, as well as find more resources to better help you cope with your grief. If you’re someone who would rather not take part in a group setting, that’s okay too. What works for one person might not be the best for others. If you prefer something more one-on-one, you can ask your physician to recommend a few different counselling groups that could be of benefit to you.

For more information on miscarriage, including how they are treated, visit HealthLink BC.