By Fiona Tapp
Pregnancy can be a time of great joy and anticipation, but it can also be a time of worry and stress—for about a million reasons. One of those reasons is the fear of miscarriages, which can be traumatic events that affect women in many different ways.
It doesn’t help that we don’t talk about miscarriages nearly enough.
When former first lady Michelle Obama revealed recently (in her new book) that she experienced pregnancy loss before having her daughters and that it left her feeling “lost and alone,” she shared that because no one talked about the experience, she felt like she had failed.
To make sure that happens less often, we spoke with Felice Gersh an OB/GYN and the director of the Integrative Medical Practice of Irvine in California to find out what you need to know about miscarriages before you get pregnant. Most pregnancies result in a healthy baby, but if you’re aware of all possible outcomes and symptoms, you’ll be more prepared—for yourself and the other women in your life who may need an informed friend.
How Common are Miscarriages?
Miscarriage affects women of different ages and stages and refers to an unexpected loss before the 20th week of pregnancy.
Some reports suggest up to one million miscarriages happen every year in the United States. According to the American Academy of Obstetricians, miscarriage affects 10 percent of all pregnancies, with 80 percent of those occurring in the first trimester. “Reproduction is not always successful, which is why women get an opportunity to become pregnant each month,” says Gersh.
What are the Symptoms of Miscarriage?
Some women will have no signs that their pregnancy is no longer viable and will only find out when they go for an ultrasound and no growth or heartbeat are detected. Others may experience pain or bleeding. Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy should always be evaluated by your doctor, but it doesn’t always signal a miscarriage; you can even experience heavy bleeding and go on to have a healthy baby.
What Will Happen During a Miscarriage?
In some cases, the body expels the pregnancy without intervention. You may feel as though you’re having a very heavy period and could also experience back and abdominal pains. Even if this happens and the process ends on its own, you should still visit the doctor, as any tissue left inside the uterus could cause an infection.
Or, you may need to take a drug such as Misoprostol to encourage the uterus to contract and complete the miscarriage.
Either way, some will also need to have a D&C (Dilation and Curettage), a surgical procedure to clear out tissue that remains in the uterus.
Can I Get Pregnant Again?
Although a miscarriage can be an emotionally and/or physically traumatic event, it doesn’t usually affect your ability to have future healthy pregnancies. Studies show that even women who have had multiple recurrent miscarriages have the same chance of having a healthy baby as women who have not experienced a miscarriage.
“Ovulation should resume very quickly and a new period is expected in about a month,” says Gersh. “It’s best to wait about 3 months prior to attempting a new pregnancy.”
In addition to taking care of your body before trying again, make sure you also check in with your emotional health. “The loss of a pregnancy, even when early, creates a tremendous emotional toll and depression is common and often unappreciated by all the people in her life, including her partner,” says Gersh. In other words, try to follow Michelle Obama’s lead, and speak up if you need help.