Health/Life, Parenting/Children

How to prevent miscarriage when pregnant: causes and strategies

how to prevent miscarriage

The premature end of a pregnancy — the miscarriage — is a scenario that many pregnant women fear. They worry about how to avoid a miscarriage. As a rule, medical causes of a miscarriage cannot be prevented, but with lifestyle it is at least possible to influence the best possible conditions for pregnancy as the best chance for how to prevent miscarriage.

How to prevent miscarriage: overview

Why some pregnancies lead to the birth of a child and others end prematurely cannot be traced back to a specific event and rarely to a specific behavior. The causes of the miscarriage remain unclear in most cases.

How can the risk be minimized? Unfortunately there is no silver bullet to prevent a miscarriage. The causes of a premature termination of pregnancy are too unspecific. However, high-risk patients and healthy pregnant women can do a lot to minimize the risk of a miscarriage. Since miscarriages tend to take place in the first few weeks of pregnancy, it can be assumed that chromosomal disorders in the embryo are responsible for most miscarriages. You cannot prevent this. It is a natural “selection process” of the body. Also read how to know if you’re pregnant without a test.

First 12 weeks are most common

One in five women experiences a miscarriage in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy (first trimester of pregnancy). The reasons for these “early losses” are usually the faulty development of the embryo. As hard as it sounds – if chromosome damage, anomalies or other disorders occur in the first few weeks, development usually stops automatically and leads to a miscarriage. This natural process is designed to prevent a non-viable baby from being born to term. It is a protective mechanism of nature. You cannot influence this or even prevent this miscarriage.

How to prevent miscarriage: Risk factors

According to medical experts, the risk of miscarriage is increased if women smoke heavily, drink a lot of alcohol or use drugs during pregnancy . Research has also shown that regular consumption of more than four cups of coffee a day can increase the risk of miscarriage .

Miscarriage risk factors also include lifting too heavily, such as moving house. But traumatic experiences such as a shock or an accident are also part of it. In rare cases, amniotic fluid examinations as part of a prenatal diagnosis can lead to a miscarriage.

Another factor: Unfortunately, the risk of a miscarriage increases with the age of the pregnant woman , but also with that of the father. The older the parents, the more often chromosomal disorders can occur in the fetus. But excessive stress at work and in a partnership can also be the trigger for a miscarriage.

Preventing medical causes

Most often, non-preventable chromosomal and developmental disorders in the embryo are the cause of miscarriages. If a woman has already had two or more miscarriages, it makes sense to undergo various exams. Because if a previous illness is responsible for the miscarriage and has been identified, it may be possible to prevent another miscarriage if this previous illness has been treated. The following, in summary, are possible:

  • Disorders in the hormonal balance
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Anemia
  • Metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus
  • Infections (for example chlamydial infection or listeriosis )
  • Cervical weakness
  • Fibroids
  • Inflammation of the cervix or the body of the uterus

Causes over which you have little influence

Maternal age

Our genome grows old with us, the cell divisions then sometimes no longer function as well. This also applies to egg cells. Faulty cell division occurs, which is mostly incompatible with life. This causes an increased miscarriage rate. More recent studies assume this also for men (see below).

Fibroids

Fibroids are benign muscle nodes in the uterus. Often they are in the wall and can be the reason for heavier and more painful bleeding. They are important for pregnancy when these lumps lie in the uterine cavity and thus prevent your child from implanting and growing. This leads to the absence of pregnancy or even to a miscarriage.

If you have such fibroids and may have already suffered the tragic fate of a miscarriage, it makes sense to talk to your gynecologist about a distance. But there is one more thing you need to know: if the muscle node is very deep in the wall of the uterus, you must not become pregnant after removal!

Septa and other variants of the uterus

The uterus is made up of two “tubes”, the Müllerian ducts, which then merge in the middle. But sometimes it doesn’t work out as intended. Then you may have a notch in the top of the uterus. Or a heart-shaped uterus. The most extreme variant is a “half” uterus with 2 separate sheaths on the right and left.

This variety of nature can sometimes prevent implantation or lead to miscarriage. But it doesn’t have to. Surgery can sometimes address this successfully, but you should be very cautious about undergoing surgery for this.

Genetic diseases and chromosome mismatches

If, sadly, you have already gone through several miscarriages, it makes sense to check both partners for hereditary diseases. But these are not to be treated. You can then only find out through prenatal diagnostics whether your desired child is healthy.

In the case of very serious diseases, you can have polar body diagnostics carried out on the egg shortly after fertilization. This only makes sense when it comes to a disease or a maldistribution of which you are the author. Because here only the second part of the last ripening of your egg is examined, i.e. the part that would then have gradually dissolved.

This second half set of chromosomes is a mirror image of your set of chromosomes that will be fertilized. If you find 25 chromosomes in the polar body, the egg is missing one, with 23 chromosomes the egg has one too many. A prime example of this is trisomy 21: the egg has two of chromosomes 21 instead of one. In this case, two would be from you and the third from your partner. Some of these children can survive.

An egg cell with such a chromosome pattern would then not be transferred. However, only the female part of the chromosome distribution can really be examined here. This, as well as the next method, can only be carried out with artificial insemination.

You can also have serious hereditary diseases clarified by pre-implantation diagnostics. The male part of the embryo is also recorded here. To do this, however, one of you both has to be a proven carrier of a genetic defect. And you have to go through an approval process in Germany, which is relatively time-consuming and strict.

In pre-implantation diagnosis, cells are taken from the fertilized egg cell. This does not harm the embryo. These cells are simply modeled. The genetic material of the cells obtained is then examined for diseases. In the subsequent cycle, the healthy embryos are then returned to the uterus.

All other investigations of genetic diseases only take effect from the ninth week of pregnancy. Sometimes the physical cause of a miscarriage simply cannot be found and therefore cannot be prevented.

Behavior in high-risk pregnancies: take warning signs seriously

If women are over 35 years old, suffer from certain chronic diseases, have already had a miscarriage or are expecting multiple births , experts speak of a high-risk pregnancy . For the unborn baby, but also for the mother, there is then an increased risk to health and life.

Pregnant women who belong to this risk group should therefore pay more attention to the warning signs from their body. It is also advisable to find out about the signs of a miscarriage in advance. These include, for example, spotting, lower back pain, fever, or premature labor. In these cases, please contact your doctor immediately.

To minimize the risk factors for miscarriage, your doctor can give you valuable tips. For example, in some cases it is important that the pregnant woman keep strict bed rest . Depending on the diagnosis, this can be done in your own four walls or in the hospital. But even with medication , an impending miscarriage can still be averted under certain circumstances.

How to prevent miscarriage with magnesium

Magnesium has a muscle-relaxing and antispasmodic effect. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have an increased need for magnesium. This need increases during pregnancy. A magnesium preparation is often recommended by a doctor as a preventive measure to pregnant women if there is an increased risk of premature births or miscarriages.

Basically, pregnant women should make sure that they consume enough magnesium. A persistent, high magnesium deficiency can lead to delayed development of the fetus or premature labor .

How to prevent miscarriage with folic acid

Also folic acid is an important nutrient, especially in pregnancy. Folic acid (or folate) is particularly essential for cell division, cell growth and blood formation. Due to the numerous growth processes in pregnancy, women have an increased need for folic acid. Studies have shown that taking folic acid supplements in good time – preferably before the start of pregnancy – can prevent malformations. However, it has not yet been proven whether folic acid can also directly prevent miscarriages.

Normal pregnancy: follow a healthy lifestyle

We have no control over many of the factors that trigger a miscarriage. Nevertheless, as a pregnant woman, you can do a lot to ensure that your unborn child is well. First and foremost is a healthy, balanced diet. During pregnancy you should absolutely refrain from alcohol, cigarettes and of course drugs.

Of course, every pregnant woman can behave and adapt her lifestyle in such a way that the risks of a miscarriage are minimized as far as possible. Above all, this includes not using illegal or legal drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes or medication. A 2014 Danish study found that pregnant women who drink alcohol suffered nine percent of all miscarriages in Denmark between 1996 and 2002.

Women who smoke also have an increased risk of miscarriages, so it is best to stop smoking as soon as you can. High caffeine consumption during pregnancy appears to increase the likelihood of miscarriage, among other things. For this reason, the current recommendations are to consume a maximum of 200 to 300 mg of caffeine daily, which corresponds to about two to three cups of filter coffee.

You should also only take pain relievers and other medications after consulting your doctor. There are often alternative healing methods such as homeopathy, acupuncture or Schüssler salts for minor ailments such as nausea , heartburn or headaches.

A balanced, nutritious diet is important during pregnancy anyway. Diets are taboo during pregnancy. Light physical exercise and sport are allowed during pregnancy. (Nordic) walking, slow jogging, swimming or yoga are good options. Exercise also helps to loosen tension, prevent back pain and clear your head. Vibrations like those seen in tennis, squash, or athletics are not so good for pregnancy. Be sure you keep up with your pelvic floor exercises when pregnant, too.

Particularly important: Make sure you take advantage of the check-up appointments with your doctor. He regularly checks with the ultrasound whether your unborn baby is doing well and records the results in your maternity record. If anything goes wrong, you will be referred to a specialist immediately. If you feel unwell, have abdominal pain, or are bleeding, go to a hospital straight away.

Since vaginal infections are dangerous for the unborn child, it is important to go to regular checkups during pregnancy as well. If symptoms such as burning, itching, increased, often yellowish, discharge or odor occur, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible.

Stress is an underestimated risk factor

Anyone who is exposed to particular stress or stress at work may be subject to a general or individual prohibition of employment. This is especially true for pregnant women who have to work or carry physical work or are exposed to harmful substances such as vapors or gases.

Many people suffer from stress in their professional and / or private sphere. Pregnant women are not immune from this either. Constant (chronic) stress during pregnancy has been shown to lead to disorders in the body. The hormonal balance in particular gets mixed up under chronic stress. However, complicated and delicate hormonal processes interlock during pregnancy. Your natural balance is extremely important for the maintenance of the pregnancy and the growth of the baby.

Mental or physical stress, for example, causes the body to release the “stress hormone” cortisol. Cortisol causes, among other things, a decrease in the hormone progesterone. However, progesterone is extremely important for maintaining pregnancy. Since stress hormones have a vasoconstricting effect, they also affect the child’s oxygen and nutrient supply. Reducing stress and chronic stress is therefore extremely important for pregnancy and the health of the child.

By the way – some women also increase their fear of miscarriage. This often affects women who have already had a miscarriage. It’s understandable that you don’t want to experience something like that again. Conscious relaxation and also acknowledging your own fears are recommended here. Perhaps there is someone in your circle of friends or acquaintances with whom you can talk about it. Because raising awareness of the fear mechanisms in conversation with others can help to better classify your own fears and to deal with them.

How to prevent miscarriage: Age likely plays a role

The older a pregnant woman is, the higher her risk of miscarriage, from a structural point of view. Women who are older than 35 years during their pregnancy are pro forma classified as high-risk pregnancies . Of course, that doesn’t mean that a miscarriage will actually happen. Lifestyle plays a role in preventing a miscarriage. Older pregnant women often take special care of themselves and their unborn baby. You eat healthily, avoid alcohol, cigarettes and other substances that could harm pregnancy.

Conclusion

A miscarriage cannot be prevented in the classic sense. A healthy lifestyle has been shown to have a positive influence on the course of pregnancy. If a miscarriage has occurred before, it is advisable to find out possible medical causes such as previous illnesses in order to be able to prevent the pregnancy from ending again prematurely. In summary:

  • Healthy lifestyle: renouncing stimulants and drugs
  • Provide detailed information about miscarriage risk factors
  • Important: regular preventive care during pregnancy
  • Take warning signs seriously
  • If you have any bleeding or pain, including implantation bleeding, go to hospital immediately

Dr Francis Knowler-Benning Dr Frances Knowler-Benning is an accomplished pediatrician with a midwife training specialty, who believes the healthy early years are crucial to life.

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