There are common questions that we can answer about all health topics, such as "What is it?" and "How many people are affected." Answers to these questions are found under Condition Information. Each health topic frequently has specific questions that pertain only to that topic. We have answered those in this section.
Is there anything a woman can do to prevent a pregnancy loss?
Most of the time, a woman cannot do anything to prevent a miscarriage. The best prevention available for complications associated with pregnancy is prenatal care before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy.
What health conditions contribute to pregnancy loss or stillbirth?
There are many different causes for miscarriage. Some health conditions that may contribute to pregnancy loss are high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), inherited blood clotting disorders, certain disorders of the immune system, uterine or cervical abnormalities, abnormal levels of hormones, obesity, maternal or fetal infection, or chromosomal problems in one of the parents.1
Fetal death that occurs after the 20th week of gestation is called a stillbirth. In approximately half of all stillbirth cases reported, health care providers can find no cause for the loss. However, health conditions that may contribute to stillbirth are chromosomal abnormalities of the fetus; placental problems, such as placental abruption; poor fetal growth due to smoking or maternal high blood pressure; chronic health issues of the mother; umbilical cord accidents; and infection of the mother, fetus, or placenta. Other causes of stillbirth that are less common include Rh disease (caused by an incompatibility between mother and fetus when Rh protein is on the surface of the fetus's red blood cells and not the mother's), trauma of the fetus, a pregnancy lasting longer than 42 weeks, or a difficult delivery that results in a lack of oxygen to the fetus.1
What lifestyle factors can increase risk for pregnancy loss or stillbirth?
Pregnant women who use illicit drugs,2 smoke,3 drink alcohol,4 or have more than 200 milligrams of caffeine every day (about the amount in a 12-ounce cup of coffee)5 may increase their risk of miscarriage. The consumption of less than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day does not appear to be related to risk of miscarriage or preterm birth. Additionally, pregnant women who use illicit drugs, smoke, or drink alcohol increase their risk of stillbirth.2,3,4 The risk of stillbirth is increased in women who are obese.6 Women who are obese should discuss losing weight with their health care provider before attempting to conceive.
How soon after a pregnancy loss can a woman try again for another infant?
It is typically safe for a woman to conceive after one normal menstrual cycle has occurred following a pregnancy loss. However, it is best to wait until she is physically and emotionally ready to become pregnant again and until any tests recommended by a health care provider to determine the cause of the miscarriage have been completed.7
If a woman loses a pregnancy, does her risk for another pregnancy loss increase?
Miscarriage is typically a one-time occurrence. However, roughly 1% of women experience more than one miscarriage in a row. In some cases, an underlying problem causes repeated miscarriages. A health care provider may suggest a series of tests to determine, and treat if possible, the cause of repeated miscarriages.1,7
If a woman has been diagnosed with endometriosis, does this condition increase her risk for pregnancy loss?
Endometriosis has not been associated with an increase in pregnancy loss, but it does result in infertility in about 30% to 40% of women diagnosed with the condition, making it one of the most common causes of female infertility. Treatments for endometriosis consist of pain relief, hormone therapy, and surgical intervention. Women diagnosed with endometriosis who do become pregnant should be closely monitored for potential problems by their health care providers throughout the pregnancy to increase the likelihood of a healthy and successful pregnancy.
If a woman was diagnosed with preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy, does she have an increased risk for miscarriage in a subsequent pregnancy?
Preeclampsia is a potentially serious condition that occurs only in pregnancy when a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure (also called hypertension) and protein in the urine. Women diagnosed with preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy should work with their health care provider to get their blood pressure under control before becoming pregnant again. Although preeclampsia has not been associated with an increase in the risk of miscarriage, pregnancy complications as a result of high blood pressure include low birth weight, premature birth (before 37 weeks), and problems with the placenta. Pregnancy complications associated with high blood pressure usually can be prevented with proper prenatal care.8
- Branch, D. W., Gibson, M., & Silver, R. M. (2010). Clinical practice. recurrent miscarriage. The New England Journal of Medicine, 363(18), 1740-1747. doi:10.1056/NEJMcp1005330 [top]
- Keegan, J., Parva, M., Finnegan, M., Gerson, A., & Belden, M. (2010). Addiction in pregnancy. Journal of Addictive Diseases, 29(2), 175-191. doi:10.1080/10550881003684723 [top]
- Mishra, G. D., Dobson, A. J., & Schofield, M. J. (2000). Cigarette smoking, menstrual symptoms and miscarriage among young women. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 24(4), 413-420. [top]
- Henriksen, T. B., Hjollund, N. H., Jensen, T. K., Bonde, J. P., Andersson, A. M., Kolstad, H., Ernst, E., Giwercman, A., Skakkebaek, N. E., & Olsen, J. (2004). Alcohol consumption at the time of conception and spontaneous abortion. American Journal of Epidemiology, 160(7), 661-667. doi:10.1093/aje/kwh259 [top]
- Weng, X., Odouli, R., & Li, D. K. (2008). Maternal caffeine consumption during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage: A prospective cohort study. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 198(3), 279.e1-279.e8. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2007.10.803 [top]
- Salihu, H. M. (2011). Maternal obesity and stillbirth. Seminars in Perinatology, 35(6), 340-344. doi:10.1053/j.semperi.2011.05.019 [top]
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2011, August). Frequently asked questions FAQ100: Pregnancy. Repeated miscarriage. Retrieved June 2, 2012, from www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq100.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120508T2136009496 (PDF - 222 KB) [top]
- Sibai, B. M. (2012). Chapter 35 – hypertension. In S. B. MD, Jennifer Shu MD, Henry Garcia-Prada MD, Eric A. Storch PhD, Mark W. Green MD, Joe Leigh Simpson MD & Deborah J. Rubens MD (Eds.), Obstetrics: Normal and problem pregnancies (6e ed., pp. 1312). Philadelphia: Saunders. [top]