Pregnancy Loss: Other FAQs

Basic information for topics, such as “What is it?” and “How many people are affected?” is available in the Condition Information section. In addition, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that are specific to a certain topic are answered 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.

Getting preconception care and prenatal care before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy can help prevent some complications before they occur.

What health conditions contribute to pregnancy loss or stillbirth?

There are many different causes for miscarriage. In more than half of miscarriages, the developing fetus had a chromosomal abnormality that occurred randomly and was not inherited from the parents. These kinds of genetic errors are more likely as the mother gets older, especially after age 35.1

However, there are some health conditions that may contribute to pregnancy loss, too. These are high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, inherited blood clotting disorders, certain disorders of the immune system, uterine or cervical abnormalities, abnormal levels of hormones, obesity, and maternal or fetal infection.1

Fetal death that occurs after the 20th week of gestation is called a stillbirth. In approximately one-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 seem 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, is she at higher risk for another pregnancy loss?

Miscarriage is typically a one-time occurrence. However, roughly 1% of women experience more than one miscarriage in a row, or repeated miscarriages. 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 (See What is repeated miscarriage? for more information.)

What is repeated miscarriage?

For every 100 women who have a miscarriage, one of them will have more than one miscarriage in a row. This is called repeated, or recurrent, miscarriage. Although most miscarriages are caused by a random genetic mistake in the egg or sperm that isn't likely to happen again, repeated miscarriages can sometimes have an underlying cause.1,7

After about three repeated miscarriages, a woman's health care provider might suggest tests to try to find a cause. The provider will also ask detailed questions about the parents' medical histories. Potential causes of repeated miscarriage might include rearrangements in the parents' genetic material; structural problems, scarring, or fibroids in the uterus; or certain medical conditions in the mother. Some of these problems can be treated, which might improve the couple's chance of getting pregnant.1,7

However, in about half to three-quarters of women with repeated miscarriages, doctors won't be able to find out a reason.7

Even if there's no apparent cause, the woman is still likely to be able to get pregnant and deliver a baby in the future: Almost two of every three women with recurrent miscarriage go on to give birth without any special treatment.1,7

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. Research shows that a history of preeclampsia is not associated with an increase in the risk of miscarriage.

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 is not associated with an increased 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.

  1. 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]
  2. 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]
  3. 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]
  4. 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]
  5. 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]
  6. Salihu, H. M. (2011). Maternal obesity and stillbirth. Seminars in Perinatology, 35(6), 340-344. doi:10.1053/j.semperi.2011.05.019 [top]
  7. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2011, August). Frequently asked questions FAQ100: Pregnancy. Repeated miscarriage. Retrieved June 2, 2012, from External Web Site Policy (PDF - 222 KB) [top]

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