Once you know you're pregnant, how to to deal with childbirth is your focus, not the possibility that you will lose your baby. However, data from the American Pregnancy Association estimates that up to 25% of all pregnancies may lead to loss of pregnancy or miscarriage, or when a pregnancy of up to 20 weeks old ends on its own (it is also called spontaneous abortion). It pays to be prepared, and the first step is getting to know the early signs of miscarriage.
Who are most at risk of miscarriage
Chromosomal abnormalities is the culprit for most miscarriages although it is hard to pinpoint exactly how it happens. Therefore, it's safe to say that it could happen to any woman, generally speaking. However, a number of factors increases one's susceptibility, such as:
Age. A woman in her 40s is twice as likely to miscarry as a 20 year old
State of health. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), lupus, and APAS are some of the conditions associated with miscarriage, as well as infections like mumps or measles if they happen during pregnancy
Genetics. In-born defects in the family could affect the health of your pregnancy
Alcohol and drug intake. High levels of drugs (prohibited or otherwise), and even caffeine in a pregnant woman's body could be a factor too
Weight. Obese women are usually advised to achieve their ideal body weight in preparation for pregnancy.
Most pregnant women don't know that a spontaneous abortion is happening when the symptoms show because it is usually unexpected.
Women who have lost the baby in their womb say that they felt any or a combination of the following early signs of a miscarriage:
Mild to severe back pain
Mom of two Encar Reyes recalls feeling something that resembled dysmenorrhoea before she lost her baby in 2001. "It felt like I was about to get my period. I had pain in my lower abdomen."
"When I went to the restroom, I saw that there was a lot of blood on my underwear. I was three months pregnant then." She immediately called her doctor and was instructed to take Duphaston and Duvadilan to prevent any further bleeding. "I went home and rested, but the gush of blood persisted, so we decided to go to the hospital. When they did an ultrasound, the baby had no heartbeat anymore."
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For Arlyn Corpuz, who miscarried twice before she had a successful pregnancy, one of the earliest signs that something was wrong was that the embryo didn't progress or grow. "Sometimes they say that the computation is probably off, but in our case, on both occasions, the doctor told us on the second visit that the embryo is too small for its age."
She wasn't surprised anymore when she felt a sharp pain in her lower abdomen a few weeks later. "The choices I had was [whether] to wait for a spontaneous miscarriage [or] have a dilation and curettage (D&C). My doctor wanted me to have a natural one."
However, there are some women who say they do not recall experiencing any symptoms before they lost their baby. Mom of one Rachel Abrajano, 36, had miscarried the second time earlier this year. She recalls that the baby had a good heartbeat in the first ultrasound, so "except for minor cramps and one instance of light spotting, I had no reason to think I was going to lose the baby again." A week later, a second ultrasound had shown that the baby had lost its heartbeat.
Rachel says that on the first miscarriage, she began to bleed after taking the medications her doctor gave her. "It was very painful. After I pushed out clots of blood, the pain diminished, although the bleeding didn't stop, so we decided to rush to the emergency room." Rachel underwent a D&C right after.
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Dilation and curettage
A D&C (dilation and curettage) is colloquially referred to in the vernacular as "raspa." In the context of a miscarriage, a D&C, a minor procedure where the uterine lining is scraped to remove blood and tissue, involves two steps. The first is dilation where the doctor uses an instrument or medication to soften the cervix, so he can widen the opening of the lower part of the uterus. Curettage is when the uterus lining is scraped using an instrument shaped like a spoon. A D&C does not involve any stitches or cuts and takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes, according to WebMD. The patient will be on her back the whole time with her legs propped up on stirrups.
Once done, the general anesthesia during the procedure may make you feel dazed, so be sure there is someone to take you home from the hospital. The drugs may also make you feel nauseated for a while.
Recovery may take at least a few days to several weeks. Be sure to take your antibiotics and other medications prescribed by your doctor. Mild cramping and some bleeding after the operation is normal, but you will need to see your physician immediately if you experience fever, heavy bleeding, or notice foul odor from your vaginal discharge.
Some women have reported brief lapses in memory right after the procedure, mood swings, and irregular bowel movements. Expect your period to arrive after a few weeks to a month. You will also be advised to hold off any sexual contact during the period of recovery to allow the uterus to heal.
Apart from the physical pain, a miscarriage also brings about emotional suffering. Lou Molina was 33 years old and 22 weeks pregnant when she had a bad case of diarrhea, which caused her to have premature contractions. During one bout of bowel movement, she involuntarily pushed out her baby into her underwear. Doctors later realized that her appendix had also ruptured, which may have also contributed to her premature labor.
Needless to say, the experience was traumatic for Lou. She struggled with grief and anxiety for months, and sought the assistance of a psychiatrist to help her deal with her emotions. She credited her recovery to her husband and their firstborn daughter, and family and friends. “Acknowledge the pain but find a solution on how you can move on with your life. Reach out. And talk about it. It's a long process but you have to move on,” she adds.