You could still feel your baby’s movements in your belly yesterday, but the next day you get severe bleeding and cramps, and suddenly everything becomes absolutely still and quiet. Then, you find out that you’ve just had a miscarriage.
Losing your baby can be a devastating nightmare. While not many people like talking or even thinking about it, the statistics don’t lie — miscarriages happen more often than we think.
Miscarriage vs. stillbirth: What’s the difference?
Miscarriages are the sudden and spontaneous loss of a foetus before 22 weeks of gestation, or if the baby born weighs less than 500g. It is one of the most common early-pregnancy complications in Malaysia, affecting 8-20% of all early pregnancies. 80% of these miscarriages happening before the 13th week of pregnancy.
On the other hand, stillbirth is a loss of the baby after 23 weeks of gestation, occurring when most of the baby’s features have been formed. According to Statistica, there were 5.4 stillbirths per 1000 births in 2019 in Malaysia.
Am I at risk of a miscarriage?
There are many factors that play into whether or not a pregnant expectant mother is at risk of miscarriages. Since it is a naturally-occurring, spontaneous ‘abortion’, there isn’t a lot of consistent data that doctors and scientists can refer to that identify the causes of miscarriages.
Nonetheless, these conditions are often associated with a higher risk of miscarriages for expectant mothers.
1. Pregnancy at an older age
Women who get pregnant in their later years have a higher risk of developing foetuses with chromosomal abnormalities and experience a miscarriage. In fact, according to research published in the British Medical Journal, pregnant women who are 45 and over have a 74.7% risk of miscarriage. It’s thought to be due to the declining quality of their ovum.
Older pregnant women are also vulnerable to other pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, breech positioning of the baby, pre-term birth, and low birth weight.
2. Gestational diabetes
If you have a pre-existing diabetes condition and are planning to get pregnant, you should first consult your doctor. Let them know to monitor your blood sugar during your pregnancy to keep you and your baby safe. Another type of diabetes, called gestational diabetes, is caused by hormone disruptions that only occurs when you’re pregnant. It’s equally as risky as a pre-existing condition because the high blood sugar levels may cause birth defects or result in a miscarriage.
However, it is still possible to have a healthy pregnancy with a healthy baby even with gestational diabetes, as long as you get adequate treatment for it.
3. Great stress
Pregnant mothers are always advised not to overthink and over-worry too much. That’s because both mental and physical stress have adverse effects on pregnancy. A stress hormone called CRH will cause mast cells in the uterus to secrete substances that may cause miscarriages. Also, if mothers get too distressed, their cortisol hormone levels will increase greatly, resulting in a lowered immunity and a higher risk of infection, which also endangers their pregnancy.
Caring for yourself after a miscarriage
Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to have proper care after experiencing a miscarriage. Our Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Dr Ee Li, advises going through the usual confinement period of at least 2 weeks. This gives your body enough time to heal and recover from the trauma, especially so if the miscarriage happens at a later stage.
During this time, it’s better for you to adhere to the standard confinement practices. Avoid cool water, consume more ginger, and drink confinement herbal soups to replenish your energy, nourish your blood, and heal your internal organs.
No more next time?
So what happens after a miscarriage? Does that mean that you won’t be able to conceive again next time?
The Malaysian health portal states “it is advisable to wait 2 to 3 months before trying to get pregnant again.” On the contrary, researchers from the University of Aberdeen say trying again within 6 months would greatly reduce the possibility of another miscarriage or pre-term birth.
“All women need to know that most of the time, a miscarriage is completely random, and odds are you will get pregnant after trying again.” — Jonathan Schaffir, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Ohio State University College of Medicine.
Read up more about the increased risk factors and causes of miscarriages on Malaysia’s official health portal here.