Pregnancies can be fragile! Experts believe that every pregnancy has a 15% chance of ending in a miscarriage. What exactly is a miscarriage? A miscarriage occurs when a baby is delivered before maturity, that is, before the baby can survive in the world. Medically, this period is before 24 weeks of a pregnancy period. It can be quite depressing to go through a miscarriage but we at Medifem Multi-specialist Hospital and Fertility Centre believe miscarriages can, to a large extent be prevented and in cases where it happens, there are medical measures that can prevent reoccurrence.
What causes miscarriages?
In a recent maternal health survey (GMHS, 2007), women who had miscarried suggested one of 4 reasons they lost their babies: spontaneous loss, unintentional injury, intentional injury (some form of physical abuse), or an unknown reason. Most of the women in this survey, (4 out of 5) suggested that it was spontaneous and for women under 20, intentional injury was the most common cause given.
There are, however, several causes of miscarriages. One of the most common is the genetic make – up of the foetus- a weak gene pool could terminate the foetus’s life. There is also the case of an infection. Dr. Henaku Larbi, our fertility specialist and gynaecologist has stated that malaria is one of the most common infections that cause miscarriages. He also explained that medication/drugs, the mother’s health, a weak womb and several previous pregnancies, miscarriages or abortions are also possible causes of miscarriage. For women who have experienced miscarriages, these causes may only become known to them after an analysis by a trained health professional.
The experience of miscarriage
Primarily, miscarriages are associated with a great level of pain. Dr. Henaku-Larbi explained that “this symptom is usually an indication of the womb contracting to release the child”. Women may also experience a watery discharge, which is the rupturing of membranes in the vagina or uterus. Beyond these, other symptoms could be bleeding, fever and a foul smelling vaginal discharge. However, some women do not experience pain at all during a miscarriage.
Experiencing a miscarriage can be traumatic especially when a woman is alone when it occurs. For instance, 79% of women who miscarried from the maternal health survey said it occurred at home. It is important that medical attention is sort for immediately, as the uterus may need cleaning. This can be done with the use of antibiotics.
It is also important for women to seek counseling from doctors to help them process their experience and discuss possible future medical interventions to avoid recurrence. As previously mentioned every pregnancy has a 15% chance of getting miscarried and this increases with more miscarriages. If a woman has miscarried twice, the chance of having another miscarriage increases to about 46%. This is one of the reasons every woman who has been through a miscarriage should seek medical attention so that proper investigation, diagnosis and treatment could be conducted and explored.
Can miscarriages be prevented?
Although miscarriages are generally perceived as spontaneous occurrences which occur without prior warnings or early symptoms, a woman’s health choices could significantly influence the possibility of miscarriage. Dr. Henaku Larbi suggests that simply taking folic acid before and in the first month of pregnancy is a major contributor to preventing a miscarriage.
The good news is, many women are able to go through pregnancies successfully even after multiple miscarriages. With a daily dose of folic acid and frequent prenatal care, pregnant women are likely to have a successful pregnancy.
Sources: Dr. Henaku Larbi, Fertility Specialist/ Consultant OB/GYN.
Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), Ghana Health Service (GHS), and Macro International. 2009. Ghana Maternal Health Survey 2007 (GMHS, 2007). Calverton, Maryland, USA: GSS, GHS, and Macro International.