Miscarriage or spontaneous abortion is caused by a variety of factors. This article assesses ten major causes of miscarriage ranging from the uncontrollable genetic predisposition to the highly avoidable environmental factors.
What is miscarriage?
Medically, miscarriage refers to the spontaneous end of pregnancy before six months or twenty four weeks elapse. A history of miscarriages should be investigated by a medical expert in order to establish the real cause. Older women who get pregnant have an increased risk of having miscarriages.
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Leading causes of miscarriage
It may be caused by a variety of factors ranging from genetic, physiological, environmental as well as psychological factors.
- Chromosomal mutation – Chromosomal mutation refers to a permanent change in the number or structure of chromosomes that contain factors of heredity known as genes. Chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus are a leading cause of miscarriage. Fetuses that contain more than 47 or less than 45 chromosomes (Normal number is 46) are less likely to be carried to term.
- Progesterone deficiency – During the first trimester, the hormone progesterone protects the fetus by producing a number of calming effects and by thickening abdominal and uterine muscles. Low levels of progesterone increase chances of miscarriage.
- Uterine malformation – Maintaining pregnancy has everything to do with the structure of the uterus. Physical growths such as fibroids may actually interfere with uterine gestational capacity leading to miscarriage. Umbilical malformations and placenta presentation may also increase chances of miscarriage.
- Cervical incompetence – Cervical problems such as unusual dilation or thinning of the cervix before a pregnancy reaches its full term usually lead to miscarriage. Weakness of the cervix and its concomitant dilation can lead to rupturing of the amnion leading to spontaneous pregnancy loss.
- Uncontrolled diabetes – Uncontrolled gestational or prenatal diabetes may increase chances of a pregnant woman having a miscarriage. If diabetes is placed under control before and during pregnancy, there may be no cause for alarm.
- Hypertension – High blood pressure during pregnancy may increase chances of a miscarriage particularly if not controlled well in time. Known medically as preeclampsia, high blood pressure during pregnancy may be caused by immune reaction of the mother against the growing fetus.
- Hypothyroidism – The thyroid gland produces two major hormones namely: Calcitonin and thyroxin. Deficiency of the hormone thyroxin which regulates body metabolism may lead to spontaneous abortion.
- Smoking – Children sired by smokers have an increased chance of being miscarried. Mothers and fathers who smoke excessively (more than 20 cigarettes per day) have a higher chance suffering miscarriage.
- Infection – Some infections such as Chlamydia, rubella or German measles, gonorrhea, mumps, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV increase chances of having spontaneous abortion.
- Drugs and other chemicals – Over the counter medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen, cocaine intake by the pregnant woman, alcoholism, and environmental toxins such as mercury and lead poisoning, exposure to formaldehyde, benzene, pesticides and large doses of radiation increase chances of having a miscarriage.
These and many other factors are likely causes of spontaneous abortion or miscarriage but luckily, most of them, nearly all of them can be prevented.