Miscarriage Statistics - A Look at the Figures and Definitions
Miscarriage statistics can be dramatic. Miscarriage reportedly occurs in 20 percent of all pregnancies. However, according to some sources, this may be an inaccurate number. Many women, before realizing a life has begun forming within them, may miscarry without knowing it-assuming their miscarriage is merely a heavier period. Therefore, the miscarriage rate may be closer to 40 or 50 percent. Of the number of women who miscarry, 20 percent will suffer recurring miscarriages.
Miscarriage refers to the loss of a developing pregnancy up until the twentieth week of gestation. Medical terminology labels this event as a spontaneous abortion. Many women who miscarry find this term offensive. However, it is important to note that the term "abortion" merely denotes the loss of a pregnancy. It does not, in the medical field, assume the pregnancy ended because of the woman's choice. The proper term for a chosen procedure is elective abortion. When a woman loses her pregnancy after the twentieth week of pregnancy, the loss is referred to as a stillbirth.
Miscarriages fall under two categories. An isolated miscarriage refers to a single, sporadic event. Often, an isolated miscarriage occurs due to a chromosomal error in the egg or sperm. This chromosomal error is nonrecurring. If a woman endures three consecutive miscarriages, the miscarriages are considered recurring. A woman who suffers recurring miscarriages may undergo medical tests in order to discover what underlying conditions may cause her repeated miscarriages. Generally, these underlying conditions must be treated in order for the woman to successfully carry to term.
Miscarriage Statistics - Three Degrees of Occurrence
Miscarriage statistics can vary because miscarriage presents itself in various ways, each leading to a loss of pregnancy. Depending on the circumstances, medical intervention may be required to ensure the woman's physical safety.
Missed Abortion: Occurs when the woman's body does not expel the dead fetus. Missed abortions may go undetected for several weeks. Symptoms may include a lack of pregnancy symptoms, but, due to elevated hormone levels, some women suffer a missed abortion even while experiencing pregnancy traits.
Incomplete Abortion: Occurs when the woman's body expels only a portion of the pregnancy tissue. During an incomplete abortion, portions of the fetus, amniotic sac or placenta may be retained. Symptoms include an open cervix, cramping, and the discharging of blood and fetal matter.
Complete Abortion: Occurs when the woman births a nonviable fetus. During a complete abortion, the woman's body expels all tissue. Symptoms include the passage of all pregnancy tissue and a closed cervix.
Miscarriages that are missed or incomplete generally require a dilation and curettage (D&C). A D&C entails manually opening the woman's cervix and scraping out her uterus. If a missed abortion occurs at six and a half weeks or less, the doctor may suggest the woman wait a few days to see if her body will expel the fetus spontaneously, as it does in most cases. In this way, a D&C is avoided.
Miscarriage Statistics - Understanding the Pain
Miscarriage statistics don't tell the whole story. Dealing with miscarriage isn't usually focused on the medical figures and physical effects. Miscarriage creates minimal physical pain, with symptoms such as backache, cramping and blood loss. These symptoms, however, are usually slight and the woman's physical body will recover quickly and easily.
Miscarriage, however, brings great psychological pain. The loss of pregnancy does not end with expelled fetal matter-for many, miscarriage brings about the death of a child. Although medical terminology does not deem the developing embryo or fetus as a child, many mothers attach to the pregnancy early on. When the miscarriage occurs, the woman loses not just a pregnancy, but a child and her dreams for that child.
Miscarriage Statistics - Escaping the Silence
Miscarriage statistics aren't well-publicized. Miscarriage would be much easier if a weight of silence did not hang over the topic. Miscarriage remains an uncomfortable subject in our society. The silence permeating the topic causes more psychological pain for the grieving mother since she is unable to mourn openly and properly. The grieving process provides much healing to the emotional and mental health of the woman and without it, she finds, she suffers alone.
Material referenced in Woman Doctor's Guide to Miscarriage by Lynn Friedman, M.D., with Irene Daria, New York: Hyperion, 1996. And in The Other Side of Pregnancy: Coping with Miscarriage and Stillbirth by Sherry Lynn Mims Jimenez, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-hall, Inc., 1982.
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