The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Every week, a few women email to ask if their early-pregnancy spotting or discharge means they’re going to miscarry. They’re terrified and looking for reassurance and a guarantee that everything will be OK with their pregnancies. I have plenty of reassurance to offer and I wish I could offer that guarantee, but the best I can do is tell my readers that probably, everything will be OK.
For many women, the instant exultation that a positive pregnancy test evokes is slowly replaced with a nagging fear: What if something goes wrong? What if I lose the baby? While a certain number of pregnancies do, sadly, end in miscarriage, it’s reassuring to know that the majority of pregnancies result in healthy babies. And even if a woman does suffer a loss, she’s very likely to have a healthy pregnancy in the future.
Your miscarriage risk is probably lower than you think; in fact, if you have no symptoms, such as bleeding, it’s less than 2 percent. The overall risk once you know you’re pregnant is 12 percent to 15 percent, but most women who go on to have a miscarriage have had symptoms. The best news of all: An average of 19 out of 20 first-time moms go on to have healthy, full-term pregnancies after a miscarriage. A recent British study also found that a woman’s miscarriage risk is related to her past pregnancy history as follows:
It's just past rush hour, and my husband, Nelson, and I are riding the Red Line T into Boston. I'm finally feeling morning sickness (at all times of the day, in fact) so I'm trying extra hard to keep the queasiness at bay while we squish in next to a crowd of people. I catch a whiff of strong jasmine perfume from a heavy set lady dressed in a red flowing tunic and fight off the heaving sensation in my belly. I close my eyes, breath slowly, and listen to the sound of the trolley car now ricocheting along the tracks.
Let's talk about cramps. You thought you'd leave those suckers behind for nine months once you got pregnant. You figured you'd have a bunch of big whoppers when you went into labor but other than that, you'd be cramp-free. Along with no period, isn't that supposed to be one of the perks of pregnancy? But then you notice some twinges. A little aching that comes and goes. Maybe you're just a few weeks along and worried there's a miscarriage coming. Maybe you're in your second trimester and worried it's preterm labor.
I've gotten quite a few emails lately with questions about miscarriage and first trimester bleeding. Nadine had an early miscarriage recently and was advised to wait three months before trying again. Amber had her first OB appointment and was told she wasn't nine weeks along as she thought but six weeks. Her placenta was big and there was no heartbeat. Kerri recently had her first prenatal appointment and reported a little spotting but didn't get any response or advice from her doctor.
Michelle's riding the roller coaster. She had an ultrasound this week because of spotting, thinking she was around nine weeks pregnant. The technician gave her sad news. There was a sac (amniotic membrane) but nothing in it. Michelle and her husband were obviously upset until an obstetrician told her the reason the sac was empty was because she was only six weeks along—not nine. Her blood hormone levels were adequate and appropriate for a six-week pregnancy. Sometimes we can see a beating heart on a six-week ultrasound but not always.
My sister and her husband just lost a baby halfway through their pregnancy. It's the kind of heartbreak I can only imagine, and it leaves me feeling heartbroken for them, and completely helpless.
As major campaigns to prevent sudden infant death syndrome and premature births make headway—and headlines—stillbirth (fetal death after 20 weeks' gestation) has largely been overlooked, according to a recent World Health Organization report. There were 25,655 stillbirths in the U.S. in 2004, and while the number has slowly declined over the last few decades, rates remain higher than in many other developed nations.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was simultaneously thrilled about having a baby and petrified that something would go wrong. Chalk it up to the occupational hazards of being a health writer, too much time spent trolling the Internet or a somewhat obsessive, glass-half-full-of-water-that-might-contain-toxins personality. Whatever the reason, I had a long list of bad things in my head. And miscarriage topped the list.
Laura Randolph 30, California
Laura's tips for dealing with a potentially problematic pregnancy:
•Talk to friends about your situation--they may have dealt with a similar dilemma.
•If you're dealing with AFP test results, focus on the statistics that show a high number of false positives.
•Try not to let your emotions get the best of you or to allow worries to spiral out of control.