We put four big miscarriage myths to rest.
A positive pregnancy test sends a whoosh of excitement through your body. You start thinking, Will it be a boy or a girl? Which one of us will it look like? But then worry starts creeping in: What if something goes wrong and I have a miscarriage? Thankfully, there's not as much to angst over as you might expect.
MYTH: Miscarriages happen all the time. In reality, the chances of miscarrying aren't as high as you might think. For women younger than 35, it's 10 to 12 percent; for 35- to 39-year-olds, it's 18 percent. (It does rise to 34 percent for women 40 to 44 years old.) What's even more reassuring is that by the time you see a heartbeat on an ultrasound—usually by week six or seven—your chance of having a miscarriage drops to less than 5 percent, regardless of your age, says Michael Lu, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
MYTH: Working out or lifting something heavy could cause a miscarriage. Don't panic: Exercising, falling or picking up a (reasonably) heavy object—a grocery bag, a toddler or the like—are extremely unlikely to cause a miscarriage. So do take it easy, but don't use this as an excuse to hole up for nine months. (Keeping fit is good!) "Unless you are a smoker, an illicit-drug user or a heavy drinker, there's little you can do to cause a miscarriage," says Henry Lerner, M.D., an OB-GYN at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Mass. "Even a typical car accident or fall won't cause one."
MYTH: I've already had one miscarriage—it's bound to happen again. "The routine miscarriages many women have are due to pure bad luck," Lerner says. "Since they're random, they're not likely to occur the next time around." In fact, for the majority of women who have a miscarriage, the chances of a successful next pregnancy are 80 percent, Lerner adds. The main causes of miscarriage fall into two broad categories: problems with the embryo or fetus and problems within the mother. Most miscarriages stem from the former—often, from what experts refer to as chromosomal errors. "When the chromosomes of the egg and those of the sperm fuse to form an embryo, they usually pair up correctly," Lerner explains. "But sometimes they get scrambled; if they're paired incorrectly, the embryo stops developing." You're unlikely to repeat a chromosomal error the next time you conceive, so don't assume the past predicts your future.
MYTH: If I stress too much, I'll miscarry. Though many women believe stress can lead to a miscarriage, there's scant research to support this. If you're feeling overloaded at the office, resist that extra latte as some studies have shown that drinking two or more cups of coffee a day may increase your miscarriage risk. If you have an existing issue—such as a thyroid problem or diabetes—talk to your doctor about getting it under control, ideally before you conceive, to give yourself peace of mind. Be vigilant, but let yourself relax. You're gonna be fine, and so will your baby.