The recent news and the public post by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of facebook, about his wife having miscarriage has suddenly led to a lot of discussions on the internet about miscarriages. Several people have come out in the open sharing their experiences and feelings about repeated pregnancy loss.
The discussions have revealed the various misconceptions on this subject as well as brought out the emotional stress faced by people who have experienced miscarriage in their lives or even in their families.
A miscarriage is not a rare event. It is estimated that almost 40% of pregnancies end up in a miscarriage.1 In many cases, the women may not even know that she was pregnant and there was a miscarriage. About 80% of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester).
Chromosomal abnormalities are known to be the most common cause (around 60% miscarriages occur due to chromosomal causes2) in the first trimester pregnancy loss. In a way, we can say that it is nature’s way of quality control as most of these chromosomal changes are not compatible with life. Some of these chromosomal problems may be due to certain changes in the parent’s chromosomes. In case of repeated pregnancy loss (more than two or three consecutive miscarriages), it is advisable to check the parental chromosomes.
Advanced maternal age, lifestyle factors (smoking, excessive alcohol, drug abuse) and maternal health factors (hormones, infection, thyroid etc) are known to be some of the factors contributing to pregnancy loss.
Despite the fact that the pregnancy loss is not that uncommon and there are valid scientific reasoning behind it, many couples go through a lot of anxiety with respect to possible cause of the loss and how they may have contributed to it.
In a recent survey3 published in Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, it was found that many people have a lot of misconceptions and wrongly blame themselves or their partners for the event. Amongst the men and women surveyed who had experienced a miscarriage, 47% felt guilt, 41% felt that they had done something wrong and 28% felt shame.
In the survey covering more than 1000 respondents between the age of 18 and 69, although most identified the cause to be genetic, yet 76 % incorrectly attributed stress to be a cause, 64 % felt that lifting heavy objects could be the cause and more than 25% respondents associated a contraceptive method (IUD or birth control pill) as a contributing cause.
The survey highlighted how most people are misinformed about miscarriages, and on account of this suffer from unnecessary emotional stress.
While, there may not be an answer or solution to all types of miscarriages, knowing the cause itself can put a lot of anxiety and stress to rest. In addition, it can provide the doctors with a better handle in terms of dealing with the next pregnancy.
A more open discussion and information dissemination amongst medical practitioners and general public on the topic of miscarriages can surely surface a lot of underlying beliefs and assumptions. Fixing the misconception and misinformation can be an important first step.
Mark Zuckerberg’s coming out in open is surely a very bold and positive step to bring out the various dimensions of miscarriages in the public dialogue.