This was a “retrospective study” meaning the group looked at the past medical records of over 30,000 women who had had a miscarriage, followed by a successful pregnancy. 41% of these women conceived within 6 months of the miscarriage, 25% within 6-12 months after a miscarriage and the remainder one or more years later. The women who became pregnant and gave birth successfully within 6 months tended to be a little older than those who waited longer.
There has been a lot of confusion and conflicting advice as to how to proceed after a spontaneous miscarriage. Many doctors have felt that there should be a longer time after a miscarriage to allow for mental and physical recovery. The World Health Organization (WHO) has, in fact, recommended that women wait for at least six months before trying to conceive again. Many other sources have recommended waiting even longer. Some of these recommendations, however, have been essentially geared towards younger women in developing countries, and haven’t taken into account the situation which many women in developed countries are facing—that is, having waited to have children, they are now feeling as if they may be running out of time. This study provides some evidence that, assuming a woman has no other major health concerns, conceiving within the first 6 months of a miscarriage has a greater statistical chance of success than does waiting for more than 6 months.
One in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage before 24 weeks
One in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage before 24 weeks though the actual rate may be higher because often women, especially those with irregular cycles may not know that they are pregnant. The most common causes of miscarriage are:
- Genetic errors in the fetus or abnormalities in the chromosomes
- Failure of the fetus to implant into the wall of the uterus.
- Multiple embryos
- Maternal age—as a woman gets older, the risk of miscarriage increases
- Poorly controlled diabetes or other disorders, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism.
- High fever (over 100oF) or viral infections such as rubella
- Occupational exposure to some solvents and other chemicals
Some of these factors can be controlled—smoking, diabetes or occupational exposure for example. Others cannot be controlled—factors such as maternal age, genetics, chromosome damage or a failure to implant.
You can also take control and do some things to take full advantage of your chances for a healthy pregnancy—diet, nutrition, weight control, exercise, positive thinking—all of these can help maximize your chances for a healthy pregnancy and minimize the chances for a miscarriage. This is true especially if you have waited before deciding to start a family. Some—perhaps most—miscarriages can’t be prevented because they are nature’s way of dealing with genetic and chromosomal errors in the fetus. But, those factors that can be controlled—smoking, occupation, controlling other disorders such as diabetes and hypothyroidism—those can make a big difference in carrying a pregnancy to full term and having a healthy baby—and a healthy mother.
Tips to guide you when trying to get pregnant
Some of the most important dietary tips are to maximize the amounts of unprocessed, whole foods and to minimize the prepared, boxed foods. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially when they are in season. Making sure that you are as healthy as possible will make your pregnancy go as smoothly as possible. Maintain your weight as much as possible by eating those healthy foods. This is especially important the older you are—we all know that the older you get, the harder it is for many to maintain their weight. Staying away from sodas and soft drinks can be especially important for women, as there is evidence that soft drinks can leach out calcium from your bones. It is best to stay away as much as possible from drinks that contain caffeine as well. Recent studies have linked caffeine intake to an increased risk of miscarriage. Alcohol should absolutely be avoided. Improving your diet, avoiding soft drinks, caffeine and alcohol should all be done in preparation for pregnancy—it’s much easier to accomplish before you get pregnant and certainly much easier mentally—you don’t want to find out you are pregnant and then worry about the drink you had after work or that morning cup of espresso!
Exercise is an important part of this process—pregnancy can be very hard on a woman’s body and the fitter and more in shape you are, the easier it will be to carry a pregnancy full term. This doesn’t have to mean a full work-out schedule—walking is one of the best activities for both pregnant and non- pregnant woman and can many times just mean that you take a long walk with the dog, park your car at the far end of the parking lot or take two trips up and down the stairs when it could actually be done in one trip! Another great activity, depending on the season and where you live is gardening—it gets you outside and moving. Our grandmother’s didn’t go to gyms to stay fit—they kept in shape by the work they were doing!
A good multi-vitamin with minerals along with a good source of omega-3 fatty acids may be the only supplement you need along with a nutritious diet and exercise program. Pregnancy is a natural state – and sometimes the best advice may be to relax as much as possible around the process.