Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There are nearly 4.5 million pregnancies in the United States every year. An estimated 500,000 of them end in miscarriage.
Finding out you are pregnant can be a happy moment and losing the baby can be devastating.
“Positive pregnancy test — mentally you picture taking home a baby,” Dr. Ron Thomas from Allegheny General Hospital said.
Miscarrying, or losing the pregnancy before 20 weeks, happens 15 to 20 percent of the time.
This is higher than in the past. Because pregnancy tests are more sensitive now, people who wouldn’t have ever known, now do.
“Those late periods, those extremely early miscarriages, we never would have recognized,” Dr. Thomas said.
Some people worry it was something they did, but the vast majority of cases are due to factors beyond anyone’s control.
“Miscarriages occur primarily because there’s a genetic chromosomal abnormality in the baby,” Dr. Thomas said.
That often means the baby’s cells have too much DNA or not enough DNA. So, as the embryo develops, tissues and organs can’t form properly, and it can’t survive.
An abnormally shaped womb is another common reason. Sometimes the uterus develops with a wall inside, or some other structural problem that makes it hard for a baby to grow there.
“You’ve got a septum or some sort of divide. That can interfere with normal implantation,” Dr. Thomas said.
Other less common reasons include: gland problems, immune reactions against the embryo and infections.
“Mother Nature has to decide between the mother and the fetus or embryo. Mother Nature will choose the mother every time,” Dr. Thomas said.
Smoking and alcohol can be reasons too.
The good news is, even with miscarriage, the prognosis is generally good.
“If we reach three consecutive losses that don’t have clear explanations, people are certainly candidates for a more in depth evaluation,” Dr. Thomas said. “Even in those patients, the vast majority, 70 to 80 percent, will ultimately have a successful pregnancy.”
One step women can take to prevent certain types of birth defects that can lead to miscarriage is to take the folic acid supplements if you’re in your 20s, 30s or 40s.
Because sometimes, pregnancy can come as a surprise.