Miscarriages have been thrust into the limelight in the last few months as the Utah House and Senate overwhelmingly passed an abortion bill that allows women who miscarry to face homicide charges. Proponents of the bill argue that some pregnant women engage in reckless behavior that could lead to miscarriage. Opponents of the bill, logically, argue that the bill is unfair to women, that defining reckless behavior is subjective, miscarriages can happen before a women even knows she’s pregnant, and that a sentence to life in prison is unfair in cases of miscarriages.
Although as many as 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, the matter is often kept secretive, as it often results in great emotional pain, sadness, or even embarrassment. Miscarriage, then, is the loss of a pregnancy in the first twenty weeks, most often in the first three months.
Contrary to what the Utah House and Senate officials may believe, most miscarriages—up to seventy percent—occur due to random chromosomal abnormalities. The most common abnormality is that either the egg or sperm had too many or too few chromosomes, inhibiting the fertilized egg from normal development. Miscarriage can also occur if an egg doesn’t properly plan itself in the uterus or if the embryo develops structural defects. Health conditions in the mother, including a previous miscarriage, untreated diabetes, thyroid disease, infections, hormonal imbalances, problems with the uterus or cervix, or smoking, drinking alcohol, or doing illegal drugs can also cause a woman to miscarry. Women over forty are twice as likely to miscarry than younger women.
In light of the Utah bill, it’s important to note that routine activities such as exercising, lifting, straining, having sex, or working in a safe environment (not being exposed to harmful chemicals or working in an area of potential danger) do not cause miscarriages.
Although vaginal spotting or bleeding is the earliest detectable sign of a miscarriage, many women experience this normally during the first months of their pregnancies. Other symptoms of miscarriage include persistent crams or abdominal pain, especially when combined with spotting or bleeding.
If you think you have miscarried, it’s important to see a doctor. A medical professional will likely do a pelvic exam to see if your cervix is dilated in preparation for delivering the baby and an ultrasound to check the fetus’s heartbeat and physical development. Blood tests and tissue tests can also confirm miscarriage.
If you have miscarried, the most common treatments are using medication to cause the body to expel the tissue and placenta or a surgical procedure to suck the tissues out of the uterus. Surgical treatment is often necessary for miscarriages.
Although you may recover from the miscarriage procedure quickly, it may take a while to recover emotionally. Miscarriage can be heartbreaking and disappointing or even angering. As always in difficult times, it’s important to surround yourself with family members and friends who love you and will support you. If your feelings persist, it may be beneficial to seek professional counseling.