Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reduce your risk of miscarriage

24/01/2008 - Sadly Lily, who was expecting her first child with fellow musician Ed Simons, 37, is proof that miscarriages can affect any mum-to be - no matter what your age.

"Around one in five women have had a miscarriage," says Barbara Hepworth-Jones, chair of the Miscarriage Association.

"But once a woman is over 40, her chances of miscarriage increase due to the lack of quality of her eggs.

"Most miscarriages occur before the 12-week stage. And half of all of these early miscarriages are related to a genetic problem such as chromosomal abnormalities."

A chromosome abnormality is when some of the information taken from both parents' genes at conception is lost for no other reason than bad luck.

This means the baby can't develop properly and is miscarried.

Most chromosomal problems happen by chance, have nothing to do with the parents, and are unlikely to reoccur.

"A miscarriage is the body's way of rejecting a pregnancy with abnormalities such as Down's syndrome," adds Roger Neuberg, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and chair of ALSO (UK), an organisation dedicated to saving the lives of mothers and babies.

There can also be physical reasons for miscarriage.

"A common anatomical problem is a weak cervix, which means the cervix is not strong enough to hold the baby. In this case, miscarriage usually happens after 15 weeks," explains Dr Neuberg.

"If this has happened, you can have a stitch put in the neck of the cervix after you fall pregnant again to reduce your risk. It's a quick operation under general anaesthetic and the stitch is removed before you go into labour," says Mervi Jokinen, a spokeswoman for The Royal College of Midwives.

Another is antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), also known as sticky-blood syndrome. This is where the circulation of blood is poor, causing blood clotting, which means the egg can't attach to the uterus lining.

Dr Neuberg explains: "APS can be treated with aspirin to thin the blood. Aspirin stops the blood cells sticking together and creates a better circulation in the lining of the uterus, reducing the risk of miscarriage."

Some women don't make enough progesterone, the hormone that prepares the lining of the uterus to nourish a fertilised egg. If the uterus lining can't sustain an egg, miscarriage will occur.

"A blood test and a biopsy of a small amount of tissue taken from the uterus lining can determine whether you are producing enough progesterone naturally. This hormone imbalance can be caused by diabetes mellitus or thyroid disease," adds Barbara.

"Minor infections such as coughs and colds aren't harmful.

"But a high temperature and some illnesses or infections, such as German measles, may also cause miscarriage. So if you begin to get a temperature, contact your GP,"
says Mervi.

But it's not just body or genetic problems that are to blame. A miscarriage can also be caused by lifestyle choices such as flying and eating certain foods.

"One of the common questions I'm asked is: 'Can I fly?' and I would suggest that if you've had any bleeding, or previous miscarriages, then think twice about going on a long-haul flight," says Dr Neuberg.

"You don't want to be stuck at 30,000 feet having a miscarriage.

Plus, most insurance firms won't give you a holiday policy if you're less than eight-weeks' pregnant.

"You should also avoid putting yourself at risk by not carrying heavy objects or climbing up ladders."

When it comes to food, it's unusual but not uncommon for a miscarriage to be triggered by listeria. This bacteria is found in unpasturised milk and some soft cheeses such as unpasturised brie and Camembert. Listeria is also found in liver pate.

"The bacteria causes food poisoning - we're not sure why this may trigger a miscarriage, but there is a small risk if you're in the first trimester and up to the second trimester, which is six months.

"Ideally, you should avoid unpasturised foods while pregnant,"
says Barbara.

Other lifestyle changes to make concern drinking and smoking.

"Studies have shown that overindulging in alcohol effects the early stages of foetus development," says Mervi.

"Government guidelines suggest you give up alcohol completely. However, if you want to enjoy the odd glass of wine you should be fine.

"But you should stop smoking completely.

"The chemicals in cigarettes narrow the blood vessels and make it difficult for the womb to provide enough blood supply for the baby to develop properly, which can lead to miscarriage."

But often there is just no explanation for why you've lost your baby.

Barbara adds: "It's usually difficult to know the exact cause and most women never find out why they've lost their baby.

"It can be hard to accept that no one can say for certain why it happened.

"But that doesn't mean it's your fault - your miscarriage is unlikely to have happened because of anything you did or didn't do."


Pregnant women who drink more than two cups of coffee a day may double their risk of miscarriage, a new US study from the online American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology claims.

Of 1,063 pregnant women who did not change their caffeine consumption during pregnancy, researchers found women who drank more than 200mg - two cups - had twice the miscarriage risk of a woman who drank no caffeine.

However a spokeswoman from the Royal College of Midwives said: "We commissioned similar research published last year which showed no such link."

Contact The Miscarriage Association on 01924 200799 or visit

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