Pregnancy loss often referred to as miscarriage, is the spontaneous termination of a pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation. While it is generally accepted that up to 15% of clinically recognized pregnancies may end in miscarriage, the actual occurrence rate may be much higher due to unrecognized or unconfirmed conceptions. Pregnancy Loss is a traumatic event that can bring with it physical, mental, and emotional pain.
Risk Factors for Pregnancy Loss
Risk factors for pregnancy loss vary greatly and can include maternal age, genetic abnormalities, medical conditions such as uterine abnormalities or diabetes, lifestyle choices such as smoking or substance abuse, exposure to certain environmental toxins and drugs, infections, nutritional deficiencies, and even emotional stress.
Women over 35 have an increased risk; however, this risk is also greater in younger women if they smoke cigarettes or use recreational drugs. Other contributing factors include thyroid disease, lupus and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), blood clotting disorders, nutrient deficiencies such as folate, other hormonal imbalances, inadequate weight gain during pregnancy, chronic illnesses, and exposure to environmental contaminants including x-rays or lead poisoning.
In addition to medical problems associated with pregnancy loss, recent research indicates that psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage. The degree to which this risk increases varies based on the type of stress experienced by women.
Intrauterine Fetal Demise
Intrauterine fetal demise (IUFD), also known as stillbirth, can be devastating for expectant parents, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and heartbroken. IUFD is the death of a fetus inside the uterus before it can survive outside the womb. This type of pregnancy loss typically occurs within the second or third trimester, though in rare cases, it may occur earlier. It is estimated that 1-2% of all pregnancies will result in IUFD, meaning roughly 1 in 200 pregnancies end this way.
The exact cause of IUFD varies from case to case. It can range from physical factors such as infection, genetic abnormalities, umbilical cord complications, placental issues, or maternal health problems to environmental factors like smoking or exposure to toxins. In some cases, however, the cause may remain unknown even after thorough testing and evaluation by healthcare professionals. Regardless of the cause, receiving a diagnosis of IUFD can be an emotionally challenging experience for parents.
Here are eight ways you can reduce the risk of pregnancy loss.
- Maintain a Healthy Diet
Eating a balanced diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals can help reduce the risk of premature labor, pregnancy loss, and other complications. Eating foods such as leafy greens, nuts, legumes, lean proteins, fatty fish, and whole grains helps ensure your body gets all the necessary nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy.
- Get Plenty of Exercises
Regular exercise during pregnancy can reduce the risk of preterm birth and improve overall health for both mother and baby. Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, and light stretching are great ways to stay active without putting too much strain on your body. Pilates is another excellent exercise for pregnant women, as it helps to strengthen the core muscles and improve posture. Additionally, prenatal yoga classes offer a great way to relax and get some physical activity. Whichever type of exercise you choose, be sure to consult with your doctor first and stay mindful of how your body responds.
- Avoid Stressful Situations
High levels of stress can be damaging to both mother and baby. It’s important to find ways to manage stress levels during pregnancy by taking regular breaks throughout the day or engaging in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or guided imagery. Other stress-reducing activities include talking to trusted friends or family members, listening to calming music, reading books and magazines, writing down feelings in a journal, doing yoga, or taking a warm bath. Pregnant women need to take time out of their day and focus on relaxation and self-care. Practicing mindfulness and self-compassion can be beneficial during pregnancy, helping bring about positive emotions such as joy and contentment.
- Visit Your Doctor Regularly
Regular checkups with your healthcare provider during pregnancy are key to ensuring that any potential problems are caught early on so they can be addressed quickly and appropriately. It is recommended that pregnant women visit their doctor at least once every trimester for routine checkups and screenings.
During these visits, your doctor will monitor your blood pressure, weight, and baby’s heartbeat and assess the size of your uterus. Urine tests can also be performed to check for signs of infection or other problems. Other important screenings may include ultrasounds to monitor the growth and development of your baby, genetic testing to look for any potential birth defects, and a glucose tolerance test to see if you have gestational diabetes. Depending on your health history or risk factors, your doctor may also order additional tests.
- Quit Smoking
Exposing yourself or your unborn child to nicotine while pregnant increases the risk for several serious health conditions, including lung defects in babies, premature delivery, low birth weight, stillbirths, placental abruption (when the placenta detaches from the uterus), and more. Therefore it’s important to quit smoking if you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant soon.
- Minimize Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Many environmental toxins have been linked with adverse effects on fetal development. Some of these include pesticides found in food sources or even household products like cleaning supplies. These have potentially harmful chemicals which may increase the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. It’s, therefore, important to limit exposure by using natural cleaning products instead of those with harsh chemicals such as bleach or ammonia-based cleaners.
- Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is especially important during pregnancy because it helps promote blood circulation. It is essential for optimal fetal growth and development as well as reducing the chance of pregnancy complications like preeclampsia (high blood pressure). Drinking plenty of water daily helps keep your fluid levels balanced, which can minimize swelling associated with prenatal edema (excess water retention).
Although there is no surefire way to prevent pregnancy loss, following the advice of your healthcare provider and taking steps such as eating a balanced diet, avoiding smoking, getting regular exercise, managing stress levels, and avoiding certain medications can help reduce the risk. Additionally, staying in tune with your body’s signals by being mindful of any unusual changes or symptoms that may arise during early pregnancy can also be beneficial. If you have experienced one or more pregnancy losses before reaching 20 weeks gestation, talk to your doctor about additional ways to minimize this risk for future pregnancies.