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Miscarriage

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Illness or Infection

A miscarriage after 20 weeks of gestation is then referred to as a stillbirth. When these losses occur, they are more likely due to maternal factors, such as an illness, than chromosomal abnormalities in your baby.

Diseases like diabetes, when poorly controlled, put women at great risk for miscarriage. If you have diabetes and it is under control with treatment, however, you are no more likely to lose a pregnancy than any other woman. Other illnesses and conditions believed to increase the risk of miscarriage include systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), high blood pressure, and certain infections, such as rubella, mycoplasma (walking pneumonia), toxoplasmosis, herpes simplex and chlamydia. A 2003 study found that women with an infection called bacterial vaginosis were nine times more likely to have a miscarriage than uninfected women.

Hormonal Imbalance

When your body produces too much or too little of certain hormones, your risk of having a miscarriage may increase. Progesterone, a crucial hormone for supporting an early pregnancy, prepares the lining of your uterus to nourish a fertilized egg. If your body doesn't make enough progesterone and the lining of your uterus cannot sustain an egg, your pregnancy may end in miscarriage. Although it hasn't been proven, some researchers believe low levels of progesterone cause between 25 and 40 percent of early miscarriages. A blood test and a biopsy can determine whether your body is producing enough progesterone, and if you have low levels in repeated cycles, you have what is called a luteal phase defect.

High levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) can also affect the quality of your eggs and any resulting embryos. This hormone defect is common in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition characterized by multiple cysts on the ovaries, which may also result in early miscarriage. Systemic maternal endocrine disorders, such as diabetes mellitus and thyroid disease, have also been associated with miscarriage.

Abnormalities of the Uterus and Cervix

Diseases and abnormalities of your internal organs can also lead to miscarriage. Some women are born with a misshapen uterus, while others may develop non-cancerous growths made of muscle tissue called fibroids, or may have scars in their uterus from past surgery. Abnormalities like these can limit space for the growing fetus or interfere with the blood supply to the uterus. An incompetent cervix (a cervix that is too weak to stay closed during pregnancy) can also cause preterm birth and possibly loss of the baby. Although the condition is rare, if a weakened cervix dilates too early in pregnancy, it can result in the expulsion of the fetus from the uterus without labor or any contractions.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, uterine defects are estimated to cause about 15 percent of all miscarriages, although some can be surgically corrected, improving the outlook for future pregnancies. After surgery for uterine abnormalities, 70 to 90 percent of pregnancies are successful.

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