Common Misconceptions About Miscarriage

JUNE 25, 2015
Rachel Lutz
Miscarriage is widely misunderstood by the public, according to a recent survey of more than 1000 US adults.

“Miscarriage is a traditionally taboo subject that is rarely discussed publicly,” explained survey investigator Zev Williams, MD, PhD, in a press release. “…We need to better educate people about miscarriage, which could help reduce the shame and stigma associated with it.”

To assess public perceptions of miscarriage and its causes, Dr. Williams and colleagues asked US adults 33 related questions, 10 of which were specifically directed toward men and women reporting a history of miscarriage, who comprised 15% of the 1084 respondents.

Based on the survey results, the research team described and debunked the following miscarriage misconceptions:

Myth #1: Miscarriages are uncommon.
More than half of respondents believed that miscarriages are “uncommon,” which the survey defined as occurring in <6% of all pregnancies. In reality, miscarriages are by far the most common pregnancy complications, ending 1 in every 4 pregnancies.

Myth #2: Smoking and drinking during pregnancy causes most miscarriages.
About one-quarter of participants thought that smoking or consuming alcohol during pregnancy causes the majority of miscarriages. In actuality, 60% of miscarriages are caused by genetic problems, such as abnormal chromosomes.

Other established causes of miscarriage include structural abnormalities of the uterus, endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, and autoimmune disorders such as anti-thyroid antibodies.

Myth #3: Stress can cause miscarriage.
Three-quarters of survey participants erroneously believed that a stressful event or long-term stress could cause a miscarriage. Other events incorrectly perceived as causes of miscarriage included:
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Previous intrauterine device or oral contraceptive use
  • Getting into an argument
Resulting shame and stigma
Among respondents who had a miscarriage, 47% reported feeling guilty about it, 41% felt they had done something wrong, 41% said they felt alone, and 28% reported feeling ashamed. More than half of participants indicated they did not receive adequate emotional support from health care providers.

“Because miscarriage is very common but rarely discussed, many women and couples feel very isolated and alone after suffering a miscarriage,” Dr. Williams noted. “…We want people who experience miscarriage to know that they’re not alone—that miscarriages are all too common and that tests are available to help them learn what caused their miscarriage, and hopefully to help them in subsequent pregnancies.”

Nearly half of those who had a miscarriage felt less alone when friends disclosed their miscarriages, and 28% reported that similar disclosure from celebrities eased their feelings of isolation.

The survey results were published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.
 


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