Causes of miscarriage commonly misunderstood

November 1, 2013
Susan C. Olmstead

Ms. Olmstead is the Editorial Director of Contemporary OB/GYN.

A new survey reveals that the public is misinformed about the causes and prevalence of miscarriage.

 

The general public is misinformed about the causes of miscarriage, and miscarriage is still a source of guilt and shame for many women, according to a recent survey.

The survey designers claim that this was the first national assessment of the general US population regarding causes of miscarriage and the impact of personal history on these perceptions. It consisted of an online questionnaire administered to 1083 adults in 48 states. Fifty-five percent were female and 15% reported a history of miscarriage.

The researchers found that many respondents believed miscarriage to be far less common than it is: 55% of respondents believed that miscarriages occurred in fewer than 6% of all pregnancies.

Although physicians are aware that most miscarriages are caused by chromosomal anomalies, among the respondents, many believed that miscarriage could be caused by a stressful event (76%), by lifting a heavy object (64%), or previous use of oral contraception (22%) or IUD (28%).

Of those who had had a miscarriage, 40% felt that they had done something wrong to cause the miscarriage; 27% felt ashamed; 40% felt alone; and 47% felt guilty.

 

 

“The false perceptions and lack of understanding about miscarriage … contribute to many women and couples feeling isolated and alone after suffering from a miscarriage,” said S. Zev Williams, MD, PhD, a coauthor of the study, in an Albert Einstein College of Medicine press release.

Public disclosures of miscarriages by celebrities and public figures helped with feelings of isolation for 28% of respondents. Seventy-eight percent reported that they would want to know the cause of their miscarriage even if there were nothing that they could have done to prevent it. Women reported feeling less guilty about a miscarriage if a cause was found.

“Miscarriage is perceived as a very emotionally painful but rare event and results in feelings of guilt and isolation,” the researchers noted in the study. “More open discussion of miscarriage and disclosures by celebrities and public figures would likely help in educating the public and ameliorate the secrecy and shame. Identifying a cause of miscarriage, even if no intervention is available, can be quite beneficial.”

The results of the study were presented at the International Federation of Fertility Societies/American Society for Reproductive Medicine joint annual meeting in Boston on October 16.

 

Bardos JD, Friedenthal J, Williams Z. Oral Session: Early Pregnancy II: Public perceptions of miscarriage: a national population based survey. Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY.