Slide 1 of 13
True or false
Miscarriage is a heartbreakingly common experience, ending 15 percent to 20 percent of confirmed pregnancies. Although many women experience miscarriage, this loss has often been shrouded in secrecy, and couples often grieve alone.
Even the common advice that people should wait until the end of the first trimester to announce a pregnancy to family and friends can inadvertently confer stigma, said Dr. Zev Williams, an obstetrician at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Montefiore Health System in New York.
"We tell people when they're pregnant, you know, don't tell anyone," Williams told Live Science. "What we're really telling people is you shouldn't tell anyone."
Perhaps due to the stigma surrounding it, myths about miscarriage persist. Here are some of the most pervasive misconceptions — and the truth about pregnancy loss.
It's mom's faultSlide 2 of 13
It's mom's fault
Many women who experience miscarriage blame themselves. They shouldn't. The majority of miscarriages — 60 percent — are caused by abnormal numbers of chromosomes, according to Williams.
When sperm and egg meet, they each bring 23 DNA-carrying chromosomes to the table, which pair up to create the new embryo's genome. Sometimes, this process goes wrong, causing aneuploidy, or abnormal chromosome numbers instead of pairs. The most well-known type of aneuploidy is probably Down syndrome, which occurs when the embryo has three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two.
Some types of aneuploidy, like Down syndrome, are survivable. Others, like trisomy 18 or trisomy 13, are often fatal after birth. But still other aneuploidies have such a big impact on a fertilized egg that the embryo can't progress in development.
These genetic errors cause most sporadic miscarriages, and have nothing to do with the mother's behavior or choices during pregnancy. [7 Ways Pregnant Women Affect Babies]Slide 3 of 13
If the chromosomes are okay, then something's wrong with momSlide 4 of 13
If the chromosomes are okay, then something's wrong with mom
In cases where an embryo or fetus has the correct number of chromosomes, then it's often assumed that there is something wrong with the mother's health that is causing pregnancy loss, Williams said. But in reality, although aneuploidy is the most common explanation for miscarriage, it is not the only genetic problem that can cause pregnancy loss.
In about 10 percent to 15 percent of cases where the chromosome number is normal, an optical scope in the uterus reveals the fetus to be malformed, Williams said. The problem is that testing a fetus for aneuploidy is a very crude way to measure genetic problems: Problems within chromosomes (as opposed to problems with the number of chromosomes itself) aren't picked up.
A fetus's genome could be missing "10 million nucleotides, and those results would come back as normal," Williams said.
Thus, fetal genetic problems can still cause miscarriages, even if the fetus has the correct number of chromosomes. Detecting these cases requires more sophisticated testing than is typically done (if genetic testing is done at all).Slide 5 of 13
Multiple miscarriages signal infertilitySlide 6 of 13
Multiple miscarriages signal infertility
Most women who miscarry will do so only once or twice. A small percentage, though, go on to have three or more miscarriages — and may despair of ever carrying a baby to term.
But there's lots of reason to hope. A 35-year-old woman who has had three miscarriages in a row still has a 70 percent chance of a successful pregnancy, said Dr. Ruth Lathi, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
"We have the benefit of seeing a lot of women through this diagnosis to the other side," Lathi told Live Science.
Many underlying health causes of miscarriage, such as thyroid issues, uterine growths called fibroids or blood-clotting disorders, are treatable, Lathi said.Slide 7 of 13
The body needs to rest after a miscarriageSlide 8 of 13