Can lifestyle choices cause miscarriage?

Most miscarriages are not caused by anything you have or have not done. However, there are factors that can increase the risk.

Risks and causes beyond your control

There are some things that increase your risk of miscarriage that are beyond your control. This includes one-off genetic abnormalities, placental problems or problems with the baby, such as spina bifida or heart defects. The risk of miscarriage also increases as both you and the father get older.

Find out more about the causes of miscarriage.

Lifestyle choices that do affect your risk of miscarriage

There is clear evidence that your lifestyle can affect your chance of having a baby, so there are things you can do to try to limit the risk of miscarriage.

Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage, as well as premature birth, low birth weight and stillbirth.

There is some evidence that suggests that men can also increase their partner’s risk of miscarriage by smoking during their partner’s pregnancy or even during the time leading up the pregnancy.

Quitting smoking can be challenging, but there is support available.

Drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs

Using illegal drugs or drinking heavily during pregnancy increases your risk of miscarriage.

There is no amount of alcohol that is considered ‘safe’ to drink during pregnancy, so the Chief Medical Officers for the UK recommend that pregnant women don’t drink any alcohol at all. It can be difficult for some women to avoid alcohol – you might find our tips for an alcohol-free pregnancy helpful.

If you do decide to drink alcohol in pregnancy, try to avoid alcohol completely in the first 3 months. This is when the baby’s brain is developing.

Not managing health conditions properly

Many women with long-term health conditions have healthy pregnancies and babies, but there can be some risks. For example, most women with diabetes have a healthy baby, but if you don’t take care of yourself and your symptoms are not managed properly the risk of miscarriage increases.

The best thing you can do to make sure you and your baby stay well is to talk to your healthcare professional before you start trying for a baby, or as soon as possible if you’re pregnant now.

Not being a healthy weight

Your BMI (body mass index) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is in a healthy range. Having an overweight or underweight BMI before pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage.

Find out more about managing your weight during pregnancy.

Not eating well

You can eat most things during pregnancy, but there are some things that you are advised to avoid because there is a small risk that you may get an infection that could increase your risk of miscarriage.

Read more about what foods to avoid in pregnancy.

Consuming too much caffeine

Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, some soft drinks and energy drinks.

High levels of caffeine during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage and low birth weight. There is also some medical evidence that consuming too much caffeine while you are trying to conceive can also increase the risk of miscarriage. The evidence suggests that this applies to both women and men.

If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you and your partner may find it helpful to get into the habit of limiting your caffeine intake to 200mg a day. This is the same as two mugs of instant coffee a day or one mug of filter coffee.

Use our caffeine calculator to check your daily caffeine intake. 

Myths about the causes of miscarriage

The following things are not linked to an increased risk of miscarriage:

  • stress
  • having sex (unless your doctor has advised you not to)
  • working
  • flying
  • eating spicy food
  • lifting or straining
  • exercising
  • your emotional state, such as being stressed or depressed
  • having a shock or a fright.

What can I do to live a healthier lifestyle in pregnancy?

It’s important to remember that there is nothing you can do that will guarantee that you won’t have a miscarriage. However, we have lots of information about what you can do to reduce the risk and stay as healthy as possible before you try for a baby and during pregnancy.

 
 

Finding out the reasons for miscarriage

Our National Centre for Miscarriage Research is dedicated to finding the reasons for miscarriages that are not caused by lifestyle, or chromosomal abnormalities. This animation describes how we are doing it.

Sources

Wang, L (2018) Paternal smoking and spontaneous abortion: a population-based retrospective cohort study among non-smoking women aged 20-49 years in rural China. Journal of Epidemiol Community Health. 2018 Sep;72(9):783-789. doi: 10.1136/jech-2017-210311. Epub 2018 Jun 11.

The Royal College of obstetricians and gynaecologists (2018) Alcohol and pregnancy https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/patients/patient-leaflets/alcohol-and-pregnancy/

NHS Choices. Drinking alcohol while pregnant https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/alcohol-medicines-drugs-pregnant/ (Page last reviewed: 14/01/2017 Next review due: 14/01/2020)

NICE (2015) Diabetes in pregnancy: management of diabetes and its complications from preconception to the postnatal period, NICE guideline, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2011) Why your weight matters during pregnancy and after birth www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-why-your-weight-matters-during-pregnancy-and-after-birth.pdf

Clinical Knowledge Summaries (Aug 2017) Pre-conception advice and management https://cks.nice.org.uk/pre-conception-advice-and-management

National Institutes of Health (2016) Couples pre-pregnancy caffeine consumption linked to miscarriage risk. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/couples-pre-pregnancy-caffeine-consumption-linked-miscarriage-risk

Food Standards Agency (2019) Food additives www.food.gov.uk/science/additives/energydrinks

NHS Choices. Miscarriage. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/miscarriage/causes/http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-week-by-week.aspx#close (Page last reviewed: 01/06/2018. Next review due: 01/06/2021)

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    Last reviewed on January 13th, 2020. Next review date January 13th, 2023.

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    Comments

    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.
    • By Laims (not verified) on 11 Mar 2020 - 11:57

      Can too much of red pepper cause miscarriage?

    • By Lauren white (not verified) on 6 Jan 2020 - 13:47

      I miscarried my baby at 14 weeks, I have had scans and blood tests baby had no chromosomal abnormalities and the placenta was perfect the only thing I had was Bacterial Vaginosis (which I had from the start of pregnancy and I didn’t no, did tell my consultant of the symptoms and they just said it was normal) and a water infection? Could BV have caused my waters to break? Baby still had heartbeat after my waters had broke two days later and I had to be induced to pass him once heartbeat stopped. My baby passed away due to no fluid he didn’t pass away before. So he was all healthy (according to all tests on him)
      I just would like to no the likelihood of BV causing my waters to break at 14 weeks, so I’m not as anxious next time and I can prevent it with swabs and things from docs when I feel I’m showing symptoms.
      Thanks x

    • By Mercy (not verified) on 21 Oct 2019 - 19:55

      Hi
      Pls am 4 weeks past my ivf embryo transfer...iv been spotting 4 the past one week...i went bck to my ivf hospital and ey told me its too early to see e hrt beat so i shd insect the progesterone ey gv me...am super scared...pls help me...am i losing my baby.

    • By Laura P (not verified) on 11 Sep 2019 - 20:27

      I'm 8 weeks late on my period took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I have my OB appointment on 9/19/19. Just worried because 3 years ago a had a miscarriage. I have no spotting or discharge. My breast however are swollen and tender. I'm hoping all goes well. Hoping to see a heartbeat at my upcoming doctors appointment.

    • By Nadia Haque (not verified) on 19 Aug 2019 - 15:48

      I m in 1st trimester...but I don't have any symptoms of pregnancy.. .Is it normal?? And I have very light bleeding last few days...is it ok In 1st trimester?

    • By Rachel Copeland (not verified) on 19 Aug 2019 - 01:55

      I want advice on miscarriage

    • By Allezey G (not verified) on 13 Aug 2019 - 22:35

      I’m 13weeks 4 days . I was about 104 pounds a couple weeks ago now 101 . I haven’t been taking any vitamins & I been getting cramps & back aches /barley scheduled an appointment for this Friday. Anything I should be worried about?

    • By Mpho Mildred (not verified) on 2 Aug 2019 - 10:31

      I'm 8weeks pregnant and sporting i went to a doctor and he told me the baby is still fine... I'm worried about this sporting

    • By Lesley (not verified) on 21 Jan 2019 - 13:50

      I recently had a miscarriage at 19wks +5, still waiting for result to come back to hopefully shed some light on what the cause could be.

      I've stopped bleeding and waiting for my normal period to come. However my partner and I would like to start trying again after my first period has come. Can I start taking folic acid now or should I wait for my 6 week checkup at the GP?

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 28 Jan 2019 - 15:53

      So sorry to hear about your late miscarriage and we hope that you gain some help and answers from reading the storries on our site. There is no harm in starting with folic acid now. Folic acid is also available in many foods including green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and pulses, eggs and some fortified bread and cereals. Best wishes to you x

    • By Ana Maria (not verified) on 17 Oct 2017 - 07:40

      I was 23 days and spot bleed for 2 days . When I went to the doctor he did a sonogram and said there was nothing in my womb and he recommended I abort. I did abort and now regret it. I should have waited. 23 days is very earlier. Don't go by doctors. You should always go but your gut feelings. I was a victim of a doctors mistake.

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 17 Oct 2017 - 10:12

      Dear Ana Maria,

      Thank you for posting. I am sorry to hear that you felt pressured to make a decision and didn't wait longer to consider your options.

      We are always here for questions or if you need support.

      Warmest wishes
      Anna- Tommy's Midwife


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