Why did I miscarry and was it my fault?

We have answered some of the most commons questions women and couples have asked our midwives about what causes pregnancy loss.

Unfortunately, we still don’t know why every miscarriage happens. This can be very difficult to come to terms with and can lead to some women and couples unnecessarily blaming themselves. We have answered some common questions that we hope will prevent this. 

Was it my fault?

It is important to know that miscarriages very rarely happen because of something you did or didn’t do. The most common cause of early miscarriages (the most common type of miscarriage) is chromosomal abnormalities in the baby, and these happen by chance.

It is true that there are some lifestyle choices, such as drinking heavily or smoking during pregnancy, that can increase the risk of miscarriage. But miscarriage is common and many women who do everything they can to have a healthy pregnancy still, sadly, lose their baby.

It is also worth remembering that even if something increases your risk of a miscarriage, it doesn’t mean that it was the cause.

Be kind to yourself. Try to remember that it is highly unlikely you did anything to cause a miscarriage.

Was it because I used a sauna?

There is no evidence to suggest that occasionally using saunas, jacuzzies, hot tubs and steam rooms during pregnancy causes miscarriage.

However, the NHS recommends avoiding them because of the risks of overheating, becoming dehydrated and fainting. 

When you use a sauna, jacuzzi, hot tub or steam room, your body is unable to lose heat effectively by sweating. This means your body's core temperature rises and it's possible that a significant rise in your core temperature could be harmful in pregnancy, particularly in the first 12 weeks. Some research has shown that a rise in your body’s core temperature (hyperthermia) increases the risks of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

It is highly unlikely that your miscarriage was caused by using a sauna.

Was it because I drank alcohol early in my pregnancy?

This is very unlikely. If you drank small amounts of alcohol before you realised you were pregnant, the risk of harm to the baby is low. Many women drink alcohol early in their pregnancy because they didn’t realise they were pregnant and go on to have healthy babies. It is highly unlikely that your miscarriage was caused by a couple of drinks.

However, drinking heavily during pregnancy can increase your risk of miscarriage. The more you drink, the greater the risk of harm to your baby.

Was it because I got pregnant so quickly after my last miscarriage?

If you followed your doctor’s advice about when you can try to get pregnant again there is no reason that getting pregnant soon after a miscarriage will affect the outcome of your pregnancy. Try to remember that most couples who miscarry are likely to have a successful pregnancy in the future.

Most miscarriages are a one-off event and there is a good chance of having a successful pregnancy in the future, regardless of how soon you became pregnant again. There is even some evidence that conceiving in the first 6 months after a miscarriage lowers your risk of miscarriage next time.

A very small number of women have a condition that makes them more likely to miscarry, such as diabetes. If this is the case, it is best to follow your doctor’s advice about how to manage your condition well before getting pregnant again.

Sometimes your doctor may be able to find a reason for why you may have miscarried and might be able to provide treatment to help prevent it happening again. For example, if you have or had an infection, which potentially caused the miscarriage, this could be prevented by making sure the infection is cleared before trying for another pregnancy. Again, in cases like this it is best to follow your doctor’s advice.

Whatever your circumstances, there are never any guarantees that you won’t miscarry again. If you do, it does not mean you did anything wrong.

Find out about trying again after a miscarriage

Was it because I took that flight?

No. Flying during pregnancy is safe up to a certain point if you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy. There is no evidence that flying can cause miscarriage (or early labour or your waters to break).

Find out more about flying in pregnancy.

Was it because I ate something wrong?

It is true that food poisoning can slightly increase the risk of miscarriage. However, it’s important to remember that even if you have been ill, this does not necessarily mean that your illness caused you to miscarry – it is likely to be a coincidence.

Read more about foods to avoid in pregnancy.

Was it because I ran for the train?

No. There is no evidence to suggest that exercise causes miscarriage.

It’s understandable to worry that your baby is shaken around as you exercise, but this is not the case. Babies are secure inside the womb.

Find out more about exercise in pregnancy.

Was it because I had an internal examination?

No. There is no evidence that having a vaginal or an abdominal scan will cause a miscarriage or harm your baby.

Was it because of stress at work?

No. It’s natural to get a bit stressed in pregnancy and being concerned about whether anxiety or stress affected your baby is understandable. However, stress is not linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.

If you do feel extremely stressed and are thinking about getting pregnant again, talk to your GP. They will be able to help you access support locally.

If you’re looking for advice from the team call our pregnancy line on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email us at [email protected]. Our midwives are also trained in bereavement support.

Find out more about getting more support after a miscarriage.

Was it because I’m on anti-depressants?

If you needed to take any medication for a mental health condition during your pregnancy, it is not your fault if you miscarried. Mental health conditions need treatment in the same way that physical conditions do.

For some women, the potential risks of taking antidepressants (which do include miscarriage) will outweigh the risks of not treating their condition. Most women with mental health problems have healthy babies, with the right treatment and care.

It is also worth remembering that even if you were taking anti-depressants, this does not mean this caused your miscarriage. Even if something increases your risk of a miscarriage, it doesn’t mean that it was the cause.

Never stop taking any medication for mental health problems before talking to your doctor. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms. It could also make your symptoms come back or get worse.

Find out more about taking antidepressants in pregnancy.

If you have or had a mental health problem in the past and you’re planning to have a baby, it’s ideal to talk to your doctor before you become pregnant. Find out more about planning a pregnancy with a pre-existing mental health condition.

Was it because I had sex?

Sex during pregnancy is safe unless your doctor or midwife has told you not to. If your pregnancy is normal with no complications, having sex and orgasms won’t cause a miscarriage.

You will be advised to avoid sex if:

  • your waters have broken
  • there are any problems with the entrance to your womb (cervix)
  • you’re having more than one baby or had previously had early labours and are in the latter stages of pregnancy
  • your placenta is covering the entrance to your womb (a low-lying placenta).

If you or your partner are having sex with other people during your pregnancy, it’s important to use a barrier form of contraception, such as a condom. Sexually transmitted infections [AT18] such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea may cause miscarriage.

Read more about sex and pregnancy.

Was it because I’ve had an abortion before?

No. Having an abortion does not increase your risk of having a miscarriage (or ectopic pregnancy or low-lying placenta). However, you may have a slightly higher risk of premature birth.

Find out more about abortions and future pregnancies.

Was it because I had the flu jab?

There is no evidence that the flu vaccine can cause miscarriage. Getting the flu in pregnancy can cause complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia, premature birth and even stillbirth. Public health authorities in the UK recommend that every pregnant woman has the flu jab to reduce these risks.

Find out more about getting the flu jab in pregnancy.

Was it because I bought a baby grow? 

No. If you started making plans or buying things for your baby, you did not somehow ‘tempt fate’ and cause a miscarriage.

Early miscarriage (a pregnancy loss in the first trimester) is common, which is why many women and couples choose not to tell family and friends that they are pregnant until after 3 months. But everyone has the right to get excited about having a baby from the moment they discover they are pregnant (or even before). You don’t have to wait if you want to tell people or start preparing. This does not affect the outcome of any pregnancy.

Support after a miscarriage

Miscarriages can be devastating and there is still a lot we don’t know about them. Sadly, you may never find out why it happened to you, which can be extremely difficult to accept and sometimes lead to negative and irrational thoughts.

If you are concerned about your mental or physical health, or are struggling to cope after losing a baby, please talk to your doctor. They will be able to tell you more about how to access support locally or get a referral. 

You can also talk to a Tommy’s midwife free of charge from 9-5 Monday to Friday on 0800 0147 800 or email [email protected]. Our midwives are also trained in bereavement support.

Find out more about getting more support after a miscarriage.

Tommy’s research into miscarriage

1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss or preterm birth – and most parents never find out the real reason why. Our research is entirely dedicated to finding out why miscarriages happen and how to prevent it in the future.

Find out more about our Tell me why campaign.

Sources

Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (2016) Early miscarriage https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-early-miscarriage.pdf

NHS Choices. Is it safe to use a sauna or jacuzzi if I’m pregnant? https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/is-it-safe-to-use-a-sauna-or-jacuzzi-if-i-am-pregnant/ (Page last reviewed: 30/4/2019. Next review due: 30/04/2022)

Moretti ME et al. (2005) Maternal hyperthermia and the risk for neural tube defects in offspring: systematic review and meta-analysis. Epidemiology. 2005 Mar;16(2):216-9.

The Royal College of obstetricians and gynaecologists (2018) Air Travel and pregnancy. https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/air-travel-pregnancy.pdf

Kangatharan C, et al. Interpregnancy interval following miscarriage and adverse pregnancy outcomes: systematic review and meta-analysis. Human Reproduction Update (2016) doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmw043

NHS Choices. Foods to avoid in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/foods-to-avoid-pregnant/ (Page last reviewed: 23/01/2017 Next review due: 23/01/2020)  

The Royal College of obstetricians and gynaecologists. Alcohol and pregnancy (Last reviewed in February 2015 Next review due January 2018) https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-alcohol-and-pregnancy.pdf

NICE (2008). Antenatal care: NICE clinical guideline 62. National Institute for health and care excellence http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62/resources/guidance-antenatal-care-pdf

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Miscarriage in Early Pregnancy (Last reviewed: September 2013 Next review due: April 2015) https://www.nlg.nhs.uk/content/uploads/2014/04/Miscarriage-in-Early-Pregnancy-IFP-0525.pdf

NHS Choices. Antidepressants https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antidepressants/ (Page last reviewed: 14/10/2015. Next review due: 01/10/2018)

NICE (2013) Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance National Institute for Health and Care Excellence https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192

NHS Choices. Chlamydia complications. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chlamydia/complications/ (Page last reviewed: 04/06/2018 Next review due: 04/06/2021)

NHS Choices. Gonorrhoea complications. www.nhs.uk/conditions/gonorrhoea/complications/ (Page last reviewed: 09/04/2018 Next review due: 09/04/2018)  

[1] Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (2012) Abortion care https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-abortion-care.pdf

NHS Choices. The flu jab in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/flu-jab-vaccine-pregnant/ (Page last reviewed: 25/08/2016. Next review due: 31/08/2019)

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    Last reviewed on December 14th, 2019. Next review date December 14th, 2022.

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