The Truth about Miscarriages and Infertility
I was recently asked my views on miscarriage and the fact that it is quite taboo. But, why? 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage at some point in their reproductive journey and 1 in 8 women will face challenges of some sort when trying to conceive. If it’s so common, why are we so afraid to talk about it? I have a few theories like death in general is usually an uncomfortable. Death of a child is really uncomfortable. Also, just because it’s common, doesn’t mean you won’t come across people who have never experienced it. For those people, it can be very uncomfortable because they may not know what to do or say to be supportive.
I think this is the ultimate reason that people don’t venture into the discussion of miscarriage because they are uneducated on it. When asked, many adults can not tell you an actual reason for miscarriage. People have no clue what causes infertility issues, miscarriage, or even stillbirth. If we don’t understand the problem, how can we properly support someone going through it? If we don’t know the basis of what’s happening, how can you be helpful? You can’t..or at least, it’s really really hard.
The first thing to understand are the type of infertility challenges that couples can face. Primary Infertility refers to infertility challenges while trying for a first child. Secondary Infertility refers to couples who are struggling to conceive, but already have a child or children. Couples who have adopted then struggle to conceive are considered to be in the Secondary Infertility camp. There’s also Female-Factor Infertility and Male-Factor Infertility. Finally, you have sub-categories like age-related infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, situational infertility, and unexplained infertility.
Let’s break it down, so you know what can be a possible cause of pregnancy loss:
Genetic Abnormalities account for upwards of 70% of miscarriages. This means that the genetic wiring of the embryo was not sustainable. It’s a very primal example of survival of the fittest. Embryos that have strong genetics will be more likely to survive and become a viable pregnancy. Some genetic abnormalities will be compatible with life like Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) and some will not.
Hormone Imbalances can be a huge contributor to infertility issues. Your body’s “hormonal puzzle” must line up just right to be in the perfect state to conceive and for that embryo to develop into a healthy pregnancy. There are numerous hormone imbalances that can impact fertility. Speak with your healthcare provider about lab tests that will give you insight to your adrenals and reproductive hormones.
Anatomical Abnormalities/Structural Abnormalities interfere with fertility if the shape of your uterus is preventing implantation or a fallopian tube is blocked. It may also be growths like fibroids or septums that prevent a healthy pregnancy.
Blood Incompatibility between the birth parent and baby can cause issues, too. There is something called Rh Factor and you can be Rh+ or Rh-. If the gestational parent is Rh- and the partner is Rh+, then there’s a chance that the baby is Rh+, too. This is dangerous as the birthing parents’ antibodies can cross the placenta and be harmful to the baby.
Advanced Maternal Age impacts infertility because as women age, their eggs experience chromosomal changes and this can lead to genetic mutations or birth defects. “AMA” is defined as any pregnancy of a person who is over 35 years old, but today, 15% of birthing people are over 35 years old. The concern is an increased risk of Trisomy 21, but at age 35, the risk is only 1 in 240. At age 40, it jumps up to 1 in 53.
Maladaptive Immune Response can also be the cause of infertility challenges. When an egg and a sperm get together, your body will recognize this mass of cells as foreign (duh!), but the natural process of pregnancy is for your body to soon realize that while it’s foreign, it’s also supposed to be there. Sometimes, your body doesn’t realize it and will always attack the embryo, preventing pregnancy. There are also a few inherited blood-clotting disorders that may cause problems when trying to conceive.
Miscarriage and infertility challenges impact millions of humans everyday. Women, and men, walk around with the heaviness that accompanies the deep desire to be a parent and the inability to conceive. There is power in numbers and this population of people is only growing as the days go by. I encourage you to share your story with others. If we don’t give people the safe spaces to learn about these hard places in life, how will we, as a society, get to a place where we are properly supporting those walking this path of pain and despair?
Remember, the reason that a miscarriage occurred is none of your business if it’s not shared with you first (also they may not know-- and you don’t want to be the asshole to dig that knife just a bit deeper). You should never ask someone their cause of infertility. Keep in mind that talking about a miscarriage experience is not the same as asking for advice.
Final Words from HeHe: so many women who have experienced miscarriage share that they wished someone would just ask about it. Many times, you can’t do anything to make the pain (physical and emotional) go away and words won’t fix it either. Sometimes, simply listening and being is the most supportive thing you can offer someone.