IVF and Miscarriage

Miscarriages are an extremely difficult complication of pregnancy, both emotionally and physically. Facing the loss of an unborn child is a possibly the worst consequence of certain fertility treatments as well, and this article describes how and why this might happen.

What is a miscarriage?

A miscarriage is a spontaneous end to a pregnancy before week 20, when the developing foetus is still unable to survive without its mother. A miscarriage is also referred to as a spontaneous abortion, and can happen in any one of a number of ways for a range of different reasons. Many times the reason for a miscarriage is unknown, which can be particularly hard for parents to accept.

Most miscarriages actually occur very early on in a pregnancy, with anywhere between 60-75% occurring within the first trimester (3 months) of pregnancy. Many miscarriages, particularly those that occur early on, are a result of genetic aberrations that are one off events that have nothing to do with the parents, or any of their behaviours.

Bleeding is the typical presentation of a miscarriage, although is not necessarily a sure sign of miscarriage. About half of women who experience bleeding during their pregnancy will go on to miscarry, while the other half are described as having a threatened abortion.

IVF and miscarriages

Age is probably the biggest factor dictating the likelihood of miscarriage after a cycle of IVF. The link between age and fertility is well known, with fertility dropping as you get older, particularly past the age of 40. The same principle applies to IVF and pregnancy in general, the older you are the more likely a miscarriage.

IVF can in fact provide a lower rate of miscarriage because of the nature of the process, which involves the selection of the best embryos before implantation. This means that only viable embryos are introduced, and as a large percentage of natural miscarriages are due to non-viable embryos, IVF automatically drops the risk of miscarriage by its very nature. The advancement of certain techniques like metabolomics, a process by which the best and most viable embryos are selected for IVF, means that the chances for a miscarriage are even lower than initially thought.

What can I do about miscarriages?

Miscarriages are part of the natural pregnancy process, which is little comfort if you are at risk of one or have suffered one recently, but it’s important to remember that a miscarriage is largely out of your control. The only steps you can take are to improve your general health and avoid toxins like cigarette smoke and alcohol which directly increase the chances of miscarriage. If you experience any of the symptoms of miscarriage, namely abdominal cramps and vaginal bleeding, then seek medical attention as quickly as possible.

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