Solving the Mystery of Miscarriages

Centers help find explanations and treatments when pregnancies repeatedly don’t succeed

June 15, 2015 1:29 p.m. ET

(Reposted in part from

About one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Yet doctors and parents learn the reason why only about half the time.

A few clinical research centers have opened around the country in recent years to help find explanations when pregnancies repeatedly don’t succeed. The centers also study new treatments they hope will help patients boost the chances of a successful pregnancy the next time around.

Just over half of miscarriages occur when a fetus has too many or too few chromosomes from the time of fertilization, doctors say. Most women in this situation go on to have a healthy baby in a future pregnancy. It’s the rest of them that stump doctors.

The Program for Early and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, or Pearl, provides clinical services to women who have had multiple miscarriages for reasons that aren’t clear. An estimated 5% of couples experience recurring miscarriages. Two other centers affiliated with large institutions also conduct clinical research on miscarriages, including at Stanford University and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The centers might conduct genetic testing, look for hidden infections or hunt for mysterious immune disorders, among other techniques.

Shedding light on the causes and potential treatments after a miscarriage also gives people an emotional boost. “So often after miscarriage women and couples blame themselves. If you can tell a woman this was the molecular basis for your miscarriage, it had nothing to do with what you did, that gives huge relief to the patient,” says Zev Williams, director of the Pearl program, located at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System in New York City.

Please head on over to the Wall Street Journal to read the rest!


The loneliness of losing a baby

By Lucy Taylor
February 1, 2010
From The Daily Mail

When I discovered I was pregnant in October, I felt so many different emotions it’s difficult to know where to start.

I was shocked because of my age – 38 – and the fact my partner and I had been trying for only a couple of months. As women are bombarded with the message that our chances of conceiving naturally after the age of 35 are virtually zero, I had assumed we’d almost certainly need some form of medical intervention, and even then I knew there were no guarantees.

When the shock dissipated, I felt excitement verging on elation. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve wanted to be a mother.

But over the years, as relationships failed to work out, I focused on my career as a journalist, instead. I enjoyed the single life. I travelled widely. It took me a long time to grow up and realise what was really important in life.

But as the years marched by and (I like to think) I started to grow up, I also began to confront the reality that I might never be a mother.

I fleetingly considered single motherhood and started making inquiries about adoption. Then I met my partner. It wasn’t the mad, passionate, love-at-first-sight thing I’d spent (wasted?) so much of my life dreaming about.

But thank goodness I realised before it was too late that real love bears little resemblance to love in the movies, novels and our fantasies.

It was different from any of my previous relationships. In the past, I’d been drawn to high-risk, roller-coaster affairs or men who just weren’t interested in me.

My partner is the opposite. He’s secure in himself, funny, mature – and he loves me. It took a little bit of adjusting because I was so used to being with egotistical rogues who were too busy loving themselves to love anyone else.

But I began to realise how lucky I was to have found one of the good guys. He was as keen as I was to start a family.

When I found out I was pregnant, as well as the excitement there was also fear. I was afraid of so many things. We’re not supposed to talk about this in a culture that romanticises pregnancy and motherhood, but many women feel huge anxiety and ambivalence about what lies ahead.

I was afraid something might be wrong with the baby. I was afraid I wouldn’t feel that overwhelming rush of love you’re supposed to experience. I was afraid of losing my identity as a woman and being subsumed by the role of a mother.

I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and fear. My partner was working 50 miles away and, for some reason, I decided not to contact him

I was anxious at the loss of my previous care-free, independent life. I was afraid that the couple of glasses of wine I’d had before I knew I was pregnant would have caused some damage.

The thing I was most terrified of was having a miscarriage. One of my friends had become withdrawn and had sunk into a deep depression after losing her baby at 15 weeks. I was worried about how I’d cope with the physical and emotional pain of such a complicated loss.

Because I am superstitious (even though I know it’s nonsensical), I avoided buying any pregnancy books and even tried, unsuccessfully, to avoid thinking about names.

I loitered one afternoon at the pregnancy and childbirth section in a bookshop, flicking through books, but coming up with the illogical conclusion that if I bought one, something bad would happen.

Then, in my eighth week, I was suddenly filled with optimism. Everything was going to be OK, I thought. I bought two bottles of champagne for our respective families on Christmas Day, which would be the 13-week mark and the day we’d planned to share our good news.

And I couldn’t resist it. I bought a pregnancy manual and Lennart Nilsson’s famous and awe inspiring book, A Child Is Born. I spent hours looking at those spectacular pictures of life inside the womb, and read about the miraculous journey from fertilisation to birth.

And then, a few days later, I woke up and felt drastically different. I hadn’t had many pregnancy symptoms, but the most acute – tender breasts – had disappeared overnight.

There was a little bleeding, but no pain. Though I knew bleeding during early pregnancy is common and not necessarily an ominous sign, I just knew I was having a miscarriage.

I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and fear. I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen next. My partner was working 50 miles away and, for some reason I don’t fully understand, I decided not to contact him.

Instead, I lay on my bed for a little while and cried. Then I went online. I clicked frantically from one website to another. I must have read 100 of them. Among the mountain of information, I stumbled across the fact that a miscarriage could take up to four weeks.

The thought of not knowing for sure for such a long time seemed utterly unbearable, so I contacted NHS 24 (the telephone health advice and information service for Scotland). I was looking more for reassurance than anything else. I just wanted someone to tell me what was happening.

A couple of hours later, I was phoned back and told to go to the local out-of-hours emergency medical service.

There, a nurse asked why I was crying. I said it was because I thought I was having a miscarriage. She did a pregnancy test and announced breezily and confidently that it was positive and suggested I just had a urine infection.

I told her it can take up to nine weeks for the pregnancy hormone hCG to leave the system following a miscarriage (I’d read that on one of the websites). With a scowl of disapproval, she passed me over to a doctor. He was far more sympathetic and explained that I was almost certainly having a miscarriage.

He said they were extremely common – about 25 per cent of pregnancies do not go to term, with half of first pregnancies ending in miscarriage, mainly before 12 weeks.

But it is rarely talked about. Unfortunately, there was little that could be done, he said, other than to let nature run its course. He advised me to get some painkillers. But on the way to the chemist, I began to experience the most agonising pain I’ve ever had in my life.

Somehow, I managed to drive myself to a shopping centre with a branch of Boots. After I parked, in a numb haze, I tried to lower the car seat and lie down. But I was in too much pain. I desperately needed help. I stumbled, doubled-over, across a road and collapsed outside a shop.

The first man who passed me must have thought I was a drug addict or alcoholic. He hurried by with his head turned away.

A second man stopped and asked if I was OK. I shook my head and told him I thought I was going to pass out. He helped me walk the 30 yards to Boots, where the staff called an ambulance. (If that man reads this: thank you! I think of him as my good Samaritan, but I was in far too much shock and agony to thank him at the time.)

In the ambulance, I was given gas and air, which took away the pain.

At A&E, I lay on a trolley for a while feeling guilty for taking up time because the pain had disappeared. But a bigger shock was to come. Once I was in a cubicle, I was asked to give a urine sample.

That was when I passed what is known clinically as the ‘products of conception’. I tried not to, but I wanted to stare. I even had an irrational urge to take a photograph. But I was too traumatised to do anything.
Even now, I have occasional flashbacks of what was the beginning of a human life. My partner arrived a short while later and we just cried and hugged each other.

Back home, I slept through the next two days. I didn’t want to get up. I was still too scared in case the pain returned and of facing the world with this secret, private loss.I didn’t want to see Lennart Nilsson’s book, which was still lying on the living room floor.

I didn’t want to open my fridge and see all the healthy food I’d been buying since I’d found out I was pregnant. I didn’t want to switch on my computer and be reminded of all those pregnancy and parenting websites. But I knew I couldn’t hide under my duvet for ever.

I knew I had to get up and get on with it. The first thing I had to do was have a scan to make sure the miscarriage was complete.

I went through this procedure, which is carried out at an early pregnancy assessment unit, in a daze.
Two of the women in the waiting room were gazing adoringly at the pictures of their unborn babies. One had six images on a strip and kept holding them up for all to see.

A nurse asked if I’d mind letting a third pregnant woman nip in before me as she had to pick up her other child from nursery. I nodded and then turned my head away in an attempt to hide my tears. Talk about feeling like a third-class citizen.

I wanted to scream at those women and ask them to show an ounce of sensitivity. But I knew I couldn’t do that. I knew it wasn’t their fault. It’s hard to describe the feeling of lying down in the examination room, knowing that the three women before me would have been oohing and aahing and full of joy, while I was looking at the black emptiness on the screen.

The midwife said it was ‘good news’ because it was completely straightforward and there was no need for any further procedures. I stumbled through the next few days.

I was acutely aware of losing something, but it didn’t feel like a son or daughter. It felt more like the loss of hope, optimism and excitement for the future.

And there was a massive feeling of disappointment at not being able to share the news with our families on Christmas Day. I threw myself into work and told myself I’d coped remarkably well.

My partner kept asking if I was really OK. He was worried I wasn’t dealing with it. I thought I had dealt with it.

In fact, I felt proud of the way I’d survived the pain. I felt strong – stronger than I’d ever felt in my life. But it was all a false sense of optimism. In mid-January, it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.
Two of my friends had given birth and sent me pictures of their cute, adorable baby boys. I went shopping for gifts of toys and baby clothes. Then one night last week, I was having a bath when I started crying harder than I’ve ever cried in my life.

I didn’t think I was going to be able to stop. It was uncontrollable, child-like sobbing. I had a horrible, but strong feeling of being poisonous inside and of being a worthless person, incapable of doing anything right.

Because I hadn’t told friends or family about the pregnancy or miscarriage, I had been avoiding people in case I broke down in front of them. I moped around the house, feeling unable to do anything – even washing my hair felt like an insurmountable task.

I found myself sinking into the depths of despair. I went back to those websites and read about women who’d had two, three or more miscarriages and I wondered how on earth they coped.

But I know that humans are amazingly adaptable beings. I know that we do cope with whatever life throws in our path.

My partner and I will try again for a baby, but probably not for a few months. We need to grieve properly for this loss first.

Reposted from The Daily Mail

No, not ‘everything happens for a reason’.

By parentmemories

That’s what well meaning people say when they don’t know what to say. I mean, what do you say to someone who has had a miscarriage? You would think that there is some sort of comfort in that expression, but I can’t see it. I know that what people mean to say is that the miscarriage happened for a biological reason. The cells computed and knew that the baby would not be healthy. So they terminated to save us the later pain. Logically, I understand it. I really do. Emotionally, I am at a loss. Literally.

Having experienced three miscarriages, it now puts me in the very lonely 1% of women who have experienced the same thing. As I write, I hope that the thoughts put in words may help me make sense of something which has yet to make sense to me. I want to translate the very physical feelings of emotions into words. I feel waves, tidal waves of emotion that start from the very bottom of my stomach, they engulf me, rise up in my chest and find an outlet through my eyes. In other words, I have been crying a lot. Randomly. Any time of the day and anything can set me off.

People cannot truly empathise with this unless they have been through it. And I have been through it three times. I can hardly believe the number myself. One, two, three. Three. It took me a while to get my head round that. I do not know anyone else who has had as many as me. The last seven months have been a waking nightmare for me and I cannot yet see where it will end. Before I had my daughter, it was the one thing I feared the most. Losing my child. Whenever I heard or read of anyone who had a miscarriage, my heart went out to them. It was something that was just so sad and heartbreaking. The hopes and dreams; reading the baby books, how they would tell their family, how they would decorate the nursery. The mother carries all of that in the very physical sense. No caffeine, no chemicals, no soft cheese, no medication etc etc. She is the one who takes the folic acid and nourishes the life within her, the one who has secret conversations with her unborn child. But when it is extinguished? It is something a mother remembers and is imprinted on her for life. And now I am one of those women I sympathised with.

Experiencing it once was beyond horrific. The statistics say it is common – one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage. That is how we consoled ourselves, trying to believe the lie ‘it was not meant to be’. I lived my own worst fear and nightmare. Lying down in the sonographer’s room willing there to be a heartbeat. Not being able to breathe, staring at the plastic light, hearing the words ‘I’m sorry, I cannot see a heartbeat’. How can that be when we saw it two weeks previously in an early scan? What I wouldn’t give to see my healthy baby and heartbeat at that critical twelve week milestone. I broke down each time, falling apart; the tears would not stop as my husband held me in that dark room. Shock, despair, disbelief; being utterly numb and inconsolable. Everything was an effort. Even walking back to the car, putting one foot in front of the other, forcing myself to keep going and not stop there and then and just curl up in a wreck of emotion. I forced myself to eat. Every bite, chew and swallow was tasteless. That one singular night of limbo. Carrying my dead baby, waiting for the morning to come to go to the hospital and be evacuated. They call it products of conception.

The procedure is horrific. I remember stepping out the door in the morning, knowing that when I returned, I would be empty: physically and emotionally. I walked in that hospital wondering if anyone could see the physical pain I was carrying. I cried countless times to strangers. The nurse, midwife, anaesthetist, doctor. I signed the forms, lay in the gown, had my blood and blood pressure taken, was injected with needles, gas. The rest is a blur. I woke so hollow. Not in physical pain, but emotional. For those medical staff, it is their job; day in, day out. To me, it is something I will live with forever. They heal the physical side, but the emotional impact remains infinitely. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was no longer carrying my baby. In the weeks ahead, I rubbed my stomach, momentarily forgetting I was no longer pregnant. Until the realisation and reality set in. I experienced the bleeding, the hormone crashes – but had no baby to show for it. I’m not sure how I endured those first days. Painkillers and restless sleep, I think.

Times that by three miscarriages.

It did not get easier. It was just as painful each time. Each time was a new baby, a new hope, a new future. Each time I wondered how I could put my husband, myself and my body through it again. Somehow, I gathered some seeds of hope and optimism and planted them; but nothing grew. I wonder if there is going to come a point when I say no, I can’t do it again. I could just about bear the procedure and be stripped of all dignity that comes with it. But the sadness, it dragged me under. I was fighting a tide, and I couldn’t swim. I credit my husband and a few close friends for pulling me to shore and stopping me losing myself completely to grief. Above all else, I am a mother. I had to be strong for my little girl. Someday a long, long time from now I may tell her about her lost brothers and sisters. I want to her to know how thankful I am for her dogged persistence at getting me to play, laugh, smile, dance, jump, read and sing with her. She is the one who brought me back to life each time.

In the weeks following, I couldn’t help thinking (or torturing myself) that our hopes and dreams in our baby had been reduced to a mass of cells to be scraped out and put in a container of some sort. Then what? Is it incinerated? Many a time I thought about the afterlife. I am not religious, but I thought about souls. Whether my babies had them and if I would meet them one day. Whether they are looking down on us. Whether they are together. No matter the stage of the pregnancy, I think of them as our babies. It’s hard not to when we saw two heartbeats. Beating hearts. Twice. What makes a heart beat – then stop? I think of those babies as little lights that flickered and went out. Our daughter is the very roaring, breathing fire of a girl. She got us through so many dark times. But she couldn’t understand why mummy and daddy were sad. Sometimes, she was the only thing that got me up in the morning. I would smile and laugh with her during the day, but on the inside my heart was breaking. Over and over again. When I put her to bed, the loneliness and emptiness would return. I wanted to go pick her up, hold her and keep her in my bed to stave away the heartbreak.

It was so hard to honour those little lights with our love when we had no tangible mementoes. We tried to forget to ease the pain, but I thought I was doing those babies a disservice by moving on and trying to be happy. The pain, grief, loss and bereavement were all too real for me. They were my shadows and constant companions. I could be anywhere – stuck in traffic, at work, doing the dishes, watching TV and I would start to wonder what those babies would have been like. Boy or girl? Independent? Charming? Introvert? Part of my pain is never getting to meet them, kiss them, love them like I do with my daughter. Whenever I read silly social media moans and gripes, they faded into insignificance. Try walking the last seven months in my shoes, I think. Then tell me your problems were the worst thing ever. I never got angry, but I was occasionally bitter.

When I am asked how many children I have, I say one, but I really mean four. I am the mother to four children, but just one living. Many women, myself included, did not tell friends and family about being pregnant. In case anything happens. But when it does go wrong, then who is there to console us? In our case, very few people knew. I chose not to tell my family because I knew it would break their hearts. They still don’t know. My husband and I concealed something so sad and significant in our lives to so many. On the outside, there was nothing wrong. I doubt our friends would guess. We plastered on smiles to cover the concrete cracks underneath. To me, it was a wide, open chasm – I could hardly see the other side. I used to be able to imagine holding my newborn baby, see the Moses basket next to my bed – but now I can’t. The vision seems so far off, I can no longer touch it. It is out of my grasp. We got the same well meaning question over and over again- ‘when are you going to have another?’ I know it is meant as a harmless enquiry, but now I realise just how intrusive it is. I have been guilty of asking the same question myself. My heart sank and my hands shook every time I was asked it. I am asked at least once a week. Part of me wants to say that ‘I am trying my damned hardest to have another, but I have had three miscarriages, so please stop asking’. Now I think of the many women who have issues conceiving, have fertility problems or miscarry and understand just how painfully loaded that question is. Having experienced this, I know just how much of an unspoken topic it is, yet so common to so many. More should be done to support women experiencing these problems.

Where does that leave me now? I thought that I had gathered all of my fighting strength after the second miscarriage to try a third time. The thinking was that if I miscarried again, we would be investigated. Now we have been told that it could be unlikely there is a problem – just ‘bad luck’. Because I have had one healthy pregnancy, there may not be a physical explanation for those miscarriages. But I don’t think luck works like that; three times is too many to be luck. I know that having a healthy baby is a genetic lottery, and we certainly think so when we see our daughter every day. We were told by one doctor, rather insensitively, that ‘humans aren’t built very well to carry babies’. I’ve read the books, and I know that pregnancy and birth is an amazing achievement. But at the same time I see, read or hear (I mean tormented) that someone else is pregnant – either someone I know, work with or some celebrity on the news. I don’t feel jealous or angry and think ‘why me?’ but I do feel so, so sad for myself. Don’t get me wrong. I feel like the luckiest woman alive when I see my daughter. She is amazing in every way. I know that some women are struggling to conceive at all and I should be grateful that I have a healthy child – I am blessed. However, I see our family as incomplete, something is missing. I want to give my daughter a brother or sister, and my husband a second child. When we do family hugs and kisses (we do them a lot), I think of those lost babies I can’t kiss or hug and the baby not here yet to experience this with us. Does that mean I still have hope? Yes, I guess it does. Some tiny, almost infinitesimal part of me is willing it to happen. The journey there is still long. I have endured so much to give our baby to come a chance in our family. We will welcome our new baby with so much love. Enough for the ones we have lost, and then some more.


I felt like a complete failure.

Here’s my story. On January 1st, 2013 I found out I was pregnant. My partner and I were shocked but also very happy.

We had our first doctor’s appointment, and everything was fine, so we did what any couple does when they are going to have a baby. We started buying stuff!

But on March 3, 2013 I went to bed feeling really sick. No pain, just sick–a normal part of pregnancy. But when I got up the next day, I had a small amount of blood show, so I went to the hospital. They checked me, and I was told I was OK. This scared me, but my partner said the doctors would not lie to me.

But then, the bleeding became painful and heavy. I was rushed into hospital where they scanned me two different ways only to be told that on March 6th, 2013, at 10:00 am I had lost my beautiful baby.

I don’t remember much of what the midwife said after that. I just wanted to run and scream and say it was not true. I remember the look on my partner’s face. He was crying and saying it would be OK.

When I got home, I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t want people saying, “I know how you feel.” How could they know? I felt like a complete failure.

It was two weeks before I even saw or spoke to anyone. Then came the question of what to do with all the baby stuff: keep it or sell it. We decided to keep it so that maybe in the future we will be able to use it.

This year was the two year anniversary and it still hurts. I still have times where I cry and wonder what if. I still talk about my angel as I would like to think that he or she can hear me or is watching over me, knowing that mommy loves and misses you every day.

Thank you for letting me share my story. X