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Environmental and Lifestyle Factors Linked to Pregnancy Loss


a blog by Joseph A. Hill, III, MD, Fertility Centers of New England, September 8, 2010

A variety of environmental factors have been linked to both isolated and recurrent pregnancy loss.

What Is Linked to Pregnancy Loss?

Exposure in your lifestyle to three particular substances may contribute to pregnancy loss. This is particularly important due to their common use.

  • Alcohol. Drinking as little as three alcohol drinks per week is associated with miscarriage.
  • Cigarettes. Cigarette smoking is associated with both infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. This is not surprising since nicotine and its metabolic byproducts are concentrated in follicular fluid (fluid bathing the eggs within the ovary) and in uterine blood vessels.
  • Caffeine. Consumption of coffee and other caffeinated beverages during early pregnancy is related to adverse pregnancy outcome, including first trimester miscarriages.

    Other lifestyle choices may contribute to pregnancy loss. These include obesity, stress, recreational drugs and use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents during pregnancy. Occupational exposure to heavy metals like lead or mercury, anesthetic gases, and organic solvents are also associated with pregnancy loss. In addition, prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation may be a cause of miscarriage and is perhaps the reason why flight attendants and pilots have a higher incidence of loss.

    What Is NOT Linked to Pregnancy Loss?

    Prolonged standing and working long hours are not associated with miscarriage, but they are associated with preterm labor and low birth weight babies. There is no evidence that mild to moderate exercise during pregnancy in healthy women is associated with miscarriage; however, no studies have been performed in those with a history of recurrent pregnancy loss.

    Exposure to electromagnetic fields from computer terminals is not associated with adverse reproductive outcome.

    Large studies of women without a history of recurrent pregnancy loss indicate that sexual intercourse during pregnancy is not associated with miscarriage. However, once again, these studies have not been performed in women with a history of recurrent loss.

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Comments (2)

The father's excessive use of cigarettes, alcohol, or marijuana has been associated with abnormal sperm parameters including morphology.
Abnormal sperm morphology has been associated with not only difficulty becoming pregnant but also in cases where pregnancy occurs, higher losses have been observed especially, very early miscarriages.

A higher incidence of chromosome abnormalities are described in the sperm of men who father 3 or more losses compared to sperm from men who have fathered normal pregnancies.

Normal chromosome losses can only be known for sure if the miscarriage had male (46,XY) chromosomes because normal female chromosomes (46,XX) could represent maternal tissue associated with the miscarriage.

Dr. Joseph Hill

Do you think there is a link between the father's use of cigarettes, alcohol and/or recreational drugs (eg marijuana) and recurrent miscarriage?

I have had 8 first-trimester miscarriages, 5 of which had normal chromosomes. My husband smokes tobacco and marijuana daily, and has for nearly 20 years. His semen analysis came back with a high count (ironically), but poor motility and morphology. He has been told by a fertility specialist that the fact that I get pregnant proves the issue is not his sperm.

Are poor motility and/or morphology connected with recurrent miscarriage? And can that be caused by tobacco and marijuana use?

Thank you.

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