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A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy. Miscarriage occurs in 15 percent to 20 percent of pregnancies, usually during the first 13 weeks, and sometimes before you even realize you are pregnant. If you had three or more miscarriages, you are considered to have recurrent pregnancy loss.

A miscarriage is a heartbreaking event, and the emotional issues involved can be severe. But there is hope. Even women who have multiple miscarriages still have a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of having a successful pregnancy.

What Causes a Miscarriage?

Although a miscarriage can be caused by a number of things, the exact cause may never be identified.

The risk for a miscarriage increases with age. (Your eggs get older too.) If you are under 35, you have a 15 percent chance of miscarriage, but if you are over 45 your chance of having a miscarriage goes up to 50 percent.

Genetic problems with the embryo account for more than half of miscarriages in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy; chromosomal issues prevent the fetus from developing properly and surviving. Genetic problems happen by chance and have nothing to do with either parent. Although this type of miscarriage is unlikely to happen more than once, the chance increases with age.

Hormonal problems may also cause a miscarriage. If you do not produce enough progesterone during the luteal phase of your period, the endometrial lining of your uterus may be too thin for an egg to attach and grow.

Polyps or fibroids in the uterus can interfere with the implantation of the fertilized egg. Uncontrolled diabetes, an underactive thyroid gland, or infections can also lead to a miscarriage. If you smoke, use illegal drugs, or drink a lot of alcohol, you increase your risk of miscarriage.

What Does Not Cause Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss?

It is important not to blame yourself for a pregnancy loss. You do not increase your risk of miscarriage by exercising, working, having sex, or lifting heavy objects. Morning sickness, even if it is severe, does not increase your risk.

Even if you fall, are hit, or injured, you are unlikely to miscarry unless the injury is so serious it threatens your own life.