Shedding Light on Miscarriage Misunderstandings

Miscarriage was often misunderstood, which could contribute to associated stigma and guilt

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) When it comes to miscarriage, many people may not have their facts straight. Increased awareness, however, could reduce the misunderstanding and guilt often tied to the issue.

A recent study found that many people were confused about the facts of miscarriage. In particular, patients often misunderstood how often and why it occurred.

“Miscarriage is a traditionally taboo subject that is rarely discussed publicly,” said senior author Zev Williams, MD, PhD, assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY, in a press release. “We initiated this survey to assess what the general public knew about miscarriage and its causes and how miscarriage affects them emotionally.”

Miscarriage is the most common complication of pregnancy in the United States, according to the survey conducted by Dr. Williams and team.

To understand the beliefs surrounding miscarriage, Dr. Williams and team conducted an anonymous survey. In total, 1,084 people took the online survey. Around 45 percent of respondents were male. Fifty-five percent were female.

Of the patients in this study who had experienced miscarriage, nearly half said they felt guilty (47 percent), like they did something wrong (41 percent) or alone (41 percent). However, if the cause of the miscarriage was found, then the number of those feeling guilty dropped by 19 percent.

“The results of our survey indicate widespread misconceptions about the prevalence and causes of miscarriage," Dr. Williams said. "Because miscarriage is very common but rarely discussed, many women and couples feel very isolated and alone after suffering a miscarriage. We need to better educate people about miscarriage, which could help reduce the shame and stigma associated with it."

Over half of patients in this study (55 percent) said they believed miscarriage only occurred in 5 percent of pregnancies. The actual amount was closer to 20 percent.

Most patients (74 percent) correctly believed that genetic abnormalities or medical conditions were the most common causes of miscarriage. However, many still believed common miscarriage myths. A common myth was that miscarriage may be due to lifting heavy objects. Sixty-four percent of survey patients believed this myth. Forty-one percent believed that having had a sexually transmitted disease may cause a miscarriage.

Nearly 30 percent of these patients believed past use of an intrauterine device was a possible cause of miscarriage. Similarly, 22 percent believed the same about past use of an oral contraceptive. And 21 percent of patients incorrectly believed a miscarriage could be tied to having an argument.

Dr. Williams and team said they believe that by better educating people about miscarriage, they may be able to lessen the stigma tied to it.

"We want people who experience miscarriage to know that they’re not alone — that miscarriages are all too common and that tests are available to help them learn what caused their miscarriage and hopefully to help them in subsequent pregnancies,” Dr. Williams said.

This study was published online May 7 in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center funded this research. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development provided grant funding. Dr, Williams and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
May 7, 2015
Last Updated:
May 19, 2015