Some 23 million miscarriages occur every year, according to global data from an international team of 31 researchers. But the actual tally is sure to be “substantially higher” due to underreporting, they said in a trio of studies published in The Lancet.
Two percent of women (one in 50) have experienced two miscarriages, while less that one percent have been through three or more.
Levels of care for women suffering miscarriage is highly uneven across countries, and even within many wealthy nations, the data showed.
“A new system is needed to ensure miscarriages are better recognised and women are given the physical and mental health care they need,” the researchers said in a statement.
Many women believe miscarriages occur only rarely, or that they can be caused by lifting heavy objects or previous contraceptive use. Some beleive there’s no effective treatment to prevent a miscarriage.
Such misconceptions can be damaging, leaving women and their partners feeling at fault and discouraging them from seeking treatment and support, the authors note.
Miscarriage can also lead to isolation, since many women might not tell their family, close friends, or even their partner about the loss of a pregnancy.
“Silence around miscarriage remains not only for women who experience it, but also among health care providers, policymakers and research funders,” said co-lead author Siobhan Quenby, a professor at the University of Warwick and director of Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research.
A review of published academic literature up to mid-May 2020 identified many causes for miscarriages, including a more advanced maternal age, previous miscarriages, and a father older than 40.
Other risk factors include being extremely under- or over-weight, smoking, alcohol consumption, persistent stress, working night shifts, and constant exposure to air pollution or pesticides.
There is also a link with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder nine months after a miscarriage.
The authors of the three studies noted that most data comes from wealthier nations, but that the “silence around miscarriage” is found everywhere.