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Is Miscarriage Ever Anyone's Fault?

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Updated October 17, 2008

Self Blame After Miscarriage

Self blame is common after a miscarriage but the reasons for miscarriage almost never have anything to do with anything you did or did not do.

Photo: Marili Forastieri / Getty Images
Question: Is Miscarriage Ever Anyone's Fault?

Self-blame is a really common feeling after miscarriage, especially when the reason for the miscarriage remains unexplained. But is miscarriage ever anyone's fault?

Answer:

The answer is that miscarriages are almost never anyone's fault. This is something that bears repeating, given the many myths and misconceptions out there. With very few exceptions, there is almost nothing you or your doctor can do to affect whether or not you will have a miscarriage. Most miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities, which is not something that can be changed, especially after it has already happened. Doctors cannot stop a first-trimester miscarriage that has already begun, and they usually cannot do anything to affect the outcome of a threatened miscarriage either.

The only time that any action can possibly prevent miscarriage would be when doctors can offer treatment for recognized recurrent miscarriage causes to couples with multiple miscarriages -- but even in those cases, there is no guarantee that treatment will prevent a miscarriage or that not getting treatment would have meant a miscarriage. Much of the science is still unclear on which miscarriage treatments do and do not work.

In addition, one could argue that purposefully engaging in risky behaviors during pregnancy (such as heavy smoking, drug use, or heavy alcohol consumption) could mean a miscarriage was the mother's fault. And it is true that none of those behaviors is a good idea during pregnancy (or any other time for that matter), but the majority of women who smoke or drink during pregnancy do not miscarry -- and the majority of women who miscarry pregnancies they desperately wanted do not smoke or drink heavily during pregnancy.

Bottom Line: Most miscarriages will never be able to be explained by any specific factor. The best you can do is take your time in coping with your grief, eliminate any risk factors you might have, and try again (assuming you want to) rather than looking back and trying to identify the cause of a past miscarriage. Resist the urge to blame yourself for your miscarriage. The odds are exceedingly low that it happened because of anything you did or did not do.

Source:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "Early Pregnancy Loss: Miscarriage and Molar Pregnancy." ACOG Education Pamphlet AP090 May 2002. Accessed 26 Sept 2008.

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