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What Are the Chances of Problems in a Subsequent Pregnancy?

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Updated April 11, 2014

Subsequent Pregnancy

It's natural to feel anxious in a subsequent pregnancy after a miscarriage, but the odds are good for an ultimately good outcome.

Photo : Hans Neleman / Getty Images
Question: What Are the Chances of Problems in a Subsequent Pregnancy?

Different people feel differently about trying for a new pregnancy after a loss. Some couples are afraid to try again and they need to take time to deal with the grief over the loss first, whereas others prefer to try again as soon as possible and find that it makes the coping process easier. Regardless of where you fall on that continuum, you are probably curious about what to expect in your next pregnancy as far as odds of complications.

Answer:

The answer is individual. If you have an underlying condition that your doctor believes contributed to your loss, you might have a higher than average risk for complications in your next pregnancy. But if you have had one first-trimester miscarriage without a known cause (or if you have a confirmation that the cause was random chromosomal abnormalities), you don't face any higher risk for complications in your next pregnancy when compared to women who are pregnant for the first time.

If you are concerned about the risk of another miscarriage, one widely quoted 1989 study found that the risk of having a second miscarriage after one previous miscarriage was only 20%, and the risk of having a third miscarriage after two previous miscarriages was only 24%. For perspective, in any given pregnancy, the risk of miscarriage is somewhere between 15 and 30% depending on which source you are using.

The risk does go up somewhat for women who have had three or more previous miscarriages (43% risk of another loss), however. So if you have had recurrent miscarriages it makes sense to see a doctor for testing and consultation.

In any case, if you are considering trying for a new pregnancy after a miscarriage, the best way to minimize your risk of miscarriage is to see a physician before you conceive in order to examine whether you have any risk factors you might be able to eliminate (but keep in mind that miscarriage usually happens for reasons beyond your control). Then, when you are pregnant again, see a doctor early in your pregnancy and attend your scheduled prenatal appointments. Prenatal care gives your doctor an opportunity to monitor your pregnancy and detect possible complications as early as possible.

Sources:

Bhattacharya, S., J. Townend, A. Shetty, D. Campbell, and S. Bhattacharya, "Does miscarriage in an initial pregnancy lead to adverse obstetric and perinatal outcomes in the next continuing pregnancy?" BJOG Oct 2008. Accessed 14 Oct 2008.

Tommy's, "Miscarriage statistics." Accessed 14 Oct 2008.

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