A Reality Check for Common Miscarriage Claims

The Truth About What Increases Risk of Miscarriage

People say a lot of things about what does and does not cause miscarriages, and a lot of it can be confusing. Even doctors don't give the same information on a lot of issues. For example, one person might tell you that stress can cause miscarriages, but then another might claim that to be a myth.

The truth is usually somewhere in the middle. The following are common claims that are out there about miscarriage causes and risk factors. Before you get started, it helps to read up on the difference between a cause and a risk factor.

Claim: Video Display Terminals Cause Miscarriages

Video Mixer Switcher
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Truth: There was one study in the 1980s that found increased risk of miscarriage in women who used video display terminals for a lengthy period of time on a regular basis. But subsequent research has not found a link between video display terminals and miscarriage.

Gynecological chair in gynecological room
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Truth: There could be a grain of truth to this one. There are studies that have found an increased risk of miscarriage in women who had terminated a pregnancy. But the evidence is mixed, and any theoretical increased risk might be limited to women who had an abortion via D & C.


Anxious Black pregnant woman rubbing forehead on sofa
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Truth: This might be true. There have been several studies in recent years that found evidence of a link between stress and miscarriage or stillbirth, although the evidence doesn't prove that the stress is what caused the miscarriages in those cases. If there is a link between stress and miscarriages, it's not likely that average amounts of stress would play a role in miscarriage, but more that unusual or chronic stress might be a factor.


Aspirin Tablets
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Truth: There is evidence that using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can increase risk of miscarriage, but the evidence on aspirin is mixed -- and some doctors even prescribe ​low dose aspirin as a part of recurrent miscarriage treatment.


Birth control
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Truth: Although taking a large dose of birth control pills within a few days of intercourse can work as emergency contraception, there is no evidence that birth control pills will cause a miscarriage in an established pregnancy or that taking birth control pills will increase risk of future miscarriage.


Young woman holding baby son in blanket
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Truth: There's no evidence that breastfeeding during pregnancy causes any harm whatsoever to the developing baby. Moms who want to continue breastfeeding can do so.


Pregnant woman in swimming pool
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Truth: No one knows for sure. There was a large study in 2007 that indicated women who engaged in ​strenuous exercise were more likely to have miscarriages, but there have been other studies that found no link between exercise and miscarriage. Light and moderate exercise during pregnancy are almost certainly beneficial. Some doctors advise keeping your heart rate under 140 beats per minute to be on the safe side.


Jets of water on the surface of a hot tub
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Truth: Doctors believe that allowing your body temperature to get too high during pregnancy could cause developmental problems for the baby, but no strong evidence that it can cause miscarriage.


Chopped Soft Cheese
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Truth: This is partially true. There is a risk of miscarriage if you contract food poisoning from listeriosis, salmonella, or toxoplasmosis during pregnancy -- and you can be more likely to get sick with food poisoning when you're pregnant. But you don't have to avoid all cheese or deli meats; you just have to choose pasteurized dairy products or meats that have been thoroughly cooked.


pregnant woman and man in bed
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Truth: There's no evidence that sex during pregnancy poses any risk. Sex doesn't even seem to be able to trigger labor in women with full-term pregnancies, so you should definitely not worry about orgasms or uterine contractions causing miscarriage. There are a few exceptions, however, such as women with a condition called placenta previa.


pregnancy test
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Truth: There's always a risk of miscarriage in any pregnancy, but there's no real evidence that you need to wait any set period of time after a first-trimester miscarriage before you try again. Doctors may advise waiting for different reasons in individual cases, however, so check with your doctor.


woman holding jar of cream
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Truth: Don't rush out and buy that cream yet. Some doctors do believe that progesterone supplements might help women with recurrent miscarriages but this is controversial and there's no strong evidence that the supplements help. As for over-the-counter creams, the dosage varies heavily and some of the creams don't even contain any active progesterone. It's best to find a doctor who is willing to prescribe supplements if you want to use progesterone during pregnancy.


illustration of a bicornuate uterus
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Truth: A bicornuate uterus can mean increased risk of preterm labor, but there's no evidence that it increases risk of miscarriage. However, a uterine septum can mean increased risk of miscarriage, and the two malformations look similar on imaging tests. It is common that a septate uterus can be misdiagnosed as a bicornuate uterus.


Midsection of pregnant woman with hands on stomach
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Truth: Minor trauma such as falling, being hit in the abdomen, or having a fender bender is not likely to cause a first-trimester miscarriage, but it can cause placental abruption in the second or third trimester and potentially lead to late pregnancy loss.


Roller Coaster
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Truth: No one has researched the safety of riding roller coasters or other amusement park rides during pregnancy. There is a theoretical risk that the jerking motions could lead to placental abruption later in pregnancy, and although riding a roller coaster in very early pregnancy is most likely not going to cause problems, no one really knows when the cut-off point would be for when it is safe versus risky.


Close-up of woman's feet on scale
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Truth: This does appear to be true, but the relationship between body weight and miscarriage is still not well understood. More research is needed.


Young pregnant business woman blowing her nose.
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Truth: Certain bacterial and viral infections, such as Fifth Disease or Rubella, can cause miscarriage in some women. But usually, the risk of having a miscarriage is far lower than the odds that the baby will be fine.


Man with pregnant wife
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Truth: The risk of miscarriage is higher for moms over 35 than for moms under 35, but a majority of moms over 35 will have a normal pregnancy.


Self Blame
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Truth: Miscarriage almost never happens because of something the mother did or did not do (and usually not because of any action or inaction on the part of the doctor either).


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