Reducing the risk factors for miscarriage

Miscarriage is the commonest form of pregnancy loss and affects one in four pregnancies. Whilst some risk factors can be more challenging to mitigate, there are others which can be more proactively addressed such as having a healthy BMI.

“The doctors had told us that we needed to get our weight down and I used to think ‘there are people bigger than me who have healthy pregnancies, why does it matter?’” says Sarah. “But now, having lost the weight and had a really healthy pregnancy I completely ‘get it’.”

Before they got married Sarah and Steve had sought advice on improving their fertility chances and were advised they needed to lose weight. Sarah managed to lose two stone and shortly before their wedding day discovered she was pregnant.

“Two days later I miscarried,” says Sarah. “I hadn’t had a chance to get my head around the fact I was pregnant before I started to miscarry. I was so devastated, it was a really difficult time.

Sarah and Steve before weight loss
Sarah and Steve before weight loss

“I remember trying to find a silver lining from a really bad situation and I thought to myself ‘you know what, at least I know I can actually get pregnant’. Miscarriages happen and I told myself ‘maybe we will be luckier next time…”

“I had two further miscarriage before my GP said to me ‘we need to get this looked at, let’s get you referred to the hospital.’”

The couple had fertility tests. “Steve’s semen tests had come back as ‘borderline’ and on my side, as well as the ‘markers’ for polycystic ovaries I had an underactive thyroid which I took medication for,” says Sarah. “But in the end there wasn’t a definitive reason for our infertility, it was ‘unexplained’.

“The specialist was really straight with us and explained that we couldn’t be referred for NHS-funded IVF until my BMI was under 30. He said ‘you have got to lose weight for the best chances of the IVF working and for you to have a healthy pregnancy’. At that point I needed to lose 6.5 stone which was a third of my bodyweight, it took me two years.”

The couple were referred to Bourn Hall Clinic and their IVF treatment was successful first time.

Now mum to Jack who was born in March 2022 Sarah says she is still reaping the benefits of losing weight: “I have so much more energy now and feel younger than my age whereas before I had all sorts of aches and pains.”

Sarah and Steve with Jack
Sarah and Steve with Jack

Miscarriage – know the risks

Although not in themselves the cause of miscarriage, being older, being over or under weight, being a smoker and stress are all risk factors. Also it is advised to cut alcohol and improve your health and nutrition.

Stress can affect your hormones, creating a vicious circle, so trying gentle walks in the open air and mindfulness as part of your strategy for reducing stress can help your mental wellbeing and your ability to cope with treatment.

For those who have a recurrent miscarriage (three or more losses), there may be an underlying reason, so referral to a specialist unit and fertility treatment can be helpful.

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