What does the current research say?
An overview of the available information about miscarriage
It is no secret that, while wonderful in many ways, medical science with its current focus exclusively on the physical body, is still failing to provide us with answers; namely as to why things go wrong in the first place. Miscarriage is no exception, and continues to baffle medical professionals. Around 50% of miscarriages have no known cause, with the other 50% being attributed to chromosomal problems with the developing baby, or a range of physical disorders of the parents.
The purpose of this page is not to provide a comprehensive list of all the current research being undertaken related to miscarriage. The purpose is to give examples of the types of research being done and the information that is available.
It is interesting to note that there is research to indicate a link between recent or childhood trauma and stress experienced by the pregnant mother, and the affect this has on her child after birth. This information would potentially indicate that the child in the womb is a sensitive being who is affected developmentally by its emotional environment. I am curious as to how this translates for children who never make it to birth.
There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that other forms of energy such as our emotions and thoughts have a powerful influence on our physical body and our environment. I believe this is a valid and vital field of study which may help lead us back to the true cause of problems such as miscarriage. I have included some basic information and articles below.
*I am not necessarily endorsing the validity of any studies referred to, just collating some of the available information.
Relationship between the physical body and miscarriage
The following are summaries of some of the areas studied related to the health of the physical body which have been shown to have some effect on incidence of miscarriage. While this research may have uncovered links, we still do not gain answers as to why these things go wrong initially.
50 to 80% of first trimester losses are caused by chromosomal abnormalities
The earlier the pregnancy loss occurs, the greater the likelihood of genetic causation. Among first trimester miscarriages, 50% to 80% show chromosomal abnormalities, usually aneuploidy (a chromosome added or deleted). This is greater than all other causes combined.
Hormones and miscarriage
Varying levels of pregnancy related hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, LH, FSH and prolactin have been linked to miscarriage risk. Here is a link to a site with further information and research:
Insulin is a hormone that keeps our blood-sugar levels in check. Studies have found a link between insulin resistance, blood glucose levels and miscarriage. Here is a link to a site with further information and research:
Immune System and miscarriage
When the immune system is functioning correctly, it is able to recognise a pregnancy as a desirable condition in the body, even though the embryo initially appears foreign to the mother. The embryo will naturally suppress the mother's normal immune response of attacking a foreign entity, and instead initiate a new process whereby the embryo becomes protected by the mother's immune system. If there are problems with the immune system this may not occur, and the system itself may attack the embryo and cause recurrent miscarriage. There are many complex ways the immune system can interfere with the natural development of the embryo. Here is a link to a site with further information and research:
Exercise and miscarriage
This is an area many women worry about when trying to avoid miscarriage. There have been studies to reveal heavy exercise may be linked to miscarriage, there are studies which show exercise reduces the risk of miscarriage, and there are studies to show no relationship between the two exists. Here is a link to a site with further information and research:
Emotions and experiences post-miscarriage
The following are summaries of some of the studies which look at women's experience of miscarriage. Most such studies focus on how the woman copes with the experience after it has happened.
Pregnancy after miscarriage: Balancing between loss of control and searching for control
The research question for this qualitative study was: how do women experience miscarriage, conception, and the early pregnancy waiting period, and what types of coping strategies do they use during these periods? The data shows that women search for ways to regain control in the face of events they believe they have no control over. Women feel powerless as they are forced to alter their personal goals. Jealousy towards women who found it easy to conceive and maintain a pregnancy was prevalent. Women describe ‘bracing themselves’ in early pregnancy via distancing themselves emotionally from the pregnancy, blocking thoughts of the child, avoiding bonding or attachment with the fetus and reducing commitment to the unborn baby. A sense of control was seen as a central element to successful coping.
Lived experience of miscarriage for nine Latino immigrant women
Participants in this study found there was a lack of support following miscarriage, primarily from family, and that this was possibly related to the cultural expectations of a woman’s role of baring many children. Women felt a need to search for meaning as to why the loss occurred, some placing responsibility on ‘God’s will’, others experiencing guilt and self-blame.
Confronting the inevitable: A conceptual model of miscarriage
In spite of scientific evidence that miscarriage has negative psychological consequences for many individuals and couples, silence and dismissal continue to surround this invisible loss. By examining three previous qualitative studies on the experience of miscarriage, this study outlines the major themes encountered by most women as they move through miscarriage experiences. These themes were as follows: feeling out of control in regards to pregnancy outcomes; stopping the bleeding and cramping; feeling empty; confronting the reactions of others; and dealing with the outcomes of future pregnancies. Whether planned or unplanned, the experience of miscarriage was framed by women’s unfolding maternal identity.
Trauma affecting the unborn child
The following are studies which address the link between maternal trauma and emotional health and the health of the developing child post-birth. Establishing this link provides a sound basis for studying how emotional conditions may be related to miscarriage, which is also a child developmental problem.
The effect of trauma history and prenatal affective symptoms on obstetric outcomes
This study aims to determine if there are links between maternal lifetime trauma and preterm and low birth-weight babies. The findings suggest that lifetime trauma history, and in particular childhood trauma, magnified the prediction of low birth-weight from maternal anxiety and depression. Trauma significantly increased the incidence of lifetime and antenatal depression and anxiety, which are associated with a range of adverse biological and psychiatric maternal and child outcomes. Trauma did not have a direct effect on birth-weight, gestational age, or complications in this study.
Prenatal trauma and autism
This very interesting article is a case study of a woman who has experienced numerous recurrent miscarriages, and her one surviving, severely autistic child. The study describes an intensely overbearing relationship between mother and child, and a child who can not feel herself as separate from her mother. It pinpoints times in the child's development where she began to make advancements into independence, such as learning to walk and speak, and how concurrently the mother fell pregnant again at these times (and went on to miscarry). The intimation is that the mother's desperate need for closeness caused the pregnancies and the resultant miscarriages.
Emotions and thoughts affect the physical body and environment
While this section does not discuss miscarriage at all, I have included some information which indicates the impact human consciousness (emotions/beliefs/thoughts) have on the body and environment. I feel this is relevent when considering how emotions effect the unborn child. This is by no means a comprehensive insight at all, just a taste of some current thought and available research.
Metaphysics of the fascia
This article gives a description of the fascia, a type of connective tissue which forms a continuous web-like membrane that wraps, interweaves and connects all bodily parts and processes (creating, supporting the body as an integrated ‘whole’). "Metaphysically we know unexpressed emotions of the past can become locked in our tissues and organs; the fascia then would undoubtedly retain physical trauma, memories, scars, pain and stress." The article discusses one way that stored emotion causes pain and strain on the physical body.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and the bodily energy systems
The following is a link about Traditional Chinese Medicine and its understanding of how the energy system (or Qi) affects our health.
Emotions affecting water crystals
Masaru Emoto was a Japanese researcher and author who discovered a connection between human consciousness and water crystal formation. Put simply, he found that negative emotions, angry music, or nasty words projected at water caused the water to create 'ugly' water crystals. Conversely, loving emotions and intentions, prayer and music caused the water to form beautiful and symmetrical crystals. This would indicate a relationship between human emotion and the effect on its environment. There is much information available on the internet about these experiments.