Pregnancy is a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Of course, your hormones are rapidly rising, so it’s natural to feel elated, tired, and worried, all at the same time.
On top of that, your body is changing, so you may feel nauseated most of the time, and you’re never quite sure if a symptom is a normal sign of pregnancy or something more worrisome. It’s easy to get caught up in the “what ifs?”
Unfortunately, pregnant women often feel a loss of control during pregnancy. We worry about our babies, of course. Are they growing properly? Do they have everything they need? Is spotting normal? Is pain normal? Are cramps normal? We also worry about ourselves. Will our bodies ever be the same again? Will delivery hurt? Will we have any complications?
The truth is that there are a lot of unanswered questions, particularly in early pregnancy, and it’s perfectly normal to feel both excited and scared.
To get through your first trimester (and beyond), it’s sometimes helpful to focus on the things you can control. There are many activities you can do (or avoid) to help ensure the best environment possible for your child’s growth and development.
In this guide, we’ll cover the most important things you can do to help lower your chance of miscarriage.
First, let’s consider the data. It’s sometimes helpful to understand what’s happening during the early days of pregnancy, and data often alleviates some worries about miscarriage.
Your first trimester is the scariest part of pregnancy when it comes to miscarriage concerns. The good news is that you may not even know you’re pregnant during most of it.
The first 0 to 13 weeks of pregnancy are considered the first trimester. Roughly 80 percent of miscarriages occur during this time.
The remaining 20 percent of miscarriages happen between weeks 13 and 20. After this point, the risk of miscarriage sharply drops again, though it’s no longer called a “miscarriage.” After 20 weeks, the process is actually called a “stillbirth.”
Your risk of miscarriage is greatest between weeks 0 and 10. In the early days of pregnancy, you likely don’t yet know you’re pregnant. A miscarriage may simply seem like a late period. Most women don’t realize they’re pregnant until at least four weeks of pregnancy.
Because the first day of pregnancy actually starts on the first day of your last period, you’re not technically pregnant during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Implantation usually occurs around week four, which is also the time you would expect your next period. That’s why many women don’t realize they’re pregnant until week four or later.
The first sign of pregnancy is often a missed period. Even the most sensitive pregnancy tests can’t detect the pregnancy hormone until week three or four (1-2 weeks after ovulation).
Your chance of miscarriage is highest when you first find out you’re pregnant — around week 3 or 4. During weeks 3 and 4 of pregnancy, the miscarriage rate is roughly 25% to 33% of all pregnancies.
After week 4, the rate drops to 15% to 20% between weeks 5 and 6.
As the pregnancy continues to progress, the miscarriage rate continues to decline. Around week 10, there’s a steep drop and just a 5% risk.
There’s another sharp decline around 13 weeks, when miscarriage rates drop to just 1%. The risk continues to decline until week 20 when it becomes zero.
These rates are based on a healthy woman under the age of 35. Because your chance of miscarriage also depends on your age, prior pregnancies, and other health statistics, you may want to use this miscarriage probability chart to help set your mind at ease.
Many women wait to announce the pregnancy until after the risk of miscarriage drops. This is a personal decision that depends on the type of support you may need during such a traumatic event.
After week 20, the clinical term is “stillbirth,” which is a very rare occurrence.
To reduce your chance of miscarriage, you can follow a few suggestions that are supported by science and in conjunction with your doctor’s medical advice. That being said, women shouldn’t feel that they cause a miscarriage by something they did or did not do. At least 50% of miscarriages are caused by genetic issues. In other words, one bad egg or one bad sperm made it so that the pregnancy never really had a chance.
With that in mind, here are some things you can do to give the pregnancy the best possible chance for success.
First, focus on healthy foods during pregnancy. While nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables are always a great idea, this type of diet is especially important during pregnancy.
A healthy pregnancy diet includes:
To help prevent harm to yourself and your child (including potential miscarriage), you should take steps to avoid infection during pregnancy.
This includes simple actions like:
Regular, ongoing prenatal care is your best defense against a chance of miscarriage. A doctor can thoroughly evaluate your medical history, test for certain conditions or diseases, and perform ultrasounds and other testing to make sure your pregnancy is without complications.
If issues arise, a doctor can provide the best protocol and treatment to keep your baby safe and protected.
During your first prenatal appointment, it’s important to discuss your current medications with your doctor. Some medications may be perfectly fine when you’re not pregnant but can cause severe harm to your baby. Some medications are okay to take during certain trimesters but more dangerous during others. There are also certain medications that offer benefits that outweigh the potential risks — or vice versa.
It’s important to bring a thorough list of all your medications (including vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and even illegal substances, if applicable). Your doctor can review the list with you and provide expert advice. If you need to cease a medication, your doctor can prescribe a safe alternative.
If you have questions, ask! Most doctors are happy to answer your questions and alleviate your concerns.
Finally, you should completely avoid alcohol and tobacco products during pregnancy.
While doctors once thought these were safe, studies have proven that both alcohol and tobacco are tremendously detrimental to your baby’s health.
Unfortunately, there is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Any alcohol consumption can lead to complications, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
Smoking can also lead to serious complications, both during pregnancy and even afterwards. Smoking during pregnancy increases your baby’s risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, and birth defects. Smoking around your baby in the early months of life leads to a higher rate of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
If you need help quitting tobacco or alcohol, talk to your doctor to discuss your options.
While there’s little you can do to avoid certain types of miscarriage (e.g. for genetic conditions), it’s helpful to focus on what you can control.
In general, what’s healthy for you is also healthy for your baby. As you may have noticed, all of these guidelines lead to greater health for mothers, as well.
To ensure optimum health for your baby and relieve your own anxiety about a chance of miscarriage, try to focus on your personal health throughout pregnancy. Stay hydrated, eat a balanced diet, avoid harmful substances, and limit medications. Stay away from infectious diseases by limiting your contact and maintaining proper hygiene.
Most importantly, however, try to focus on the positive aspects of pregnancy. There’s so much to look forward to in the days ahead. The odds are high that you’ll make it through pregnancy with no serious complications. Congratulations, and best of luck in the days ahead!