The loss of a pregnancy is a tragedy no one wants to know even once. So for those who have to go through this painful experience several times, questions naturally arise about what went wrong and how to keep it from happening again. Recurrent pregnancy loss is thankfully rare, but let’s explore it a little further.

What is Recurrent Pregnancy Loss?

Traditionally, recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) has been defined as three or more consecutive miscarriages, but the American Society for Reproductive Medicine now says that having just two consecutive lost pregnancies qualifies as RPL in clinical evaluations. This condition affects about 1% of women.

RPL can be caused by a number of underlying conditions, including:

  • Genetic abnormalities in the parents’ egg or sperm cells. Chances of these abnormalities increase with age.
  • An abnormally shaped uterus.
  • Problems with the mother’s immune system.
  • Endocrine-mediated diseases like hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or even improperly managed diabetes.

Testing for these conditions can also take many forms. DNA tests can detect chromosomal and other genetic abnormalities. Ultrasound and other imaging tests can reveal structural problems with the uterus. Blood tests can reveal antibodies that indicate immune system issues.

Care and Treatment

Following testing for underlying causes of RPL, the odds of getting pregnant go up dramatically: 71% if an abnormality was detected, and 77% if no abnormality was found. Treatments are available for many of the known causes, and can include:

  • Genetic testing to determine the nature of abnormalities and risk of passing on a disorder. In combination with in vitro fertilization, fertilized embryos can be screened for healthy genetic material.
  • Surgery may be able to correct abnormal uterine structure.
  • Immune system and endocrine disorders can be managed with appropriate medications.

Addressing the underlying cause is key to overcoming recurrent pregnancy. However, even when no treatment is available, the chance of having a healthy pregnancy is still better than 50%.

If you have questions about your risk of RPL and what you can do to have a successful pregnancy, talk to your doctor about testing and treatment options. If you want more information about improving fertility or conception options, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for our newsletter below.