Stress Contributes to Miscarriage

February 21, 2006

No matter how often doctors and loved ones tell you it’s not your fault, the woman who miscarries is always looking for explanations for what went wrong in a pregnancy.

I, myself, have had two miscarriages. And while doctors told me they were most likely caused by chromosomal defects in the fetus, the most common cause for miscarriage, I couldn’t help but wonder if other factors contributed such as years on the “pill” or the glass of wine I had during conception. I second-guessed how much time I spent on my feet or how much energy I exerted at work.

Now my mind is jogging again as Forbes.com ran a story that there is a link — albeit a small one — between stress and miscarriage. A group of scientists at the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park, N.C., found that women with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol were 2.7 times more likely to miscarry in the first few weeks of pregnancy than their relaxed counterparts.

The study, published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, included 61 women: 22 who got pregnant and nine women who successfully carried their pregnancies to term. Up to half of pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the March of Dimes.

The best advice for women trying to get pregnant is to de-stress your life before you conceive, (Dr. Mary Stephenson) said.

“I talk about this a lot with my patients,” Stephenson said. “I recommend that before they get pregnant, they take a serious look at their lifestyle.”

And that includes getting enough sleep, so fatigue isn’t an issue. “Fatigue is a type of stress,” Stephenson said.

Thankfully, I no longer beat myself up over the miscarriages. Still, any advice is useful in case of a future pregnancy.