Teenagers & Miscarriage

Girl holding pregnancy test
Pregnant teens have about the same risk of miscarriage as women between the ages of 20 to 30. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Any female of any child-bearing age can have a miscarriage, which is defined as the loss of a fetus before week 20 of pregnancy. Teens have around the same risk of miscarriage as women older than 20 years of age; the rate of miscarriage rises after age 35. Some teens, like some older women, might not recognize an early miscarriage, mistaking it for a late and very heavy menstrual period.

Teen Miscarriage Rate

Once a woman has a positive pregnancy test, the overall miscarriage rate is 10 percent to 25 percent in the United States, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Teen miscarriage rates fall within this percentage. Teen pregnancy loss varies little by ethnic background or age. About 13 percent of teens younger than 15 years of age and 14 percent of those 15 to 17 years of age miscarried in 2008, according to the Guttmacher Institute. For non-Hispanic white teens, the risk was 14.7 percent; black teens miscarried at a rate of 13.7, compared to 15 percent of Hispanic teens. Pregnancy loss after 13 weeks occurs less commonly. Between 1 percent and 5 percent of pregnancies end during this period, according to the March of Dimes.

Why Miscarriages Occur

Between 50 percent and 70 percent of all miscarriages are chemical pregnancies, meaning that the pregnancy ends around the time of the first missed period, when you might not even know you were pregnant, according to the American Pregnancy Association. More than 50 percent of all miscarriages occur because the developing embryo was chromosomally abnormal in some way, the March of Dimes explains. A fall or other major trauma rarely causes early miscarriage before 13 weeks unless the trauma is severe enough to threaten the mother's life because the growing uterus is still within and well-protected by the pelvis. Drug or alcohol use and smoking could increase the risk of miscarriage.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a possible miscarriage include bleeding, back pain and cramping. Spotting occurs in 20 percent to 30 percent of early pregnancies and doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a miscarriage. Fifty percent go on to term, according to the American Pregnancy Association. You might pass clots or have what seems to be a heavier-than-normal period or feel weak. Severe abdominal or back pain and spotting combined with fainting can be a sign of ectopic pregnancy -- a pregnancy that implants in the Fallopian tube rather than in the uterus. Ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening; seek immediate medical attention if you notice these symptoms.

Treatment

Most early miscarriages require no surgical treatment, but if you think you're having a miscarriage, see your gynecologist immediately. If you don't have a gynecologist, go to a pregnancy clinic or to the emergency room. If you don't pass all the fetal tissue, you might need a dilatation and curettage, better known as a D&C, a surgical scraping of the inside of the uterus under anesthesia, to remove any pieces of the placenta still in the uterus. You might have to stay overnight after a D&C, although this is often done as an outpatient procedure.

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