Why Did I Have a Miscarriage?

Despite persistent group-think to the contrary, miscarriage is incredibly common. And it isn't caused by exercise, flying, or other lifestyle choices. The main reason a pregnancy ends early? A chromosomal issue. Read on to learn more.

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Miscarriage is very common, happening in anywhere from 10–20 percent of all known pregnancies, according to the Mayo Clinic. In an original survey Marie Claire conducted in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 25 percent of women reported experiencing at least one miscarriage.

If you've had a miscarriage, know this: You didn't cause it by lifting a heavy object or exercising too intensely. Neither of those things lead to pregnancy loss. Nor does flying, stress, or sex. Fertility expert Aaron K. Styer, M.D., reproductive endocrinologist and co-medical director of CCRM Boston, assures us that the majority—more than 61 percent, according to one study—of miscarriages occur when the embryo has an abnormal number of chromosomes. In patients undergoing IVF, a form of preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A or PGS) called comprehensive chromosomal screening (CCS) can reduce the risk of miscarriages by looking at all pairs of chromosomes for any abnormal pairings. In this treatment, a small number of cells are taken from the outside of an embryo and tested to determine if it has the correct number of chromosomes before being transferred into the uterus.

The risk of miscarriage does increase with maternal age (due to the raised risk of chromosomal abnormalities). Certain chronic medical conditions and hormonal imbalances can also play a role.

Bear in mind: One miscarriage alone doesn’t immediately indicate a fertility issue. In fact, only 1 to 2 percent of women will have two or more miscarriages. If you have two miscarriages in your attempt to get pregnant, go ahead and schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist to see if there might be a diagnosable reason—and treatment.

Still have questions about getting pregnant? Check out our fertility FAQ here.

Editors’ note: We use the terms “woman” and “female” in this article to refer to people with internal reproductive organs; however we understand that not everyone with internal reproductive organs identifies as a woman or a female. We use the terms “man” and “male” to refer to people with external reproductive organs; however we understand that not everyone with external reproductive organs identifies as a man or a male.

Jennifer Gerson

Jennifer Gerson is a Maggie Award-winning journalist whose reporting on reproductive rights, women's health, and sexual violence regularly appears in Cosmopolitan, as well as The Guardian, Yahoo, Allure, Teen Vogue, Mic and other national publications.