Misconceptions about miscarriage risk factors

June 22, 2019

Miscarriage is the most common complication of pregnancy. It can be an unexpected and emotionally devastating diagnosis for women and their partners, and the effects can last into subsequent pregnancies. Despite its frequency, miscarriage can sometimes be shrouded in shame and silence, even amongst friends and family. Because of the folklore surrounding miscarriage and the frequent reluctance of those who experience a miscarriage to share that experience, there can be a significant information gap between the medical diagnosis of miscarriage and the patient’s personal perception.


The following are common miscarriage misconceptions.

The emotional state of women during pregnancy: 
The emotional state of women during pregnancy including being depressed or stressed is not linked to the increased risk of having a miscarriage.

Having a fright or shock during pregnancy: If you suffer from a fright or shock during pregnancy, it may not increase your risk of having a miscarriage.

Exercising during pregnancy: Exercising during pregnancy does not increase your risk of miscarriage. This includes doing high-intensity exercises such as cycling and jogging. But you should definitely discuss the kind and amount of exercise you may do during pregnancy with your physician or obstetrician.

Straining or lifting during pregnancy: Lifting and straining do not increase your risk of miscarriage.

Working during your pregnancy: You don’t have to stop working, even if your work involves standing or sitting for a long time as working during pregnancy is not connected to the likelihood of having a miscarriage. However, you should make sure that you have no exposure to harmful radiation or chemicals at work. Discuss with your physician if you have concerns about any risks related to work.

Having sexual intercourse during pregnancy: Having sex is not among the reasons for miscarriage. So, you may enjoy sex with your partner during pregnancy for as long as you feel comfortable.

Air travel during pregnancy: Air travel is not harmful to pregnancy and is considered safe; therefore, pregnant women are allowed to travel by air until the 36th week of pregnancy by most commercial airlines.

Eating hot and spicy food: Eating hot and spicy food may neither cause a miscarriage nor increases your risk of having it.

Although the cause of most miscarriages is unknown, they presumably result from a complex interplay between many factors such as maternal age, paternal age, genetic, hormonal, immunological, and environmental factors.


The following are known miscarriage risk factors.

Women 35 years of age or older may have an increased risk of miscarriage in comparison to younger women. The risk of having a miscarriage is about 20 percent when you are 35 years old, the risk increases to 40 percent at age 40 and to 80 percent when you are 45 years old. However, it is important to note that paternal age after the age of 35 in men was also found to be associated with higher rates of miscarriage.

Excessive weight: Being overweight or obese may increase your risk of having a miscarriage.

Smoking: If you smoke during your pregnancy, then your risk of having a miscarriage may increase compared to non-smoking women.

Alcohol and drugs: Drinking alcohol heavily or using illicit drugs during pregnancy may also increase the risk of having a miscarriage.

Food poisoning: Food poisoning that occurs due to consuming contaminated foods (such as unpasteurized diary products or undercooked or raw meat, fish or eggs) may increase your risk of having a miscarriage.

Trauma: Physical trauma may increase your risk of having a miscarriage.

Certain medications: Taking certain medicines during pregnancy may increase the likelihood of having a miscarriage. To make sure that a particular medicine is safe to take during pregnancy, always check with the pharmacist or physician before taking it.

Infections: There are various types of infections that may increase the risk of miscarriage if you get them during pregnancy, such as measles, HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and malaria.

Diabetes: Several chronic diseases may increase the risk of miscarriage in the second trimester of pregnancy, particularly poorly controlled or not treated and uncontrolled diabetes.

Health-care providers have an important role in assessing and educating pregnant women about known risk factors, while diminishing concerns about unsubstantiated but prevalent misconceptions.



  1. Bardos, J. Hercz, D. Friedenthal, J. Missmer, S. Williams, Z. (2015). A National Survey on Public Perceptions of Miscarriage. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 125(6): 1313-1320.
  2. Magnus, M, C. Wilcox, A, J. Morken, N-H. Weinberg, C, R. Haberg, A, E. (2019). Role of maternal age and pregnancy history in risk of miscarriage: prospective register based study. BMJ, 364:I869.


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