A new study has found that women with a disability are more likely to experience a miscarriage.
Miscarriage is an unplanned pregnancy loss within the first twenty weeks of gestation. It is estimated that one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage with over 80% taking place in the first twelve weeks. The cause of miscarriage is unknown, however, there are risk factors that can increase the chances; these include older age, underlying health problems, obesity, heavy drinking, smoking and/or use of recreational drugs. It is important to remember that many miscarriages happen for an unknown reason. Research is ongoing to try to understand miscarriage and help prevent it.
Disability can take on many forms including; psychological, cognitive, vision, hearing, physical, invisible, independent living, and brain injury. Women with a disability are just as likely to experience pregnancy compared to those without a disability. Despite research about the cause of miscarriage increasing, little is known about miscarriage in women with a disability.
Thought to be the first of its kind, a new research study published in the Journal of Women’s Health looked at both miscarriage and related medical care in women with various disabilities. The study looked back at 3843 women with at least one completed pregnancy over a five-year period. It compared the number of miscarriages in women with any cognitive, physical, or independent living disability to women without a disability in the United States. The researchers found that women with a disability were more likely to have had a miscarriage in the last five years compared to those without a disability.
When looking at women who experienced miscarriage, it was also found that those with an independent living disability were significantly more likely to have had two or more miscarriages compared to women without a disability. This was despite women with an independent living disability receiving more miscarriage prevention services. Women with any physical disability were more likely to receive a recommendation to go on bed rest, or reduce physical activity in order to reduce the chances of miscarriage. There is no evidence that bed rest can prevent miscarriage, but it is commonly prescribed to women seen at risk.
These results raise an important question: Why are women with a disability more likely to miscarry despite often receiving more miscarriage prevention services? This is where more research is needed to establish why disability is a risk factor for miscarriage. Further investigation into this area will help to develop miscarriage prevention services and care for women at risk of miscarriage. Pregnancy loss remains a largely taboo subject despite it affecting so many women and families. This type of research helps to break the taboo and improve knowledge and understanding about a common but heart-breaking problem.
Written by Helen Massy, BSc.
Dissanayake, M., Darney, B., Caughey, A. and Horner-Johnson, W. (2019). Miscarriage Occurrence and Prevention Efforts by Disability Status and Type in the United States. Journal of Women’s Health.
Horner-Johnson, W., Kulkarni-Rajasekhara, S., Darney, B., Dissanayake, M. and Caughey, A. (2017). Live birth, miscarriage, and abortion among U.S. women with and without disabilities. Disability and Health Journal, 10(3), pp.382-386.
Tommy’s. (2019). Tommy’s – How common is miscarriage?. [online] Available at: https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/early-pregnancy/how-common-miscarriage [Accessed 4 Dec. 2019].
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