Receiving a diagnosis of a first-trimester miscarriage can be devastating. Many of my patients start thinking about what they might have done or experienced in the last couple of weeks or months that might have caused their miscarriage. Here I’m going to give you a short, but by no means definitive, list of all the things that did not cause your pregnancy to be a miscarriage:
Exercise, heavy lifting or physical exertion. Don’t worry about the fact that you vacuumed your house, or moved heavy boxes, or lifted your niece or nephew. No amount of normal physical activity like this can cause a miscarriage. Even if you have a job that involves heavy lifting or pushing heavy carts. Even if you can (and did) bench press 150 pounds. Even if you’re training for a marathon. None of these things will cause a miscarriage during the first trimester.
Working. There is no association between miscarriage and full-time employment, standing more than 6 hours a day, or an average amount of lifting. Unless your job exposes you to toxins, or requires you to lift more than 220 pounds at a time, your job is safe for a pregnancy.
Screen time. Working at a computer all day or spending a lot of time on your social media accounts is not associated with miscarriage. The electromagnetic fields from our screens are relatively weak. While staring at a screen all day may not be good for your eyesight or relationships, it doesn’t pose a threat to your pregnancy.
Stress. You may hear from well-meaning relatives (and sometimes strangers) that somehow your stress, in your mind or in your body, affects your baby. Let me reassure you: It is not possible. People have healthy pregnancies through the most stressful situations that humankind can experience, including through war, famine, and abuse. No matter how bad your job is, or unstable your relationship is, or any other stressors that you might be facing, they did not cause your pregnancy to be unhealthy. There are myths about a shock or fright causing a miscarriage. That’s not at all true either. You can enjoy all the horror movies you want during pregnancy, if that’s your thing.
Sex. This is one of the first things that my patients go to in their mind when they think about things that they did that could have caused this to happen. I don’t care how vigorous the sex was, how athletic, or in what position—frankly, I hope all those things were really fun! No amount of sex in any way can disrupt your pregnancy. And orgasm is okay, too, with or without intercourse.
Drinking alcohol. The link between alcohol and pregnancy health is complicated. But having a few drinks early in your pregnancy, especially before you knew you were pregnant, can’t cause a miscarriage. While it’s true that doctors don’t recommend women drink alcohol when they know they’re pregnant, this recommendation comes mainly from concerns about healthy fetal development, not because we think it causes miscarriages.
Drinking coffee. Studies examining the relationship between caffeine and miscarriage are guaranteed to make scary headlines whenever they are published. The bulk of the evidence to date shows that moderate caffeine consumption (less than 200 mg per day) is okay in pregnancy. This is the equivalent of drinking about 2 cups of coffee or four to six 12-oz. cans of soda.
Air travel. Cabin pressurization is not associated with higher miscarriage risk. So take that vacation or work trip. However, if you do fly while you’re pregnant, be sure to regularly get up and walk the aisle to prevent the risk of blood clots in your legs.
Tampons. Nope. Tampons stay in your vagina, and go nowhere near the baby inside the uterus.
Hormonal birth control. The hormones in most forms of birth control leave your system within a few days of you stopping the method. The one exception is the Depo-Provera injection, which can delay your periods from returning for nearly a year. These hormones do not fundamentally change your ovaries, your eggs, or your uterus, and have no impact on the health of your pregnancies. And if your hormonal birth control failed and you became pregnant while using it, there is no increased risk of birth defects.
Intrauterine device (IUD). Similarly, having used an IUD in the past doesn’t increase your risk of miscarriage. The only association with an IUD and miscarriage is in the rare instances when you become pregnant with an IUD in place. These pregnancies have a very high risk of miscarriage, especially if the IUD is not removed.
Having had an abortion. It is not uncommon for people to feel that their decisions about past pregnancies are the reason for a present-day miscarriage. Medically, there is no relationship between a past abortion, even if you’ve had more than one, and having a miscarriage now. The universe is not sending you a message, and you’re not being punished. You made the best decision for yourself that you could at the time, and not being ready to parent a child then does not mean you’re not going to be allowed to parent a child now.
Morning sickness. My patients have asked me if their baby was nutritionally deprived because they were nauseous all the time and couldn’t eat or were vomiting throughout the day. No matter how much you vomited, or how little you ate, morning sickness does not lead to miscarriage. In fact, morning sickness in pregnancy is associated with high pregnancy hormone levels that tend to indicate healthier pregnancies.
Getting a flu shot. Despite what you may have heard or read, it is not only safe but highly encouraged to receive the flu vaccine during pregnancy. If you were to contract the flu while pregnant, you would have a higher risk of serious illness—and even death—than getting the flu at any other time. The effects of flu vaccines on pregnancies has been heavily researched. It won’t cause a miscarriage and will keep you, and a baby, safe both before and after birth.
Bottom line: You did nothing wrong. You did nothing to make this miscarriage happen.