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The Many Ways to Miscarry

Photograph by Twenty20

When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and his wife were finally pregnant, he said they'd experienced three previous miscarriages. "You feel so hopeful when you learn you're going to have a child. You start imagining who they'll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they're gone. It's a lonely experience."

But what exactly is that experience like? While I'm grateful to Zuckerberg and other public figures for being so open about their pain (usually in the past, after they're pregnant) few people have any understanding about pregnancy loss—until it happens to them.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, so I am going to explore different facets of miscarriage, from the types there are, to what to do, how to talk about it and how to recover and move on.

RELATED: 8 Things Not to Say to a Woman Who's Had a Miscarriage

What Is a Miscarriage?

A miscarriage is a loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week of pregnancy. Some 10-20% of clinical pregnancies will miscarry—although more than half will have been chemical pregnancies, i.e., a loss shortly after implantation.

Early Miscarriage

A week after my wedding, I realized I hadn't gotten my period in a while. I'd just gotten off birth control, though, so I wasn't too worried. Still, I took a pregnancy test. Then another. And another. (This was before I started buying them in bulk.) I made an appointment with the OB-GYN for the following week. The morning of the appointment, though, I bled lightly in the toilet. The pregnancy was short-lived.

Often, women don't even realize they've conceived, and what seems like a late period is really an early loss.

That's why I was in complete shock to hear at our nine-week appointment, "I'm sorry, there's no heartbeat."

A Missed Miscarriage

After waiting one cycle as advised—in which we took our honeymoon—I got pregnant. This time, though, I was on the lookout for bleeding. I checked trepidatiously each time I went to pee, but… nothing! This time I made it to the doctor, and we even got to see the baby's heartbeat at seven weeks. That's why I was in complete shock to hear at our nine-week appointment, "I'm sorry, there's no heartbeat."

"But there was no blood!" I cried.

Turns out it was what was called a "missed miscarriage," where the fetus' heart has stopped beating but you don't know it. In fact, some women can carry a pregnancy for weeks and only at the doctor's appointment find out the fetus had stopped growing earlier.

Blighted Ovum

I thought I knew everything about miscarriage. So after a few weeks of really good blood tests showing rising pregnancy hormones, indicating a health pregnancy, I was expecting to see the fetus' heartbeat at the doctor. But when he said, "It's a blighted ovum." I didn't understand. He showed me on the ultrasound: there was a gestational sac, but no fetus inside. The embryo had implanted, but never grew.

RELATED: 5 Things You Didn't Know About Miscarriage

Other Types of Miscarriage

There are other types of pregnancies that do not continue, including an incomplete or inevitable miscarriage where your cervix is dilated and/or you start to lose the pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy where the embryo has implanted outside the uterus and a molar pregnancy which is when there's growth of an abnormal tissue in the uterus due to a genetic error during fertilization.

The fact is no matter what "type" of miscarriage you experience, they're all pretty devastating. But I still wish I had known about the signs and symptoms, because it might have made things just a bit easier—which is what I hope this post does for someone else.

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