Abortion and Miscarriage: Methods and Causes

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  • 0:03 Abortion vs. Miscarriage
  • 0:35 Miscarriage Causes
  • 2:48 Abortion Methods
  • 4:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will teach you whether exercise can cause a miscarriage, what the major cause of miscarriage is, and what the two major classes of abortion are.

Abortion vs. Miscarriage

Whether by nature or choice, not all pregnancies are carried to full term.

Some pregnancies are terminated with an abortion, a procedure using medicine or surgery to end a pregnancy. A spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage, can also occur. A miscarriage is a spontaneous end of pregnancy before the 20th week of pregnancy. This lesson will seek to describe the basic concepts involving miscarriage and abortion, including their definitions and general causes.

Causes for a Miscarriage

A miscarriage is a word that sometimes seems to imply that it is the pregnant woman's fault that it even happened, as if she didn't do enough to avoid it. This could not be further from the truth in the vast majority of cases. Most miscarriages occur very early in pregnancy, before the woman is even clued into the fact that she is pregnant at all!

And even if a miscarriage occurs after a woman finds out she's pregnant, most often there is little she can do to prevent it from happening. And here's why. The biggest cause of miscarriage is a genetic problem with the embryo. Often times, a miscarriage results in the first trimester of pregnancy when this is indeed the case.

This isn't to imply that the genes inherited from the mother and father are somehow 'bad'. Not at all. Once the egg and sperm combine, the embryo is sort of on its own. Think of it this way: You could get a perfectly good bike and helmet from your parents, but that won't stop you from accidentally running over a nail and puncturing a tire. Or, your parents could give you a brand new computer and mouse, but for some darn reason, your hardware just won't work together.

This is similar to inheriting perfectly good genes from ma and pa. But because the embryo has its own unique genetic code, hiccups can occur. And scientists know for a fact that sometimes for no reason other than pure chance alone, the genes malfunction, the embryo stops developing properly, and a miscarriage results. While that's the case the majority of the time, in a minority of cases a woman may have a medical condition that she's afflicted with that results in a miscarriage. Examples of this include: uncontrolled diabetes, problems affecting the uterus or cervix, and polycystic ovary syndrome.

It's just as critical to note that things like sex, routine exercise, and work in a safe environment do not cause a miscarriage. But, being under or overweight, using alcohol or illicit drugs, and smoking can increase the risk of having a miscarriage.

Methods of Abortion

Sometimes a pregnancy ends not through miscarriage but through abortion. There are two general kinds of abortion available in the U.S. One is known as medical abortion, and the other as surgical abortion.

A medical abortion is a procedure where medication is utilized during early pregnancy (up to nine weeks). The medication that's used to help the woman's body remove the fetus and placenta can include misoprostol and mifepristone.

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