The following is information compiled regarding miscarriage, one of the 15 health conditions covered by the VA for Camp Lejeune victims of water contamination. The information has been collected from various medical sources and authorities, including the CDC, Mayo Clinic, NIH and others.
What is a Miscarriage?
A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks. It is usually your body’s way of ending a pregnancy that has had a bad start. Miscarriages are very common. For women who already know they are pregnant, about 1 out of 6 have a miscarriage. It is also common for a woman to have a miscarriage before she even knows that she is pregnant.
Common signs of a miscarriage include:
- Bleeding from the vagina. The bleeding may be light or heavy, constant or off and on. It can sometimes be hard to know whether light bleeding is a sign of miscarriage. But if you have bleeding with pain, the chance of a miscarriage is higher.
- Pain in the belly, lower back, or pelvis.
- Tissue that passes from the vagina.
Chemicals that may increase a woman’s chance of having a miscarriage include:
- Medicines. Before conceiving, or as soon as you become aware that you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about all of the medicines you have been taking. For example, the use of the medicine isotretinoin for the treatment of acne during pregnancy has been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage and to cause birth defects.
- Tetrachloroethylene (used in dry cleaning).
- Arsenic, lead, formaldehyde, benzene, and ethylene oxide.
- Alcohol consumption, which can also cause birth defects and intellectual disabilities. There is no known safe amount of alcohol intake during pregnancy. The safest course is to avoid alcohol entirely while you are pregnant.
The ways in which a woman may come into contact with a chemical are through inhalation, ingestion, and in some cases, absorption through the skin. Most of the time, in order for chemical exposure during pregnancy to be harmful it would have to be in large doses over a long period of time. Chemicals can either pass from your blood and through the placenta or be absorbed into the blood stream, both resulting in exposure to the baby.
Exposure to harmful chemicals during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, slow growth and birth defects. The most sensitive time of pregnancy is during the first trimester (12 weeks), when organs and limbs are being formed; therefore, a fetus exposed to harmful chemicals during this time may be born with a birth defect. Babies exposed to harmful chemicals after the first trimester are more likely to have slow growth and problems with brain development.
An epidemiological study of 2,000 male and female workers exposed to trichloroethylene via inhalation found no increase in malformations in babies born following exposure:
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Toxicological Profile for Trichloroethylene (Update). U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, GA. 1997.
There is no treatment that can stop a miscarriage. As long as you do not have heavy blood loss, fever, weakness, or other signs of infection, you can let a miscarriage follow its own course. This can take several days. If a miscarriage is causing intense pain or bleeding or is taking longer than you are comfortable with, talk to your doctor about using medicine or surgery (such as a procedure called dilation and curettage, or D&C) to clear the uterus.
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