The Most Common Causes of Miscarriage

Self-blame following a pregnancy loss.
Self-blame following a pregnancy loss. Shuji Kobayashi/Getty Images

After losing a baby through miscarriage, it's common to wonder if you did something to cause the pregnancy loss. Did you overexert yourself in that spin class you took? Or maybe you haven't been getting enough rest. Have you been eating the wrong foods? Was it that one glass of wine you had at your sister's wedding?

While the cause of miscarriage is unlikely to be related to any of these situations, self-blame is hard to avoid when dealing with a pregnancy loss. In reality, miscarriages are almost never anyone's fault. In fact, there are many myths and misconceptions that surround the cause of miscarriage. With very few exceptions, there is almost nothing you or your doctor can do to affect whether or not you will have a miscarriage.

What Is the Most Common Cause of Miscarriage?

Most miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities, which is not something that can be changed, especially after it has already happened. Doctors can't stop a first-trimester miscarriage that has already begun. They also usually can't do anything to affect the outcome of a threatened miscarriage.

The only time that any action can possibly prevent miscarriage would be when doctors offer treatment for recognized recurrent miscarriage causes to couples with multiple miscarriages. But even in those cases, there is no guarantee that treatment will prevent a miscarriage or that not getting treatment would have meant a miscarriage. Much of the science is still unclear about which miscarriage treatments work.

Can Bad Habits Cause Miscarriage?

One could argue that purposefully engaging in risky behaviors during pregnancy, such as smoking, drug use, or heavy alcohol consumption, could mean a miscarriage was the mother's fault. And it is true that none of those behaviors are recommended during pregnancy — or any other time for that matter — and all could have a negative impact on your unborn child.

But the truth is that the majority of women who smoke or drink during pregnancy do not miscarry. In addition, the majority of women who miscarry pregnancies they desperately wanted do not smoke or drink heavily during pregnancy.

The Bottom Line

Most miscarriages will never be explained by any specific factor. The best you can do is take your time coping with your grief, eliminate any risk factors you might have, and try again (assuming you want to) rather than looking back and trying to identify the cause of a past miscarriage.

Resist the urge to blame yourself for your miscarriage. The odds are exceedingly low that it happened because of anything you did or did not do.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hardy PJ, Hardy K. Chromosomal instability in first trimester miscarriage: a common cause of pregnancy lossTransl Pediatr. 2018;7(3):211–218. doi:10.21037/tp.2018.03.02

  2. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Treatment of Recurrent Pregnancy Loss.

  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs, and Pregnancy.

By Krissi Danielsson
Krissi Danielsson, MD is a doctor of family medicine and an advocate for those who have experienced miscarriage.