Is Risk of Miscarriage Hereditary?

Senior woman and adult daughter having serious discussion on porch

Roberto Westbrook / Getty Images

A miscarriage is a type of pregnancy loss that occurs on its own within the first half of a pregnancy (the first 20 weeks). Most occur during the first trimester (the first 13 weeks). According to one systematic review of the literature, 11% to 22% of pregnancies may end in miscarriage.

It is theoretically possible for a tendency toward miscarriages to be hereditary and to run in families, and a few studies have suggested that unexplained recurrent miscarriages might sometimes run in families. It is worth mentioning your family history at your preconception visit with your doctor. However, this doesn't mean that your risk of miscarriage is necessarily any higher than average.

Causes of Recurrent Miscarriage

Doctors find a possible cause in only about half of women who experience recurrent miscarriages. Of the known causes, most usually don't get passed down through families.

Researchers believe that the majority of miscarriages are the result of chromosomal problems present in the sperm or egg at the time of conception, and this usually results from random errors in cell division during formation of the sperm or egg, rather than any condition directly inherited from the mother or father's parent.

Sometimes with recurrent miscarriages, there may be an asymptomatic chromosomal disorder such as balanced translocation that causes an increased tendency to miscarry, and such conditions can run in families and be passed on to a child. Such disorders are present only in around 5% of all couples with recurrent miscarriages.

Unless you know for sure that your mother has a translocation or other chromosomal condition, odds are low that you need to worry about a genetic predisposition to miscarry.

With other known recurrent miscarriage causes, such as antiphospholipid syndrome, it's possible that you could have a genetic predisposition to develop those conditions if your mother has them, but these problems usually aren't strictly genetic—in other words, they don't tend to pass directly from parent to child. There's also no strong evidence to suggest that screening for these conditions before a first pregnancy is beneficial.

Other factors that can increase the risk of miscarriage and are not hereditary include lifestyle choices (such as ingesting large amounts of caffeine, using drugs, smoking, not eating enough nutritious foods, and radiation exposure) and the age of the mother.

A Word From Verywell

Do mention your family history of miscarriages to your doctor before attempting to get pregnant, but unless you know for sure that a chromosomal condition was diagnosed, you probably don't need any advanced testing. Most likely, your risk of miscarriage isn't higher than average.

If you do become pregnant, look out for common symptoms of miscarriage. Call your doctor right away if you experience any vaginal bleeding that is bright red or brown, cramping or back pain, the passing of tissue through the vagina, weight loss, or a decrease in pregnancy symptoms (such as tender breasts, fatigue, nausea, frequent urination).

6 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. Ammon avalos L, Galindo C, Li DK. A systematic review to calculate background miscarriage rates using life table analysis. Birth Defects Res Part A Clin Mol Teratol. 2012;94(6):417-423. doi:10.1002/bdra.23014

  2. Miskovic S, Culic V, Konjevoda P, Pavelic J. Positive reproductive family history for spontaneous abortion: predictor for recurrent miscarriage in young couples. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2012;161(2):182-186. doi:10.1016/j.ejogrb.2011.12.027

  3. Lalioti MD. Can preimplantation genetic diagnosis overcome recurrent pregnancy failure?. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2008;20(3):199-204. doi:10.1097/GCO.0b013e3282f88e0c

  4. Larsen EC, Christiansen OB, Kolte AM, Macklon N. New insights into mechanisms behind miscarriage. BMC Med. 2013;11:154. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-154

  5. Hyde KJ, Schust DJ. Genetic considerations in recurrent pregnancy loss. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2015;5(3):a023119. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a023119

  6. American Pregnancy Association. Miscarriage: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention. Irving, Tex.: American Pregnancy Association.

Additional Reading
  • American Psychological Association. Healing the wounds of pregnancy loss. By Kirsten Weir. Monitor on Psychology 2018 May;49(5):26 (print). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association 2020

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