New research reveals that miscarriage serves a critical role in human evolution – and in some instances, may even be associated with optimal fertility
5 August 2020
WHEN I saw the positive result on my at-home pregnancy test, my mind raced ahead. I imagined how it would feel to hold my child for the first time, what we would call them. I thought of the bedtime stories we would read, pictured family camping holidays at the beach.
I never imagined that, just weeks later, while dancing at a friend’s wedding, a sharp twisting pain would signal that the pregnancy was over.
Like many women who have a miscarriage, I worried I had done something to trigger the loss. Had I exercised too hard? Slept too little? Around the world, studies show that many women experience shame and guilt after losing a pregnancy. One US survey found that 40 per cent of women who had a miscarriage believed it was because of something they did wrong. Though there is no evidence covid-19 increases miscarriage risk, the pandemic only exacerbates these worries. Society can add to the problem. In some countries, the culture of blame is so widespread that losing a pregnancy can land a woman in jail.
When I looked into the latest research, what I discovered not only challenged ideas that women are somehow responsible for their miscarriages, or experience them because something is wrong, but suggested that, surprisingly, they are usually associated with optimal maternal health. With advances in fertility medicine, we are finally starting to understand what happens in a miscarriage. This progress may offer solace when pregnancies don’t work out and help women struggling to become pregnant. It could even shed light on the role of miscarriage in our evolution. …