New Test Could Help Answer Why Miscarriages Happen

The haunting question that is left lingering in the wake of a miscarriage is one that often goes unanswered. 

The question of why?

Why me? Why us? Why did this happen? What went wrong? Did I do anything to cause this?

Many times, there is no easy answer. Doctors shrug, unable to offer that answer that parents so desperately seek, answering only with empty arms and a compassionate shake of the head — “These things just happen sometimes.”

We want to know why, and it’s natural to want answers at a time when we are feeling so helpless toward the one thing that parents have ingrained in us at a very basic level: protecting our children.

And although many parents sadly won’t always find out why their little ones were taken too soon, a new test hopes to answer the question of why miscarriages happen. 


A study in the March issue of Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology detailed the research behind the first-of-its-kind test, which uses a new form of DNA testing to help determine exactly why miscarriages happen.

What’s so unique about this study is that it looked at tissue not just from recent losses, but from miscarriages that happened as many as four years ago. 

Researchers from Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University used a technique called karyotyping to examine DNA material from samples that were archived in hospitals per protocol.

In this the study of 20 samples from 17 women, genetic testing was successfully performed on 16 samples, some up to four years old. The samples revealed eight chromosomal abnormalities in the tissue, marking the new technique as revolutionary when conventional karyotyping can’t be used. Previously, if a woman waited too long, testing may not be able to be done to see why the loss happened.

“Given the ease of obtaining results, even if a delay in testing occurs, this new test may provide a useful technique to gain a better understanding as to why miscarriage occurs in some women,” says Zev Williams, M.D., Ph.D., director of Program for Early and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (PEARL), assistant professor of genetics and of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at Einstein, and corresponding author of the study. “I have seen women in tears because testing was not done at the time of the miscarriage and they feared they would never learn why it happened. Now we are able to go back and often get the answers we need.”

Dr. Williams explains that the majority of first trimester miscarriages — up to 75 percent of cases — are caused by chromosomal abnormalities. “This new test can help guide future treatment options but, importantly, can also help alleviate some of the guilt and self-blame often associated with unexplained miscarriage and can close a door or a painful chapter in a woman’s and couple’s life.”

What do you think? Would you want testing done to see why a miscarriage occurred? 

Image via Flickr/MS-R / Michael S-R

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