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Can being hit in the stomach cause a miscarriage?

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Sad Pregnant Woman
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There are a lot of old wives tales about how miscarriages happen. One is that falling down stairs, or being hit in the stomach or abdomen, is a way to induce a miscarriage. This would be really hard to do in the first trimester, because the uterus is completely protected by the pelvis.

It's only after the first trimester, when the uterus begins to peek above the pelvis, that there's more likelihood that damage may be done. The risk here is that severe trauma would cause a placenta abruption. (This type of damage is typically not caused by your average fall or minor car accident.) You have to remember that your baby is protected by the amniotic fluid, so damage is more likely to come to the life-sustaining organ, the placenta.

If you've been the victim of violence, have fallen or had an accident, it's important to call your doctor or midwife immediately. They may want you to come in to check the baby out and ensure that the placenta is still functioning properly.

Tests that they may do to check on your baby's well-being might include:

  • Non-Stress Test
    Depending on where you are in your pregnancy, a non-stress test (NST) might be done. This involves your being monitored with a fetal monitor and marking when the baby moves. This might be one of the first tests done to see if your baby is responding well. It can be done in many doctors' or midwives' offices, making it very accessible.
  • Ultrasound
    An ultrasound test is done to determine if there is damage to the baby or uterus by actually visualizing both. This can be done at any gestational age. It may also need to be repeated to see if there is healing, if any damage was caused. You may be able to have this done at your provider's office, or you may have to wait for a slot at the hospital.
If you've had abdominal trauma, you'll want to ask some questions of your providers once it's been determined that you and baby are stable. These include:
  • What signs or symptoms would you normally expect I would have?
  • What signs or symptoms would you want me to call you about?
  • Is there anything that would indicate that I would need to immediately go to the emergency room or call 911?
  • Will this alter my course of pregnancy? Labor? Birth?
  • Will I need additional testing?
  • Will either my baby or I need further follow up this pregnancy? After birth?

You are likely to be frightened and shaken. Know that the vast majority of the time, you and baby will be fine from accidents. Acts of violence are another matter. Pregnancy is a common time for violence to begin. Consider getting help to remove yourself and your baby from the violence. There is help available. People are willing to help you find a safe place to live and get on your feet to make a better life for you and your baby.

"National Domestic Violence Hotline: If you are, or know someone who is, the victim of intimate partner violence, contact your local battered women's shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233), 800-787-3224 TYY," from the CDC.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Intimate Partner Violence. Last accessed May 13, 2013.

El-Kady, D., W.M. Gilbert, J. Anderson, B. Danielsen, D. Towner, and L.H. Smith, "Trauma during pregnancy: an analysis of maternal and fetal outcomes in a large population." American Journal Obstetrics and Gynecology Jun 2004. Accessed 10 May 2013.

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