Christmas is just around the corner. Although I don't usually celebrate Christmas, it is rather difficult not to be drawn into the spirit of festivity. Apart from the Christmas presents and turkey, I enjoy the gatherings with family and friends in the build up to the big day.
I held a dinner party at home recently and invited some close friends. One of the guests mentioned that the Greatest War time heroes of the 20th century, Winston Churchill once said: “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.”
The dinner conversation naturally digressed to the reflection of the events occurred in 2014.
Without a doubt, the two most shocking and traumatising incidents that stunned many Malaysians were the MH370 and MH17.
Although it seems like yesterday when the news broke, many of us do hope the annus horribilis (Latin phrase for horrible year) of 2014 will become a distant memory while 2015 will be an annus mirabilis (wonderful year).
On that note, I would like to answer a reader’s email over a traumatic event in his life.
Dear Dr G,
I am David. My wife and I have been married for three years and we have been trying to have a baby in the last two years.
I am sad to say that my wife miscarried in the last two pregnancies. Naturally, I feel very sad about the incidents. Both occurred in the first three months of the pregnancies.
I am 32 and my wife is 30 years old. We used to have a very active sexual relationship until the miscarriages.
My wife said we were still having intercourse after the pregnancies that had induced the miscarriages. Is it true that vigorous sexual intercourse in the early pregnancies can result in losing the baby?
We have been to many doctors to discuss about the matter and I am disappointed that no cause has been identified for the miscarriages.
The doctors said it might be my smoking habits that make the sperms vulnerable. Can this be true?
I feel very sad about the situation and it seems to have a negative impact on our sexual relationship. I find it difficult to talk to my wife about this as it may hurt her feelings.
Is there anything I can do to prevent losing another pregnancy? Can you please help me?
Is a healthy baby still possible for couples who had faced miscarriages?
Warmest regards and happy holidays,
Losing a baby at any stage of the pregnancy is a distressing and traumatic event for many women. In a medical term, a miscarriage is the loss of the fetus before the 24th week of the pregnancy. After 24th weeks, losing a baby during a pregnancy is termed stillbirth.
More than 80% of miscarriages occur in the first three months of a pregnancy. Medical literatures reported that the incidence of 50% of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage as a spontaneous abortion occurring before a woman misses a period.
About 15% of recognised pregnancies may end in a miscarriage. The vast majority of the etiology of miscarriages are not well understood. Fetal chromosomal abnormalities are well recognised to be the reason.
In addition, other causes include infection, uterine abnormality, thyroid diseases, malnutrition and of course, excessive maternal consumption of cigarettes and alcohol. Not many studies had implicated the paternal lifestyle to induce miscarriages, however, I am certain David’s smoking cessation can only have a positive impact on the future of a healthy pregnancy.
Although many couples are desperate to incriminate sexual activities as one of the causes of miscarriages, there is no proof that active sexual intercourse (vigorous or not!) can induce spontaneous loss of the fetus.
According to a recent study from university College London, partners often feel left out, as they are unable to talk about their feelings of loss and pain, for fear of upsetting their spouses.
In this research, 46% of partners kept the issues to themselves and half of the participants interviewed admitted to having insomnia related to the loss. Spouses or even healthcare providers usually under-recognised such negative psychological impact in men affected by the “bereavement”.
Even though the loss of fetus may seem devastating to both partners, two recent studies in Denmark and the Netherlands highlighted the findings that women with repeated miscarriages can be reassured that their chances of having a healthy baby in the future are the same as women who had never lost a baby during a pregnancy.
In the first study, two-thirds of the affected women have at least one child within five years of having a miscarriage.
In the second study, 70% of the affected women became pregnant within one year, and the chances increased to 80% within two years of an initial miscarriage.
Calvin Coolidge, the President of the United States in 1920s once said: “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas”.
When faced with a previous loss and pain, this “state of mind” should help us see the light at the end of the tunnel in the New Year.
To David, happy trying! To everyone else, Merry Christmas and have an amazing New Year!
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
Dr George Lee is a consultant Urologist and Clinical Associate Professor whose professional interest is in men’s health. The column “Ask Dr G” is a forum to help men debunk the myths and taboos on men’s issues that may be too “hard” to mention. You can send him questions at email@example.com