Solving Miscarriages


Alora Foote, Contributor

It is not uncommon for women to experience miscarriages. Almost a fourth of pregnancies end in a miscarriage. However, the reason behind such a commonality is unknown to the masses. In order to determine the cause, scientists must perform genetic testing on the fetal tissue. These tests are thousands of dollars. They often aren’t offered to parents until multiple miscarriages have occured. This has been the case since the beginning of genetic testing, however, recent, rapid improvement in the field may change this.

Dr. Zev Williams, director of the Columbia University Fertility Center in New York, has combined several advanced technologies. In doing this, he has produced what he claims to be both faster and cheaper method for testing the fetal tissue for genetic abnormalities in births. Prior to Dr. Williams’s work, results would take weeks to arrive and cost thousands of dollars with the risk of invalid results. Now, tests may take a couple hours and cost about $200. “‘Pregnancy loss has really been, from a patient’s point of view, incredibly devastating to be going through, but from a medical and scientific point of view, a black box,’ Williams said. ‘We’re starting to chip away at that'” (NBCNews). Not all questions about miscarriages will be solved with this new technology. It will get answers to grieving parents and their doctors much faster than previously. Despite the convenience of quick replies, expert Cynthia Casson Morton, a medical geneticist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, says that knowing almost immediately the cause of a miscarriage may be too much to handle while parents are grieving. Dr. Christine C. Greves agrees with Morton on the subject but adds that many other parents would like to know right away. “‘Our human nature is wanting to know why,’ she said, ‘so if we could know why sooner, and it’s accurate, then that probably could provide more of a sense of peace'” (NBCNews).

The technology behind quick results is a small box that could be mistaken for a stapler. Oxford Nanopore Technologies in the United Kingdom developed the box and made it available commercially back in 2015 and has been developed further since. The technology has also been used for other research such as the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Now that the way to test and obtain the results for the causes of miscarriages is available, the mystery of the cause is yet to be determined. many women miscarry so early on in a pregnancy, many don’t know that they were pregnant to begin with. Scientists believe these early losses are caused by genetic abnormalities such as blood clotting disorders, uteral structural problems, or thyroid imbalances. Scientists have found many plausible reasons to blame for miscarriages, but forty-one percent of mothers feel as though they had been responsible for the miscarriage, often blaming a single drink or working double shifts. Dr. Scott Sullivan, a director of maternal-fetal medicine at the Medical university of South Carolina, says that these two things are not severe enough to cause the loss of a child.