Preventing Miscarriages with Chinese MedicineJasmine Sufi HBSc, BHSc, D.Ac September 1, 2007
Pregnancy is a time filled with many emotions. The prospect of a new addition to the family brings hope and anticipation for the incredible changes that are about to happen, anxiety at the changes taking place within your own body and, of course concern for the health of your new baby. When a pregnancy results in miscarriage however, the family is often left completely devastated. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss. Studies show that 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. The most common causes of miscarriage include: chromosomal errors, the improper implementation of the egg within the uterus and/or structural deformities in an embryo that prevent its development.
No matter how it happens, the loss of a baby is never easy. But when you and your partner decide to try again, it is important to ensure that both of you are emotionally and physically ready.
HOW CAN CHINESE MEDICINE AND ACUPUNCTURE HELP?
The combination of Chinese herbs and acupuncture help promote circulation to the uterus, support healthy egg maturation and ensure healthy uterine lining, thereby enhancing your chances to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Following conception, acupuncture and herbs can prevent miscarriage by promoting overall health and proper circulation throughout the body, ensuring that essential nutrients are passed from mother to baby. Acupuncture also helps the body to manage stress better and reduce anxiety.
CAN ACUPUNCTURE HELP TO IMPROVE HORMONE LEVELS?
If you are undergoing IVF or IUI, your doctor will keep a close check on your blood work and will monitor FSH, LH, and HCG levels once you are pregnant. These are important in determining if and when a woman will ovulate, and whether the pregnancy will be sustained.
WHAT DO HIGH FSH LEVELS MEAN?
Levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) are commonly used in determining fertility. FSH is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates the ovaries to produce follicles. While normal levels result in ovulation during a cycle, insufficient FSH levels due to a defect of the pituitary gland result in anovulation (no ovulation). High levels of FSH, which is much more common, result from the pituitary gland stimulating follicles that are non-responsive. High levels may indicate premature ovarian failure. This occurs when there are few or no eggs left and is usually seen during menopause. High levels of FSH in women in their thirties who have a tendency to miscarry is commonly associated with extreme stress.
It is important to note that FSH levels vary from cycle to cycle and are affected easily by the environment, stress and illness. Premature ovarian failure should not be determined with one cycle and should be monitored over 3-6 cycles before a diagnosis of ovarian failure is determined, although every clinic or lab will have its own standards to determine fertility. FSH levels lower than 12mIU/ml are generally needed to be able to conceive.
For women under the age of 45 and those who have not yet reached menopause, Chinese medicine and acupuncture can be particularly helpful in reducing and stabilizing FSH levels.
UNDERSTANDING LH LEVELS
Like FSH, Luteinizing hormone (LH) is produced by the pituitary gland and helps regulate the menstrual cycle and egg production (ovulation). The level of LH in a woman’s body varies with the phase of the menstrual cycle. An LH surge is the rapid increase in LH that occurs just prior to ovulation, around Day 14. A combination of herbs and acupuncture can help regulate your hormones, promoting timely ovulation and maintaining a cycle of 28-29 days.
ARE hCG LEVELS IMPORTANT IN PREDICTING EARLY MISCARRIAGE?
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) is produced during pregnancy by the cells that form the placenta. HCG can first be detected by a normal blood test 11 days after conception and after 12-14 days with a urine test. hCG levels should double every 72 hours and will reach their peak in the 8th to 11th week of pregnancy. They will decline and level off for the remainder of the pregnancy. Levels should consistently rise in early pregnancy. If they decline or increase at a low rate, the pregnancy will likely result in miscarriage. They may remain in the blood for 4-6 weeks after the loss.
DO PROGESTERONE SUPPLEMENTS HELP PREVENT MISCARRIAGE?
Progesterone helps to build the lining of the woman’s uterus for the fertilized egg to implant. Once conception occurs, the placenta continues to produce progesterone for the duration of the pregnancy. Pregnant women have 10 times more progesterone in their blood and levels continue to increase right up to birth. Low or declining levels of progesterone during any part of pregnancy indicate the potential for miscarriage.
Acupuncture is safe during pregnancy when performed by a qualified practitioner. Ensure that your practitioner is comfortable with treating pregnancy-related conditions and avoids the use of acupuncture points that aggressively move qi and blood in your system. Chinese herbs are essential in moving energy upwards, promoting circulation towards the uterus and supporting progesterone. Common herbs to support progesterone include: common yam and black haw. Please take as directed by your practitioner.
HOW LONG SHOULD I WAIT AFTER A ‘D and C’ TO GET MY PERIOD?
If a miscarriage did not occur naturally, a small surgical procedure is performed called a ‘D and C’ (Dilation and Curettage), in which the cervix is dilated and the uterine lining is scraped away. It takes the body 4-6 weeks to readjust to the change in hormones and produce your first period. hCG takes 4-6 weeks to clear the blood stream and ovulation will not occur if high levels of hCG are present. Starting regular acupuncture treatment immediately after a ‘D and C’ will encourage recovery, reduce anxiety, help you manage stress better physically and mentally and speed up the decline of hCG in your system, setting your system back to normal.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be an excellent alternative or adjunct to other treatments to increase your chances of conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy. By reducing stress and anxiety, and promoting proper circulation to the uterus, acupuncture and Chinese medicine help ensure a healthy and successful pregnancy. With few or no side effects you owe it to yourself to give it a try!