Preventing Miscarriages with Chinese Herbs
A miscarriage is defined as the loss of a fetus before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
One third to one half of all pregnancies result in miscarriage. A second miscarriage generally occurs in only 1% of women. One third of miscarriages may occur as a late menstrual period, even before a woman knows for certain that she is pregnant.
A “Threatened Miscarriage” refers to two different conditions in traditional Chinese Medicine.
“Leaking fetus” (tai lou) which is uterine bleeding during pregnancy. It is characterized by slight and intermittent vaginal bleeding without lower backache or abdominal pain.
“Stirring fetus” (tai dong bu an) refers to frequent fetal movement, abdominal pain, bearing down sensation in the lower abdomene and in most cases slight vaginal bleeding. Both conditions warn of possible miscarriage.
Causes of “Threatened miscarriages”:
1. “Kidney Qi Vacuity”, either because of a weak constitution, depleted “Kidney” essence from overindulgent sexual activity or to a history of frequent miscarriages.
2. Impairment of the “Spleen” and “stomach” leading to “Qi” and “Blood Vacuity”.
3. Internal heat disturbing the fetus, often resulting from stagnation because of emotional stress.
4. Fetal qi can also be adversely affected by the development of another illness during pregnancy. In addition the effects of traumatic injury, surgery and herbal and pharmaceuticals can threaten miscarriage
Chinese Herbs Must Address the Underlying Cause of the Threatened Miscarriage.
1. Threaten miscarriage cause by “Kidney Qi Vacuity”
Clinical Manifestations: Slight vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, dark discharge, lower backache and in some cases a bearing down sensation and pain in the abdomen; accompanied by dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, frequent urination, night time urination, even urinary incontinence in sever cases. Tongue: Pale with white coating Pulse: deep, weak, slippery
Treatment Method: Secure the Kidney, Boost the Qi, Calm the Fetus Chinese herbal formula to treat a threatened miscarriage caused by “Kidney Qi Vacuity”:Fetal Longevity Pill (Shou tai wan)
2. Threaten miscarriage cause by “Qi and Blood Vacuity”
Clinical Manifestations: Slight vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, discharge that is thin and pale red, and in some cases, pain and a bearing down sensation of the lower back and abdomen with tireness, fatigue, pale complexion, palpitations and shortness of breath.
Tongue: Pale with thin white coat Pulse: Thready, slippery
Treatment Method: Supplement Qi, nourish the blood, secure the kidney and quiet the fetus. Chinese herbal formula to treat a threatened miscarriage caused be Qi and Blood vacuity: Fetal Origin Decoction (Tai Yuan Yin)
3. Threaten miscarriage cause by “Blood Heat”
Clinical Manifestations: Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, discharge that is bright red in color: pain, distention, and bearing down sensation of the lower back and abdomen accompanied by irritability, dry mouth and throat, dark scanty urine and constipation.
Tongue: Red with dry yellow coating Pulse: Rapid, slippery or wiry, slippery
Treatment Method: Nourish Yin, cool blood, clear heat, quiet the fetus Chinese Herbal Formula to treat Threatened Miscarriage caused by “Blood Heat”: Yin-Safeguarding Decoction (Bao Yin Jian)
4. Threaten miscarriage cause by a traumatic injury
Clinical Manifestation: History of falling, twisting the back or overstrain during pregnancy, resulting in vaginal bleeding; or lower backache and abdominal distention and bearing down sensation.
Tongue: Normal; in some cases dark Pulse: Slippery, forceless.
Treatment Method: Supplement the qi, regulate the blood, quiet the fetus. Chinese herbal formula to treat Threatened Miscarriage caused by a traumatic injury: Sagely Cure Decoction (Sheng Yu Tang)
Herbal treatment is the main therapeutic method for threatened miscarriage.
Preventative measures include:
moderate sexual intercourse,
regulating the diet
avoiding physical and emotional stress
avoiding circumstances where you are likely to fall.
When vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain have been alleviated trough treatment, pregnancy generally continues normally.
Appropriate measures should be taken immediately when signs of miscarriage or premature delivery develop.
These include increased discharge of blood that may contain blood clots
severe lower backache and abdominal pain.
Chinese Herbs for Habitual Miscarriage or “Fetal Slippage”
Spontaneous loss of the fetus before the 12th week of pregnancy is called “fetal discharge” in traditional Chinese medicine.
Loss between 12 and 28th weeks after the fetus is fully formed is known considered premature labor or miscarriage. Fetal discharge or premature labor that occurs 3 or more times in succession is called “fetal slippage” or habitual miscarriage.
The underlying cause of habitual miscarriage is complicated but it mainly involves the “spleen and kidney” qi vacuity and weakening of the “penetrating & conception vessels”
Clinical Manifestations: Miscarriage following each conception or miscarriage at a fixed number of weeks, frail physical constitution, lassitude, fatigue, weak aching lower back and knees, palpitations, shortness of breath, frequent night time urination, loss of appetite and irregular menstruation.
Tongue: Tender and pale with thin white coat Pulse: Deep and weak
Supplement the kidney, benefit the spleen, regulate the “penetrating and conception vessels”.
Chinese herbal formula to address habitual miscarriages:
Penetrating Vessel-Securing Pill (bus hen gu chong wan).
Allopathic Western Scientific Causes of Miscarriages
A wide range of health conditions that affect at least one parent can cause a miscarriage, including the following: Chromosomal abnormalities account for up to 60% of losses
Physical problems, such as distortion of the uterine cavity or adhesions from disease or surgery
Endocrine or hormone disorders, such as diabetes (when poorly controlled) and hyper- or hypothyroidism Infection, including bacterial, viral, parasitic, fungal, or acquired through sexually transmitted diseases
Abnormal antibodies in the blood that cause formation of blood clots (for example, antiphospholipid antibodies, or APLA)
Other factors of conception (such as defective sperm cells, time of egg implantation), or stress
Western Doctors Identify the Following Women to be Most at Risk for Miscarrying :
Previous spontaneous abortion Women age 35 or older
Cigarette smoking—smoking half a pack or more per day significantly increases risk
Alcohol—risk doubles with more than two drinks per day
Environmental toxins—excessive exposure to lead, mercury, organic solvents
Serious maternal illness
Flight attendants working more than 74 hours per month
Maternal or paternal handling of anti-cancer agents
Increased levels of homocysteine
Western Biomedical Treatment Options:
Immediate treatment sometimes involves surgery to remove pregnancy tissue.
In vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, or artificial insemination may be used to achieve a successful pregnancy if you have a history of unexplained, recurrent miscarriages.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe the following medications to treat underlying conditions or, in the case of repeated miscarriages, to help you achieve a successful pregnancy:
Antibiotics to treat infections
Estrogen supplementation following uterine surgery for adhesions to stimulate the growth of the uterine lining
Aspirin followed by heparin if a clotting abnormality is present
Vaginal progesterone suppositories
Surgical and Other Procedures
Dilation and curettage (D&C) may be performed to remove pregnancy tissue if it has not been expelled naturally from the uterus.
Other surgical procedures may be performed to address uterine problems or adhesions.
Nutrition Vitamin B Complex, Including Folic Acid:
Many naturopathic and other doctors suggest using vitamin B complex (50 mg a day) with additional vitamin B6 and folic acid (800 to 1000 mcg a day) for women planning to become pregnant and for those who are pregnant.
These preventive measures are supported by studies that suggest a connection between recurring miscarriages and problems metabolizing methionine and homocysteine in the body. Methionine is an amino acid, a building block of protein. Homocysteine is a by-product of the breakdown of methionine.
Abnormal use of homocysteine by the body leads to a rise in levels of this compound which, in turn, may play a role in spontaneous abortion and the development of defects in the neural tube (the structure in the fetus that later becomes the central nervous system).
Folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12, and betaine all play a role in the proper use of methionine and homocysteine.
In addition, a fetus, a newborn, and a pregnant woman all need more folic acid and B12 than other people; therefore, taking the supplements mentioned both before and during pregnancy is valuable, and may prevent miscarriage in the case of elevated homocysteine levels.
Moderate to high caffeine intake may also be related to elevated homocysteine levels.
Some substances, including caffeine and pesticides can easily cross the placenta from the woman's body to her fetus. Their impact on pregnancy is not entirely understood. Caffeine stays in a pregnant woman's body much longer than in non-pregnant healthy adults. It stays in newborns even longer.
A study of 3135 pregnant women showed that moderate-to-heavy caffeine users (those who had at least 151 mg daily) were more likely to have late first- or second-trimester spontaneous abortions compared with nonusers or light users. Light caffeine use (1 to 150 mg daily) increased risk for abortion only in women who had a history of previous spontaneous abortion. (One cup of coffee has 107 mg of caffeine, one cup of tea has 34 mg, and one glass of cola has 47 mg, assuming all are caffeinated beverages.) Coffee was the main source of caffeine in moderate-to-heavy users. Light users were more likely to get caffeine from tea and other sources.
In addition, as mentioned in the subsection, Vitamin B Complex, Including Folic Acid, researchers have recently reported that higher caffeine intake may be related to higher levels of homocysteine. This may contribute to the increased risk of spontaneous abortion in moderate coffee drinkers, but further research is needed.
Studies suggest that coenzyme Q10 levels are lower in women who have had a recent miscarriage. Similar to methionine and homocysteine described above, the production of coenzyme Q10 in the body also depends on folic acid, vitamin B12, and betaine. Therefore, the same supplements that support methionine metabolism (namely, folic acid, vitamin B12, and betaine) maintain normal coenzyme Q10 levels in the body.
Magnesium and Selenium: A small study of infertile women and women with a history of miscarriage suggests that low levels of magnesium may impair reproductive function, and may contribute to miscarriage. Oxidation, a process that is damaging to cell membranes, can lead to loss of magnesium. The same study suggests that the antioxidant selenium protects the cell membrane, thereby maintaining appropriate levels of magnesium.
The authors of the study suggest taking both magnesium and selenium supplements. Women who have miscarried have lower levels of selenium than women who carry a pregnancy to full term. Although the authors of the above-mentioned study do not specify the exact amount to take, the recommended doses are generally 300 to 400 mg per day of magnesium and 200 mcg per day of selenium.
Check the dosage in your prenatal vitamin and discuss appropriate nutrient supplementation with your healthcare provider.
Other Antioxidants: Vitamin A, vitamin E, and beta-carotene levels tend to be lower in women who have miscarried as well; these nutrients are generally found in prenatal vitamins.
Discuss the pros and cons of their use with your healthcare provider before becoming pregnant or if you are already pregnant.
Fish Pollutants: Eating fish contaminated with pollutants, namely persistent organochlorine compounds (POCs), may increase pregnancy risk, although it is not clear whether eating contaminated fish contributes to spontaneous abortion.
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