Finally seeing those two lines on a pregnancy test is a long-awaited, and rightfully celebrated, moment for all of my patients! This joy can quickly become sadness if the pregnancy is not viable. Miscarriage is a very common occurrence with 10-25% of all pregnancies ending in miscarriage. The most common cause of miscarriage is genetic abnormalities that cause the embryo to be non-viable. Other causes of miscarriage can include:
- Hormonal abnormalities: PCOS, low progesterone, diabetes, etc
- Lifestyle issues: smoking, excessive alcohol use, excessive caffeine, drug use,exposure to toxic substances, etc
- Maternal age: the prevalence of genetic abnormalities increase with age
- Thin or low quality endometrial lining
- Immune system issues
- Trauma: generally only very severe trauma leads to miscarriage
- Structural abnormalities in the uterus: adhesions, polyps, septum, etc
- Blood clotting: anti-phospholipid syndrome
For less than 1% women, miscarriages can become recurrent. This is typically diagnosed after having 3 miscarriages. A thorough workup is done to try and find out the cause and determine what treatment is appropriate. Fortunately, many causes of recurrent miscarriage are treatable. Even in the case of genetic abnormalities, like chromosome translocation, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) can be utilized in combination with IVF to help decrease the chance of miscarriage.
What can I do to prevent miscarriage?
There is a lot you can do on your own to help prevent miscarriage. Much of this work involves managing chronic illness or hormonal imbalances and modifying complicating lifestyle factors. For example:
- Quit smoking as soon as possible in your conception journey
- Limit coffee and tea to 1-2 cups daily
- Maintain a healthy BMI
- Seek the help of your physician in managing diabetes, PCOS, or other health problems
- Eat a healthy whole-foods diet high in fruits, veggies, and protein and low in sugar and processed foods
- Limit exposure to toxic chemicals or environments
- Avoid dangerous situations or activities where severe trauma may occur.
How Can Acupuncture Help?
Acupuncture can be a very useful for assisting in the prevention of miscarriage when not related to chromosomal abnormalities by treating many of the common causes of miscarriage. Acupuncture can be helpful in the following ways:
- Increasing the thickness and quality of the endometrial lining
- Helping regulate hormones
- Helping to treat PCOS
- Reducing uterine contractions in early pregnancy
- Improving uterine blood flow to help prevent blood clots
- Regulating the immune system
- Stress reduction
What does the research say?
Research on acupuncture and miscarriage is very promising. One recent study on acupuncture done along with IVF showed a 50% decrease in the miscarriage rate.
Another study suggests acupuncture may even be a potential supportive treatment for threatened or recurrent miscarriages due to its beneficial effects on serum cortisol and prolactin levels during IVF.
Acupuncture’s known effects on stress are also a possible mechanism by which miscarriage rates could be reduced. According this same study, it is possible that stress in very early pregnancy may cause overactivity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis leading to reduced progesterone levels. In reducing this stress, progesterone levels may stay higher.
When should I start acupuncture?
Acupuncture can be started at any point along your journey. Some basic recommendations are here:
- If you are pregnant: We recommend acupuncture weekly through the first trimester to support blood flow to the uterus, reduce stress, and support progesterone levels before the placenta is fully developed.
- If you are trying to conceive: Generally, it is recommended to begin acupuncture 3 months prior to conception for most causes of recurrent miscarriage. This allows the treatments to affect overall cycle health, hormone balance, and egg quality as it takes 90 days for an egg to prepare for ovulation. However, the effects of acupuncture are beneficial at any stage of your journey, and accumulate over time. We see many women while they are actively trying to conceive naturally or with fertility treatment. We have protocols for IVF, IUI, medicated cycles and couples trying naturally.
Please give our office a call to discuss your specific situation or to schedule an appointment. We are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. We wish you the best of luck!!