October is pregnancy loss awareness month.
Many women go through this tragedy isolated, but support is available.
Your social media feed is surely full of pregnancy announcements, gender reveals, and baby photos. But how many share the other side of the story? When I opened up about my own ectopic pregnancy and resulting loss, I received so many messages in private from women who had gone through similar tragedies, and could share my pain. It is time to lift the taboo about this and support one another in this side of the journey too.
Miscarriages are so common, for women who try to conceive naturally and for those who get help from science. Having a miscarriage is brutal, raw, and very difficult. We often feel alone, since most of them happen before the end of the first trimester and before announcing a pregnancy publicly. Those of us going through IVF also often chose to keep it secret through the many ups and downs of the process.
Your acupuncturist provides a safe space for you to grieve and repair. Acupuncture and herbs can help your body rebalance hormones and replenish fully for the future, whether you try to conceive naturally or via IVF.
How can we get through the feelings of sheer pain, grief, disappointment, guilt, shame, jealousy and emptiness ? How do we heal from the physical and hormonal shock and roller coaster that our body endures ?
In traditional Chinese medicine, we have a two-step approach to healing and bouncing back after a pregnancy loss.
First, we need to make sure we cleanse out the uterus and reproductive organs, and we need to bolster the liver as it filters out pregnancy hormones (which takes a long time).
Second, we replenish the reserves for possible future pregnancies or just to go back to a stable baseline. By doing so, we can reduce the risk of reoccurring miscarriage.
First phase : cleanse & promote circulation
In the Chinese medicine tradition, a woman who gives birth must "sit the month", or rest for at least 30 days. It is also said that a woman who loses a pregnancy is even more fragile and should "sit the month" for 40 days.
The first cycle or two after a pregnancy loss can be hectic, painful physically and emotionally, with a lot of irregularity, bleeding, clots, and depression. Your body is processing the change slowly, shifting hormones back, and clearing out drugs if you have been given any.
Chinese herbs, acupuncture and cupping will help reduce cramping, regularize bleeding, and clear out hormones that can take a very long time to come back to baseline.
At home you can add these self-care methods :
Rest. A. Lot. A woman who has lost a pregnancy is fragile and should "sit the month" for 40 days.
Use heat packs on the lower abdomen and lower back to reduce cramping and improve blood flow
Eat a lot of flax seeds to support the liver in flushing out pregnancy hormones
Give yourself, or ask someone to give you foot massages
Second phase : repair & replenish
Once your cycle is back to normal, it's time to restore and resupply. You may feel strong and ready to go, but Chinese medicine advises to wait 3 months minimum to build strength back before trying again, even if you can get pregnant sooner.
You can and should resume physical activity as before, which will also improve mood and circulation, and include these foods & supplements to replenish Qi and Blood after a pregnancy loss:
Dark leafy greens : kale, chard, bok-choy, collard greens, mustard greens
Purple colored foods: berries, cherries, plums, red cabbage, figs...
Root veggies : carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, parsnips, yams
Healthy sweet foods: Raw honey, Chinese dates (jujubes)
Prenatal vitamins or at least a Vitamin B complex
Chinese Herbal formulas tailor made just for you by your acupuncturist
You can continue your routine acupuncture treatments until you get pregnant and throughout pregnancy as well.
Women who have had a miscarriage have higher chances of miscarrying in future pregnancies. This is where acupuncture can help. By getting acupuncture treatment soon after a loss to support healing, you can reduce your chances of miscarriage, and finally succeed in having a healthy baby.
In many cases (about 60% of miscarriages before 12 weeks, and 35% of miscarriages after 12 weeks), no physical causes can be established. The mainstream treatment is usually simple loving care and rest. In these cases, Chinese medicine can often diagnose and treat the subtle root cause of reoccurring miscarriages.
Find support from community
There are wonderful resources online, for women who lost a pregnancy and their friends, partners and children.
Nakamura K, Sheps S, Arck PC. Stress and reproductive failure: past notions, present insights and future directions. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2008;25:47–62. doi: 10.1007/s10815-008-9206-5.
Furth C. A Flourishing Yin: Gender in China's Medical History 960-1665. Berkely: University of California; 1999.
Wilms S. PhD thesis. The University of Arizona, Department of East Asian Studies; 2002. The female body in medidieval china: A translation and interprtation of the "women's receipies" in Sun Simiao's Beiji Qianjin Yaofang.
Betts D. The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy & Childbirth. Hove, England: The Journal of Chinese Medicine Ltd; 2006.
Lyttleton J. Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingston; 2004.
Maciocia G. Obstetrics & Gynecology in Chinese medicine. New York: Churchill Livingstone; 1998.
Marchment R. Gynaecology Revisited. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone; 2007.
West Z. Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 2001.