Acupuncture for Recurrent Miscarriage
Whilst miscarriage occurs in between 10% and 25% of all pregnancies, three or more consecutive miscarriages is considered to be symptomatic of some underlying problem and is defined as recurrent miscarriage.
From the point of view of Western medicine, recurrent miscarriage can occur because of:
- Physical problems in the uterus or cervix
- Hormonal disorders
- Immunological problems
- Inherited genetic abnormalities in either parent
- Exposure to toxic chemicals, or a history of X-rays, in either parent.
In addition to these, gynaecological disorders such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and fibroids may make miscarriage more likely, as may diabetes if blood sugar levels are not well controlled. Western medical treatment depends upon which of these factors is causing the miscarriages, although sometimes there is no clear cause from a Western point of view.
It is worth noting, of course, that recurrent miscarriage does not necessarily imply a problem with the mother; it may lie with the father.
Recurrent Miscarriage and TCM
Chinese medicine has been used for thousands of years in the treatment of recurrent miscarriage, and treatment begins by identifying the factors in either (or both) parents which are the root of the problem. This is done by a detailed consultation with each parent: by careful questioning, the TCM therapist will be able to understand, from the point of view of TCM, why the natural process of gestation is being interrupted, and which parent needs the treatment.
Often the cause will be found to be a deficiency in the Shen Qi of either partner. In this case treatment will aim to nourish and strengthen the Shen Qi, which can be accomplished with acupuncture and herbal therapy. Dietary modifications will also be suggested, as certain foods are known to nourish the Shen Qi. The TCM practitioner would usually suggest that treatment should continue over several months before conception is attempted again, and over this time will monitor progress by using other signs of strengthening Shen Qi (Shen Qi deficiency manifests in a number of ways, which may include, for example, low energy, backache, and feeling either too cold or too hot (usually at night)).
Although the Shen Qi is often involved, there may be other factors, such as an inhibition of the free flow of the Qi in the mother’s reproductive organs – this is often the case if there is a Western diagnosis of endometriosis or fibroids. In this case, the TCM practitioner would seek to encourage the mother’s Qi to flow more freely.
Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Recurrent Miscarriage?
Whilst acupuncture has been used to support women through pregnancy in China for thousands of years, not much scientific research has yet been done to show how effective it is in preventing miscarriage. However one study using acupuncture for women undergoing IVF1 found that acupuncture reduced the likelihood of miscarriage by almost 50%. An even better result was achieved by a small research project in China2 in which 41 women with threatened or habitual miscarriage were treated, the treatment being effective in 34 cases (28 normal deliveries and 6 pending at the time the project was written up).
1Magarelli P et al (2004) Acupuncture and Good Prognosis IVF Patients: Synergy. Fertility & Sterility 82 (2)
2Jiang Jian et al (1997) Clinical Observation of 41 Cases of Threatened and Habitual Abortion Treated by Blood Activation and Stasis Removal. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 57/33