Preventing miscarriage with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine
Miscarriage can be a very emotional and upsetting time for women and their families. It is not uncommon for miscarriage to occur once or twice in a women’s reproductive lifetime. It is suggested that 10-25% of all women will have one miscarriage. Of these women 1-3 % will suffer from repeated spontaneous miscarriages; that is 3 consecutive miscarriages. Some figures suggest that IVF clients who are over 40 have a 50% chance of miscarriage.
Many women will look for help but with very little proven medical treatment available they will feel let down by the medical system. Many women have numerous tests only to find out that their miscarriages are due to unknown factors.
It is then that many women turn to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture. Traditional Chinese medicine is more commonly known for its use in infertility. However in traditional Chinese medicine infertility does not just describe the inability to conceive but also the inability to nurture and maintain a healthy pregnancy for 9 months. Doctors of Chinese medicine set their minds on the birth of a healthy baby rather than a positive pregnancy test.
There are many factors that play a part in miscarriage. Maternal ages are one factor among many that has been time and time again referenced. However traditional Chinese medicine believes that the picture is much more complex than this. Life force of an embryo is a complex interplay of the mother, father’s and the embryo’s own energies. If one or all of these factors is affected then the chances of survival are diminished.
Chinese medicine diagnosis of recurrent spontaneous miscarriages
In Chinese terminology can be broken down into several categories:
1. Kidney Yang deficiency
Kidney is considered the origin of congenital constitution. It stores the essence required for development and reproduction. It is a common underlying cause of both sub-infertility and miscarriage.
Signs and symptoms: lower back pain, luteal phase defect, difficult conceiving, feeling of cold, frequent urination, low libido, lethargy, tongue that is pale and weak pulse.
Treatment is aimed at strengthening Kidney Yang energy and warming the uterus. We suggest combined acupuncture, moxibusion and herbal medicine treatment.
Commonly used Acupuncture points for Kidney Yang deficiency include: Ren 4, Kid 3, Bl 23, Du 20, ST 36 with moxa.
Traditional Chinese formulae are very safe in pregnancy. For Kidney Yang deficiency we suggest:
Shou Tai wan - Fetus longevity pill
Main ingredients are: Tu Si Zi, Sang Ji Sheng, Xu Duan, E Jiao
2. Qi deficiency
The digestive system transforms the food we eat into usable nutrients, blood and energy called Qi. Failure to produce enough Qi can cause problems with the uterus’ holding abilities; in pregnancy the uterus can drop due to Qi deficiency, the cervix to stay open and failure in the body to hold a pregnancy can occur. This pattern is often seen in late miscarriage (14 – 15 weeks).
Signs and symptoms: Fatigue, bloating, loose bowels, low appetite, nausea, a tongue that is pale (can be swollen or coated) and a fine weak pulse.
Treatment is aimed at tonifying and raising Qi, warming the spleen. Again a combined treatment of Acupuncture, moxibusion and herbal medicine is suggested.
Commonly used acupuncture points for Qi deficiency; ST 36, REN 12, Du 20, with moxa.
For Spleen Qi deficiency we suggest the following herbal formula;
Ju Yuan Jian – Raising the original Qi decoction
Ingredients: Ren Shen, Huang Qi, Bai Zhu, Zhi Gan Cao, Sheng Ma
3. Blood deficiency cause
Similarly to Qi deficiency a compromised digestive system can lead to blood deficiency. Blood deficiency in the uterus can lead to a thin endometrial lining; a thin endometrial lining is not a good basis for an effective implantation or may not allow adequate supply of blood to nourish a foetus. If combined with Qi deficiency we might see babies that are small for date or failure to grow.
Signs and symptoms: dizziness, pale complexion, tiredness, pale and dilute blood, a pale tongue and a faint pulse.
Treatment is aimed at increasing blood production and nourishing the uterus. Acupuncture, herbal medicine and diet therapy is suggested.
Commonly used Acupuncture points for Blood deficiency; BL 18, BL 17, LIV 8, REN 4. For Blood deficiency we suggest the following formula;
Ba Zhen Tang – Eight precious decoction
Ingredients: Dang Gui, Bai Shao, Chuan Xiong, Shu Di, Dang Shen, Bai Zhu, Fu Ling, Gan Cao
4. Blood stasis
Women with a history of endometriosis, painful / clotty periods, and fibroids may not have a smooth endometrial lining due to scar tissue. An endometrial lining that is affected by scar tissues or lesions can interfere with placental attachment. This can also occur as a result of trauma or fall.
Signs and symptoms: painful / clotty periods, poor circulation, cold hands and feet, a tongue that has a purple tint and a wiry pulse.
We suggest in cases of blood stagnation that treatment be started a few months before conception. If pregnant at the time of treatment the practitioner will need to modify the treatment. This may hamper the results.
Commonly used Acupuncture points; PC 6, ST 29, SP 10, DU 20, REN 12
The Chinese herbal formula we suggest for treatment;
Sheng Yu Tang – Sage like healing decoction
Ingredients; Ren Shen, Huang Qi, Dang Gui, Chuan Xiong, Shu Di, Bai Shao
Commonly used Acupuncture points; LIV 3, LIV 5, LI 4, SP 10, PC 6 combined with SP 4 to open the Chong meridian, KID 14, ZI GONG.
Chinese herbal formula used prior to conception;
Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang – Eliminating the stasis below the diaphragm decoction
Ingredients; Dang Gui, Chuan Xiong, Chi Shao, Hong Hua, Tao Ren, Wu ling Zhi, Yan Hu Suo, Xiang Fu, Zhi Ke, Wu Yao, Mu Dan Pi, Gan Cao
5. Kidney Yin deficiency plus heat
Heat can build up in the body and affect the uterine lining causing dryness or forcing the blood out of the vessels.
Signs and symptoms of heat; restlessness, increased thirst, dark scanty urine, feeling of heat, a tongue that is red and dry, and a pulse that is rapid and thin.
Treatment is aimed at clearing out heat, and nourishing the body fluids; and possibly calming the foetus.
Commonly used Acupuncture points include; LIV 2, LI 11, SP 1, KID 2.
Chinese herbal formula used;
Bao Yin Jian – Protecting the Yin decoction
Ingredients; Sheng Di, Shu Di, Bai Shao, Shan Yao, Huang Qin, Huang Bo, Xu Duan, Gan Cao
How effective is Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine at preventing miscarriages?
For over a thousand years Chinese doctors have used their treatment methods on hundreds of women noting down methods that worked and methods that did not. We now have a large list of very effective Acupuncture methods and herbal formulae.
Some other author’s including Yu Jin MD (1998) that using spontaneous abortion formula has been 80-90% effective in preventing miscarriage in her hospital in China. Also the ABO compatibility formula to be 80% effective.
Unfortunately there have been very little clinic trials performed. However currently at research is being performed at the University of Western Sydney by renowned author Debra Betts into the effectiveness of Acupuncture treatment of miscarriages. We look forward to the results.
How long will it take? And when should I start treatments?
Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine looks at underlying imbalances in a person’s health. This is a very individual process. In Chinese medicine each miscarriage can be more detrimental to your health than childbirth. Typically we recommend weekly sessions for 3 months before conception and weekly session through the first trimester. Other times we may recommend treatments for both mother and father. If you are currently pregnant we can also treat you, however depending on your individual situation will depend on how effective our treatments can be.
- Take adequate rest; if you feel tired in your first trimester it is usually your bodies way of trying to slow you down
- Eat a healthy antioxidant rich diet. Supplement those which cannot be provided with good quality vitamins. Do not skimp on quality we suggest BioCeuticals and stock these at our clinics
- Avoids stimulants; including caffine, alcohol, drugs and so on
Need help or support?
SANDS (Still birth and neonatal death support)
A support centre for parents who have experienced the death of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or shortly after birth.
Ph: 03 98990218 Melbourne
1. Yu Yin MD (1998) Handbook of obstetrics & gynaecology in Chinese medicine; An integrated approach, Eastland press
2. Jane Littleton (2004) Treatment of Infertility with Chinese medicine, Churchill Livingstone
3. Giovanni Maciocia (1998) Obstetrics & Gynaecology in Chinese Medicine, Churchill Livingstone
4. Lifang Liang (2003) Acupuncture and IVF, increase IVF success by 40-50%, Blue poppy press