Updated: Feb 17
Miscarriage, acupuncture can help?
A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 23 weeks. About 1 in 5 of all recognised pregnancies is miscarried usually before the 13th week of pregnancy. Because of more sensitive techniques developed for detecting early pregnancy, research showed that about up to 70% of all pregnancies are lost. The most common cause of early pregnancy loss is chromosomal abnormalities. Collagen vascular disease is one of the causes. Collagen vascular diseases are conditions in which a person’s own immune system attacks their own organs, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. Uncontrolled diabetes could cause miscarriage. Hormonal problems are also the cause of miscarriage, such as thyroid disease and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Infection increases the risk of miscarriage. Abnormal anatomy of the uterus could cause miscarriage, such as uterine septum, fibroids. Some life style factors could increase the risk of miscarriage, such as smoking, alcohol, caffeine. Nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs are also a risk factor.
Recurrent miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of three or more consecutive pregnancies in the first trimester. It affects 1-2% of women, half of whom have no identifiable cause. The causes of recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) are classified as genetic, anatomic, endocrinological, immunological, microbiological and environmental. Anatomic abnormalities account for 10% to 15% of cases of RPL and are generally thought to cause miscarriage by interrupting the vasculature of the endometrium. There is an association between RPL and heritable thrombophilias which is a condition where the blood has an increased tendency to form clots. Blood clot impairing placental development and function could lead to miscarriage. Imbalanced hormones such as abnormal LH surge, low progesterone and high androgen result in premature egg aging and impaired endometrial development.
Uterine blood flow changes can be seen in the uterus and ovaries during the menstrual cycle and uterine blood flow affects uterine receptivity and an important factor in achieving a normal pregnancy. Differences in uterine blood flow impedance between fertile and infertile women and reduced uterine blood flow may be one cause of unexplained infertility. Recent research also has suggested that impaired uterine blood flow is associated with recurrent pregnancy loss. In women with recurrent miscarriage their blood flow resistance in uterine artery was elevated which means the blood flow was reduced. As we can see that reduced blood circulation in endometrium and placenta is the reason for many miscarriages.
The treatments for recurrent miscarriage are limited. There is a systematic review that evaluated the effectiveness of current treatment methods. Their finding is as follows:
Bed rest: they found no systematic reviews or control trials to show the effectiveness of bed rest in women with recurrent miscarriage.
Early scanning in subsequent pregnancies: There were no systematic review and control trials for this method. Early scanning might reduce anxiety of women with recurrent miscarriage which may be beneficial.
Human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) treatment: There were four control trials showing that HCG reduced the miscarriage rate though the standard of the trials were not high.
Progesterone treatment: One systematic review showed that progesterone reduced miscarriage rate.
Intravenous immunoglobulin treatment, trophoblastic membrane infusion, paternal white cell immunisation: There were high standard control trials showing that these treatments did not increase live birth rate in women with recurrent miscarriage.
Lifestyle adaptation (stop smoking, reduce alcohol consumption, Loss weight): There was no systematic review or control trial to show the effectiveness of this methods on recurrent miscarriage.
Low dose aspirin, oestrogen, corticosterioids, vitamin supplementation: There was no systematic review or control trial showing effectiveness of these treatments in women with recurrent miscarriage.
Acupuncture was applied to treat miscarriage in China. There was a case report by Zhang in Tianjin gynecology hospital showing effectiveness of acupuncture in women with recurrent miscarriage. This report is involved 558 cases with recurrent miscarriage. 86.6-93% cases were successful.
In early pregnancy your body starts to change because of the hormonal changes in the body. For example, the uterine and vaginal lining becomes ticker and breast becomes tender. When miscarriage occurred, your body has to go back to normal from the pregnancy loss, physically and emotionally.
Acupuncture can help you recover from miscarriage and get your body ready for next pregnancy. Acupuncture stimulates nerve endings to helps hormone balance; improves ovarian and uterine blood flow; reduces inflammation and reduces stress. All of these could help prevent miscarriage from happening again and have a future successful pregnancy.
Here is a case report. Sophia had two miscarriges in 6 weeks and 12 weeks before. After this, she had been trying to get pregnant for a year without success. She started acupuncture treatment, after three cycles, she got pregnant and this time the pregnancy stayed to full term and she had a lovely girl.
Threatened miscarriage is a common complication of early pregnancy increasing the risk of miscarriage or premature labour. Currently there is limited evidence to recommend any biomedical pharmacological or self-care management.
A study was to examine the feasibility of offering acupuncture as a therapeutic treatment for women presenting with threatened miscarriage. The result has shown that for women receiving acupuncture there was a statically significant reduction with threatened miscarriage symptoms including bleeding, cramping and back pain compared with the control. They conclude that acupuncture was a feasible intervention and reduced threatened miscarriage symptoms when compared to a touch intervention. Further research is required to further explore acupuncture use for this common complication and whether it can reduce the incidence of miscarriage.
Duckitt K and Qureshi A Clin Evid (Online) 2008 pii:1409
Alexandros Sotiriadis BMJ 2004 http://www.bmj.com/content/329/7458/152
Betts D et al BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2016 Oct 7;16(1):298.