Acupuncture for Miscarriage:
By Dr. Daniel N. Lee
Miscarriage is the result of many factors involved in the complex orchestration of pregnancy. These include: genetic factors, environmental factors, endocrine factors, circulatory factors, and immunologic factors. Most of these factors are a result of subtle and subclinical imbalance – undetectable with blood tests and vaginal ultrasound. However, such imbalances are discoverable with the comprehensive knowledge, experience and research of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Reproductive Science – of which the principal tools of correction are acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbs.
Most patients that come to see Dr. Lee for acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments had previously 1 to 4 miscarriages, often miscarrying in their 5th to 11th week of their pregnancies.
To understand how Dr. Lee can help reduce the chances of miscarriages with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, let us review what is required to get pregnant in the first place. From the principles TCM, our body must be in an “optimized” state of balance before one can conceive. To maintain a pregnancy, one must maintain the same balance.
But such balance is not as clear as black and white, on and off, or zero and one state. Instead, it is a bell-shaped curve with the highest point on the top as the state of optimal balance. In other words, a woman can and often does get pregnant when she is in a suboptimal state. But, it is this group of pregnancies that are often subject to the greatest chance of miscarriage after becoming pregnant without acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments. When the body’s condition deviates too far from the optimal balance point, there will be no more pregnancy. The process of maintaining a pregnancy past the 1st trimester is much like driving on a paved country road for 3 months without veering off onto the soft shoulder. Being pregnant with suboptimal balance is much like driving a car with two wheels on the soft unpaved shoulder of a road. If all four wheels get on and stay on the paved road, the pregnancy will go on. But, there is higher chance for all four wheels to slide off onto the unpaved soft shoulder and get stuck, or for the patient to miscarry.
Let us look at the genetic factors. When fetal tissues from miscarriages are analyzed, approximately 70% will have chromosomal abnormalities such as trisomies 13, 16, 18, 21 and 22. In most cases, the couple is chromosomally normal. Therefore, the fetal chromosomal abnormality is considered a “random” event.
This event is the result of a failed division of a pair of chromosomes. Under normal circumstances, only one branch of the pair is copied instead of the whole pair. This condition occurs more frequently with the increased age of a couple. As we age, optimal balance is harder to maintain and more is needed to restore balance for both partners of a couple in order to prevent miscarriages. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments help achieve this balance. When eggs or sperm develop under an optimized condition, there is less chance of environmental damage to an otherwise genetically normal egg or sperm.
Environmental factors. Studies have shown that smoking, alcohol or heavy intake of coffee is associated with increased risk of recurrent miscarriages. Caffeine is known to cause a temporary vasoconstriction (deceased blood flow) and is to be avoided if we want to maintain balance. One of the important goals of using acupuncture for miscarriage prevention is to achieve and maintain the maximum uterine blood flow.
Endocrine factors. Thyroid hormones TSH, T3, T4, Estrogen, and Progesterone all have a profound influence on the state of the optimal balance and vice versa. Abnormal balance will in turn lead to hormonal imbalance. Luteal phase defect is just an example of inadequate progesterone level or progesterone receptor response to the hormone. A thorough evaluation of all the endocrine responses is given to Dr. Lee’s patients to meet each patient’s unique need with individualized treatment of acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Circulatory factors. This is one of the major factors in recurrent miscarriages. Blood circulation to the pelvis is crucial in achieving and maintaining a pregnancy. It delivers the necessary nutrients, hormones and oxygen, and removes the metabolic waste products. Hormones FSH and estrogen need to communicate between the pituitary and the ovaries. Such communications are done through the blood flow and carry these hormones. Dr. Lee has developed an effective selection of acupuncture points to accomplish just that.
Immunologic factors. Live, good-quality embryos transferred to the uterus with normal endometrial lining should result in pregnancy. But, reality proves, this is not so easy. Unseen immunologic factors, excessive activated macrophages (a form of white blood cell that can digest and destroy sperm and embryos), interleukin-1 and TNF (tumor necroses factors) are just a few examples of overly active immune responses that are not conducive for implantation of embryos and maintaining a pregnancy. Again, such imbalance is invisible to state of the art ultrasound imaging and is very difficult and clinically impractical to detect. But, fortunately, our body gives subtle signs. Dr. Lee has extensive knowledge and experience in searching and detecting such subtle signs, and has developed an effective combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments to reduce the overactive immune response – thus providing a “friendly” environment to achieve pregnancy and prevent miscarriages.