Miscarriage

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Finding a good herbalist

This article has recommendations that are entirely suitable for a woman to use or work through themselves but if things are bad or if there are other issues that need attention and you know that you need further help, there may be a great deal of benefit to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist to support you, there's some suggestions on how you might go about finding such a person here

Preventing miscarriage

Miscarriages happen a great deal more than most people realise, especially in the early weeks and the longer it goes the harder it gets. Prevention is always the ideal and if a woman has a history of one or more past miscarriages, or if she is showing signs (bleeding, cramping etc.) that suggest it might be happening, then there are some herbal medicines that have been long established as safe and beneficial to help prevent the worse from happening. Anne MacIntyre, in her Woman's Herbal' writes 'it is estimated that about half of threatened miscarriages can be prevented'.

In sharing what some of these herbs are, and how they might be used, it must be very clear that, if there is something wrong the baby's development and the body somehow knows that things aren't going right, then no amount of any kind of herbal medicine will stop the process from happening.

However, we can't know that beforehand so, if we will try to prevent a miscarriage, we should use the best medicines we have at the safest but also strongest doses possible.

Miscarriage Prevention Formula

Cramp bark 50mls
Wild Yam 50mls
Chaste tree (Vitex) 30mls
Raspberry Leaf 30mls
Licorice root 30mls
Fennel seed 20mls

This will make 210mls, which will easily fit into a 200ml amber pharm round. In terms of how much to use, we make our own tinctures from organic dried herbs, so it might be important that you understand that the optimal dose range will vary with different preparations made by different companies or practitioners.

For a woman who had a history of miscarriage, or if there were other reasons to think that she might be vulnerable to it and we wanted to act preventatively, I would recommend 4 mls (approx one tsp) twice a day. If, however, the woman was getting symptoms that were suggesting that a miscarriage might be threatening now, I would suggest using 4 mls up to 4 times a day until the crisis had passed and then go back to the 4 mls twice a day.

Cramp bark and Wild Yam are two of the strongest, but safest, herbs to release spasm, cramping and tension in the belly and pelvis. They may be relied on to have a positive effect and in addition the Wild Yam, like the berries of the Chaste tree, acts to help support the production of progesterone, a hormone that is much needed to sustain growth and development, especially in the early months of the pregnancy. Raspberry leaf is a great general tonic to the womb and all aspects of pregnancy, the Licorice root and Fennel are to help bind the other herbs together and make them easier to absorb, and they could be exchanged for something like Chamomile or Peppermint if the woman had different preferences.


Viburnum opulus (Cramp bark)

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Rest & Relax

If the pregnancy is going to miscarry and the body has set about to make it happen, then there are no drugs or herbs that will stop it. But we can't know that until it's happened so, in the meanwhile, if there are threatening signs that a miscarriage might be possible, there is every reason to take a complete break from anything that is not completely essential. This means, if at all possible, to take time off work, to stop any activities that put strain on the mind or body and to relax!

People relax in different ways, some passive, some active. Ask yourself a straight question and give it an honest answer 'what do I know, and trust will relax me?' Likewise, ask a friend or family member for support so that you can just let go and do whatever you need to do to relax.

It has been observed now many times, both by this author and many others, that a threatened miscarriage is like a storm that can pass by if the woman takes shelter from it.

Sometimes there is just no stopping it, and then we have to believe that Nature knew what it was doing and that what was happening in there was not going to be compatible with a healthy life ahead. Sometimes it really is just a bad patch that can pass if we let Nature in and do whatever it takes to unwind the internal spring and let go for a while.

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Treat the Cause

If a miscarriage has happened, as we talk about next, and we've got through that and want to do whatever we can to prevent it happening again, it will be helpful to know what are the most common reasons for miscarriage and, wherever we can, do whatever we can to 'treat the cause'. These are the main reasons:

Foetal abnormality - this is a leading cause for miscarriage and, as a consequence, if the body is determined to abort the pregnancy there is nothing we can do to prevent it

Viral infections - such as the flu or herpes. If there is any reason to think this might have been the case in the past, or that it could become an issue, read the detailed article on immunity for practical strategies to assess and treat the immune system - it's here

Hormonal imbalance - especially low progesterone levels. There is no one herb that is right for everyone but the herb Vitex, or Chaste tree, is especially good for this. Its daily use in a single small dose over several months has been seen to help a number of women who have experienced multiple miscarriages in the past carry a healthy baby to term and I rate it extremely highly as a herb to increase fertility and to help prevent miscarriage - more on it here

Physical obstruction - usually from fibroids, endometriosis, or the same kind of overgrowth that happens in endometriosis but that then breaks through the muscle layer of the womb (adenomyosis) Nature can still often find a way and many women do carry successful pregnancies to term with these obstacles, but if they are causing too much of an obstruction to conceive or carry then there may need to be an open-mind to a surgical option. There is also a lot to be gained from a holistic approach as talked about for fibroids here and endometriosis here

Cervical incompetence - it's a terrible term but that's patriarchal medicine for you. This is when the cervix gets too thin or wide before the pregnancy reaches a safe term. There are surgical options for this that should be carefully considered and using herbs such as described below under pregnancy tonics' may go a long way to help matters along as well.

Genetic disposition - if there is the wherewithal to get tested, it may be of much value to see if the woman has the gene polymorphism known as MTHFR. This has been clearly linked to a significantly greater risk of miscarriage but it can be remedied by taking 1-4 grams a day of something called methylfolate, which is basically an active form of folic acid, and something that is readily obtainable.

General debility - this can be a big subject and an open mind and holistic approach can be needed to address it properly. Is the woman too stressed, is she well nourished, how is her home life, how is her general health? This is where an experienced holistic health professional can be of much help, there is also much in the way of deepening knowledge for better self-care in the chapter on constitutional medicine that starts here


Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree)

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Pregnancy Tonics

The above combination of herbs, in the 'miscarriage prevention formula' is meant to be used on as as-needed basis. However, a woman might not have a threatened miscarriage, or that particular storm may have passed, and she would still like to use herbal medicines to support her health and her pregnancy.

What follows is a general recommendation for that purpose. Certain herbs are renowned at improving the general health of a woman during pregnancy and what can be seen is that, as well as being extremely safe, they share a quality of being exceptionally nourishing.

A combination of herbs in either a tea or a formula can be generally recommended, shown below in the 'Pregnancy Formula & Pregnancy Tea'. they can do a great deal to support the internal health of both mother and baby

Pregnancy Formula

Raspberry leaf 140mls
Nettle leaf 120mls
Oatstraw 100mls
Alfalfa leaf 100mls
Licorice root 60mls
Ginger root 40mls

We make our own tinctures from organic dried herbs, so it might be important that you understand that the optimal dose range will vary with different preparations made by different companies or practitioners,

The above liquid extracts can be combined into a formula to make 560mls. This will just fit in to a 500ml amber pharm round bottle and is enough to last 8 weeks, approximately two months, if taken at a strong dose of 10mls once a day (or 5 mls twice a day if this is preferred for any reason) This is, no doubt, a high dose, but these herbs are extremely safe, the amount of ethanol is completely negligible and these are herbs that need to be taken in robust amounts to bring their actions and ingredients to where they are needed.

Raspberry leaf, Nettles, Oatstraw and Alfalfa are 4 of the most blood, skin, bone and tissue nourishing herbs on the planet. Any pregnant woman will benefit greatly from some or all of them. The Licorice and Ginger are there for their own manifold virtues and to make the mixture easier to take (Licorice) and more easily digested and absorbed into the body (Ginger) If a woman had an aversion to Licorice, or if she had blood pressure that was clearly too high, the Licorice could be well substituted with Peppermint or Chamomile extract. Likewise, if she just did not like Ginger, it could be left out or substituted with Peppermint or Chamomile.

Assuming the woman enjoyed the benefits of this formula and wanted to keep it going, it would be most beneficial to start adding some Mitchella, as a 'pre-parturient tonic' in the last month or two of the pregnancy. More on this herb, and the general subject of preparing for the birth here

This formula should be very easy to take on a daily basis, but it may or may not be difficult to obtain depending on who is supplying herbal extracts in your area. Also, for any other reasons including her personal preferences, a woman might rather make and take a herbal tea, in which case the following combination of herbs will give all the same benefits as the formula


Rubus idaeus (Raspberry leaf)

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Pregnancy Tea

Raspberry leaf - approx 3 grams per cup
Nettle leaf - approx 2-3 grams per cup
Oatstraw - approx 2 grams per cup
Alfalfa leaf - approx 2 grams per cup
Chamomile or Peppermint to taste e.g. 2 grams
Ginger root to taste e.g. 1/2 to 1 gram

The amounts given above are a guide only. 2-3 grams usually equates to about 1 to 2 large heaped tsps of a herb that has been dried from the leaves. Just a quarter to a half tsp of well-cut ginger root would be about 1/2 to 1 gram, even less if using the powdered dry Ginger.

This Pregnancy tea could easily be adapted to individual needs or preferences and if, as often is the case, a woman was very particular about how things tasted in her pregnancy, it might be wise to get the dried herbs separately and then to experiment with using more or less of them until a combination was found that gave the most agreeable flavour. For example, some women might want much more or less Ginger, if any at all. Some might like to add some Peppermint or, equally, some Chamomile to adapt the flavour of the tea.

Whatever the blend, steeping about 5-6 very heaped tsps of these herbs in at least 2 cups of freshly boiled water for a good 10 minutes will extract all their virtues and will make an excellent daily tonic for pregnancy and to prevent or reduce stretch marks. If the woman enjoyed the tea and wanted to make more than one brew of it a day there would be no possible harm but rather every likelihood of further benefit.


Urtica dioica (Nettle leaf)

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Treating Miscarriage

A woman should have the choice as to how she wants to best navigate this difficult process, some women will prefer to stay at home and get through it in their own way, there is no law that says she must go into the conventional system and

However, there are a few key signs to look for which would mean that medical attention needs to be immediately sought out. Getting a high temperature is one, bleeding that is still happening after 5 days or that soaks a pad in less than half an hour is another, a malodorous discharge is a third. These are all signs that it may be necessary to get a 'D & C' (dilation and curettage) or to take Methergine (a drug made from an ergot-rye fungus derivative that powerfully contracts the uterus. The reason these interventions may be needed are to prevent the main complication of miscarriage, namely 'retained products' with the subsequent risk of serious infection.

That said, if the worst has happened, and there has already been a miscarriage, or if there can be no doubt that a miscarriage is now in process (the membranes have broken, and the cervix has dilated - something that a midwife can confirm) then there are some herbs that can be of much help to move the process forwards and help the body and the hormones to rebalance as quickly as possible.

Post-Miscarriage Formula

Yarrow 50mls
Calendula 50mls
Black Cohosh 40mls
Angelica root 40mls
Licorice, Fennel or Peppermint 30mls

To make 210 mls. Take between 7-8 mls three times a day, or 10mls twice a day until finished, which will take about 10 days. These doses are, no doubt, very high, and as mentioned earlier, this is the level that I would believe to be both safe and effective for the extracts that we make from organic dried herbs in our clinic.

After this, I would most likely continue to give a woman 2 mls of Chaste tree to take each morning for several months before trying again and then perhaps using a formula like the one shown at the beginning to prevent further miscarriage.

Emotional healing

The hardest part of miscarriage for many women is, clearly, the deep emotional impact of it. I have met a number of women who have been so traumatised by their experience that, even though they so still want to have a child, they have felt frankly terrified at the prospect that they might have to go through it again.

A miscarriage can bring profound loss and grief to a person and, especially as people find it hard to talk about, this can be a very isolating experience. There are herbs to help prevent miscarriage, and herbs to help ease its passage if it is already happening, but there is no herb to fix grief or loneliness. There are no easy answers to any of this, but for someone reading this who would like to hear more of my own thoughts on this important subject, the section in the site on emotional healing is introduced here


Cimicifuga racemosa (Black Cohosh)

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd