It would be wonderful if every pregnancy was smooth and uneventful, but that’s not always the case. There are a number of conditions and issues that can arise, and some can endanger your pregnancy. A common concern is threatened miscarriage.
A miscarriage is the loss of the fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. An estimated 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. While this number may seem high, many of those have occurred before a woman knows she’s pregnant or has even missed a period. Of recognized pregnancies, the rate of miscarriage is estimated to be somewhere between 15-25%. Most miscarriages occur in the first three months of a pregnancy, with only about 10% occurring after the 12th week. https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/pregnancy-miscarriage#1
The most common sign that you may be at risk for a miscarriage is bleeding. However, that doesn’t mean that spotting or bleeding during your pregnancy is a sure sign that you are going to have a miscarriage.
Spotting During Pregnancy
Spotting is the term for light bleeding, and is common during your pregnancy, especially in your first three months. While spotting can be alarming, it actually occurs in about one in five women, and can occur for a number of reasons. Among them:
- Implantation. When the fertilized egg implants into the lining of your uterus, it can cause a couple of days of light bleeding. Many women mistake implantation bleeding for an early, light menstrual period.
- Cervical polyps. These are benign growths on your cervix which may bleed during your pregnancy as a result of elevated levels of estrogen. Hormonal changes in early pregnancy increase the concentration of blood vessels around your cervix, which can make it bleed easier.
- Sexual intercourse can cause spotting due to the blood enriched tissue in and around your cervix
- A gynecological exam or vaginal ultrasound may also cause spotting.
- Lifting heavy objects or certain kinds of intense exercise may also result in spotting.
While spotting can be common during your pregnancy, it should be brought to your doctor or midwife’s attention. Heavier bleeding (similar to that of your period) should be evaluated by your obstetrician to rule out complications with your pregnancy. This is especially true during your second and third trimester, in which any spotting or bleeding should be assessed immediately. While any kind of spotting or bleeding during your pregnancy can be distressing, it may be helpful to know that about half of women who experience bleeding ultimately deliver a healthy baby. www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-concerns/spotting-during-pregnancy/
A fairly common complication during the first 20 weeks of your pregnancy is that of a threatened miscarriage. Vaginal bleeding, accompanied by cramping or low back pain are indicators that a miscarriage may occur.
Many women who miscarry or have a threatened miscarriage believe that there is something wrong with them or their pregnancy. However, most miscarriages occur because of chromosomal issues or other problems with the developing fetus. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/symptoms-causes/syc-20354298 Factors unrelated to fetal development that may increase your risk for a threatened miscarriage include having had a previous miscarriage, uterine or cervical issues, trauma to your abdomen, being over age 35, an infection, or having taken or been exposed to certain medications or chemicals.
The good news is that many women who have a threatened miscarriage actually go on to have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. Your doctor or midwife are able to assess your status if a threatened miscarriage is suspected. They will likely do a pelvic exam to look for the source of your bleeding, as well as to evaluate the status of your cervix and uterus. An ultrasound may be needed to monitor the fetus or a transvaginal ultrasound to obtain more detailed images of your reproductive organs. Blood tests may also be ordered to measure levels of hormones necessary to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
While there’s no standard treatment for a threatened miscarriage, there are ways to lower your risk of the miscarriage progressing. Limiting certain activities such as heavy exercise and sexual intercourse, hormonal supplementation, and rest may be recommended. www.healthline.com/health/miscarriage-threatened#prevention
Acupuncture may also be helpful for women who are experiencing a threatened miscarriage. While there is little research on its effectiveness, one study exploring the feasibility of acupuncture treatments for this condition concluded that symptoms associated with a threatened miscarriage were reduced in women who had acupuncture compared to those who did not. The symptoms that were decreased with acupuncture treatments included bleeding, cramping, and low back pain.
A condition that may contribute to miscarriages later in your pregnancy is something called incompetent cervix. Also called cervical insufficiency, incompetent cervix occurs because the tissue of the cervix (the doorway to your uterus) becomes softer, thinner, and begins to dilate (open) earlier than it should. When your cervix begins to change and open too soon, it puts you in danger of pregnancy loss or delivering your baby prematurely.
An incompetent cervix is often hard to diagnose, and the symptoms of this condition can be subtle. They may start between week 14 and 20 of your pregnancy and include:
- Spotting or a change in vaginal discharge
- A sensation of heaviness or pressure in your pelvis
- New lower back achiness
- Abdominal cramping
The cause of incompetent cervix is unknown, but there are a couple of factors that can raise your risk of this happening. They include previous cervical trauma (abnormal Pap, surgical procedures, etc.), congenital conditions (structural abnormalities of the uterus, genetic issues, exposure to DES in utero, etc.), and race—for unknown reasons black women tend to have a higher risk.
Cervical insufficiency can also be hard to treat. You may have regular ultrasounds to assess cervical status, be prescribed preventative medications, or perform something called cervical cerclage, in which your cervix is sutured closed. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/incompetent-cervix/symptoms-causes/syc-20373836?p=1
In the later stages of your pregnancy, a condition called placenta previa is the most common cause of painless bleeding. Your placenta is a flat organ attaches to the wall of your uterus, and will measure about 7 inches in diameter when your pregnancy is at full term. The placenta transports oxygen and nutrients from you to your baby.
Placenta previa is a condition that occurs when the placenta implants near or over the opening of your uterus, blocking the opening out of your womb and your cervix. Your placenta is rich in blood, and if it has implanted too close to the cervical opening, it can cause bleeding later in your pregnancy when your cervix stretches, thins, and dilates. Therefore, bleeding is a primary sign of placenta previa.
The position of the placenta determines the type of placenta previa that you may have. Complete placenta previa means that the entire opening of your uterus is covered. Partial and marginal placenta previa means that either the opening is partially obstructed, or the placenta is adjacent to the cervical opening.
Your risk for placenta previa increases with your age and previous deliveries. If you had this condition with a previous pregnancy, your risk of it occurring again is higher. For unknown reasons, Asian women are at a higher risk for placenta previa than women of other ethnicities, and interestingly, women who are pregnant with male babies have a slightly elevated risk.
The good news with placenta previa is that in about 90% of women with this condition, the placenta will migrate out of the way of the uterine opening as their pregnancy progresses. However, if bleeding is severe while this condition persists, medical care may be necessary. For women with complete placenta previa that has not resolved by about week 36, a Caesarian section may be necessary. https://www.medicinenet.com/pregnancy_placenta_previa/article.htm
Treating Threatened Miscarriage and Associated Conditions at BodaHealth
At BodaHealth our goal is to help you manage any complications that may arise during your pregnancy safely, naturally, and in collaboration with any other health care providers you may be seeing. We offer acupuncture, Traditional Chinese medicine, and naturopathic medicine for the best choice in natural treatments.
When it comes to threatened miscarriage, bleeding during your pregnancy, and other complications, we look to treat the Spleen in Chinese medical theory. That’s because your Spleen is responsible for producing energy as well as holding organs in other tissues in place through its ascending function. When your Spleen and your overall energy become weak, your body’s ability to hold also becomes weak—including your ability to hold your baby in place.
At BodaHealth, we are able to perform acupuncture, prescribe Chinese herbal medicine, provide dietary strategies, prescribe supplementation, and suggest lifestyle changes to help increase your energy and support a healthy pregnancy. Our acupuncturists are well-versed in acupuncture points that are used to stop bleeding, increase your Spleen energy, and strengthen your body’s holding function. We are able to recommend and prescribe herbs that augment your acupuncture treatments and that are specific to your unique needs. Our naturopathic doctors are able to assess your hormonal, nutritional, and digestive status and prescribe supplements, and if necessary, medications to enhance your health and support your pregnancy.
Our practitioners are dedicated to treating women’s health. They have special training and extensive experience in working with women through every step of their pregnancy, even when complications arise. Give us a call today to see if the team at BodaHealth can help you.