Using acupuncture to treat recurring miscarriages?
December 13, 2006 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Last week, I had my second early miscarriage. In addition to a battery of tests I'm trying to convince my ob/gyn to give me, I'm also considering treatment with acupuncture.

I'm 34 and am healthy, as far as I know. Noone in my family has had fertility problems, and I've been able to get pregnant easily (one month of trying with my first pregnancy, second month trying with my second pregnancy). Staying pregnant seems to be more of an issue.

Has anyone here used acupuncture to treat recurring miscarriages? If so, was it successful? I've found some promising articles around, but I'm more looking for some personal experiences (yours, or someone you know). I'm feeling down about everything and I guess I'm looking for a little hope here.
posted by discokitty to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm just starting acupuncture/homeopathy after my first miscarriage in November, I'm sorry for your losses. I don't have anything to report on yet but I'll obviously be following this discussion, hopefully someone has experience to share.
posted by justjen at 9:49 AM on December 13, 2006

I don't have any experience with acupuncture, but I do with miscarriage. I am sorry for your loss. After my recent miscarriage my doctor informed that miscarriage is so common that (in Canada, anyway) they don't even start to look for problems until you have had three in a row. Just so you know, even two in a row doesn't mean you necessarily have problems.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:17 AM on December 13, 2006

Best answer: I am 38, and I've used acu to get pregnant. It was very successful but I've never had a problem with miscarriage; just in getting knocked up in the first place. I would strongly advise you to find an acu/TCM practicioner with a lot of OB experience; it's a highly customized treatment plan and if someone is not familiar with that they may just give you "cookbook" needling which can do as much harm as good. TCM can be very powerful, but it's not a good idea to go with the first acupuncturist you meet.

In my case, I was trying to get pregnant using a donor and (the wrong) acupuncturist; I changed to someone who had been recommended by a local doula and she helped me get pregnant (and stay pregnant) within 6 weeks. (six sessions plus herbs) It could have been coincidence, but I don't think so. Also of note, I've been less sick/more healthy than any other pregnant person I've known. I'm 28 weeks now, with no swelling, no nausea at any point, and no other issues. I'm convinced that my TCM treatments are my secret weapon in keeping the baby and me happy and healthy. My current TCM practitioner actually teaches OB/GYN at the local acu college, and she just really knows what she's doing.

How you know you've got the right one:
Recommended by doulas, midwives, or another TCM practioner.
Has a certification, degree, or specialization in OB/GYN for TCM.
Is completely "present" with you every time - looks closely at your eyes, tongue, does the 12 pulses, asks you lots of questions, and listens to the answers, and keeps a chart of your cycle.
Needles differently as appropriate, customizes needling to results of exam.
Offers herbs, but not the same ones every time.
Offers advice on what to eat, not to eat, etc. AND...
There are big fat pregnant ladies in the waiting room or lots of Thank you notes with babies on them taped to the wall.
posted by pomegranate at 10:27 AM on December 13, 2006 [3 favorites]

According to the American Pregnancy Association, "During the first trimester, the most common cause of miscarriage is chromosomal abnormality...."

Given that, perhaps the tests you are persuading your ob/gyn to perform could include something to rule chromosomal abnormality and other genetic problems out before you take steps to prolong your next pregnancy, whatever means you choose.

Overall miscarriage rates are apparently at least 15% for your age group, and may actually be much higher, so I would say keep trying and good luck-- I can't imagine any endeavor with a greater ultimate reward.
posted by jamjam at 11:06 AM on December 13, 2006

My sympathies for your loss.

I was going to say what arcticwoman said... a friend/neighbour of mine had at least two miscarriages (although she also has two normal children - they just wanted a third) and she wasn't seen by a specialist until after the second one. I'm not sure whether that's because of a shortage of specialists in the area or because it's just too common to worry about.

Having said that, the cause of her last miscarriage was some sort of congenital problem with the placenta that was likely to happen again. Some sort of genetic issue. Which is an odd diagnosis, as, like I said, she has two perfectly normal children.

So, there is a lot of hope - having a miscarriage is not the end of the line if you want to have children. However, there are lots of reasons for a miscarriage and while acupuncture will not hurt, there are a lot things it will not help with at all.

Definitely stick with your doctor and try to track down the root cause - chances are it can be treated somehow. Best of luck!
posted by GuyZero at 12:00 PM on December 13, 2006

Before you start spending a lot of money on accupuncture and homeopathy, you should be aware that much of the mainstream medical and scientific community consider both to be quackery. My money would go to a genetic counselor.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:00 PM on December 13, 2006

Friends of mine used acupuncture and chinese herbs to get and stay pregnant. She was mid 30s, he was in his early 40s.

She began treatment and had difficulty, but they determined it might be his age, gave him herbs (but no accupuncture) while she had herbs and accupuncture. They have a beautiful son less than a year after the husband began treatment.
posted by Gucky at 12:11 PM on December 13, 2006

It's been said that "data is not the plural of anecdote". Anecdotal evidence such as many of the testimonials given above are not statistically valid, and that kind of testimonial quite commonly suffers from post hoc fallacy.

Homeopathy, in particular, is bunk.

Friends of mine used acupuncture and chinese herbs to get and stay pregnant.

Well, actually, they used acupuncture and herbs, and she got pregnant. But that doesn't mean that the acupuncture and herbs had anything to do with it. Sequence doesn't prove causality.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:24 PM on December 13, 2006

But that doesn't mean that the acupuncture and herbs had anything to do with it.

True, it's not a direct causation, but there have been scientific studies conducted in hospital settings showing that acupuncture treats both morning sickness and pregnancy-related muscle pain as well as or better than conventional therapies. Whether it also helps fertility is an open question for study.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:20 PM on December 13, 2006

Might work if you believe it will. The body is funny that way. But, like the wiki says, "There is no physically verifiable anatomical or histological basis for the existence of acupuncture points or meridians." I also enjoy their use of the word "prescientific".
posted by trevyn at 5:20 PM on December 13, 2006

Anecdotally (with a nod to the posters above), I have received acupuncture treatments here in Korea with great success for a few problems, one of which, despite the best efforts of Canadian and Australian doctors and therapists for more than a decade, had not responded to treatment. I was extremely sceptical. I am no longer.

I cannot comment on the pregnancy aspect, being wombless. But I have been convinced of the effectiveness of acupuncture for physical ailments and chronic pain.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:59 PM on December 13, 2006

It is my opinion that a miscarriage is likely to be caused by the body _deciding_ to reject the baby, and not because the baby has developmental problems.

Going to an acupucturist that the pregnant lady believes in is probably going to make her body believe that the environment is conducive to producing a baby, and so there is less of a chance of a miscarriage.

That's why needles stuck in the man also help, they simply give the woman something to hold on to, and thus help the pregnancy. So don't knock homeopathy, particularly in the case of preganancy.
posted by markesh at 11:14 PM on December 13, 2006

That would be nice if indeed that was the reason for miscarriage. But it generally isn't.

For older mothers, the most common reason for miscarriage is misdevelopment of the fetus caused by chromosomal error. In effect, the genes of the fetus are screwed up, and it doesn't develop properly and dies in the womb. Once the uterus detects that the fetus is dead, the woman's body responds by ejecting it.

But the failure that leads to this tragedy happens before fertilization.

All that can be done is to keep trying.

It has been demonstrated that acupuncture can stimulate the release of endorphins. That's why it can help with cases of chronic pain. But the effect is not long-lasting, and there's no particular reason to believe that increased levels of endorphins have any effect at all on success or failure of pregnancy.

And as to homeopathy, what you're getting is pure water. It's cheaper to get it from the tap in the kitchen.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:39 AM on December 14, 2006

Having a miscarriage must be awful, but homeopathy, especially acupuncture, is simply not the way to go; it's junk science, plain and simple.
posted by alby at 9:40 AM on December 14, 2006

Response by poster: Actually, for those who are unaware, studies have shown acupuncture to improve outcomes for IVF patients dramatically - doubling the amount of individuals who successfully became pregnant (from 23% with no acupuncture to 46% with acupuncture) and reducing the miscarriage rate from 20% to 8%. The information is widely available and well-regarded by physicians in the field.

I was looking for personal experiences with acupuncture, not opinions on whether it's crap from people who have never given in a try or bothered to learn more about it. I appreciate the lessons in logic and whatnot, but it isn't relevant to my original request.
posted by discokitty at 8:08 AM on December 15, 2006

Hi discokitty. You are correct that you asked for anecdotes and hope, not scientific evidence. This causes me physical pain, as it appears that you are suffering from confirmation bias, and I feel it is my responsibility to give you truth, not hope. I suspect some other the other posters feel the same way.

Regarding the studies, you appear to be referring to Paulus, et al. (2002) (pregnancy rate 42.5% vs. 26.3%, P<.03) and Magarelli et al. (2004) (miscarriage rate 8% vs. 20%, P
posted by trevyn at 1:13 PM on December 15, 2006

<.05). You may be interested in Smith et al. (2006), which found no statistical significance in pregnancy rates, and raised issues about the design of the previous studies ("bias might have arisen from inadequate blinding, and insufficient details were reported on the sample and effect size", "Methodological limitations, such as selection bias, might have influenced the study findings").

good lord, bad day for angle brackets. live preview needs fixed.
posted by trevyn at 1:17 PM on December 15, 2006

acupuncture can stimulate the release of endorphins. That's why it can help with cases of chronic pain. But the effect is not long-lasting

I'm sorry, but once again my experience contradicts your assertions. The last of the series of treatments I mention above was 5 years ago, with no recurrences. During the acupuncture treatments themselves, the pain actually increased.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:25 PM on December 15, 2006

Response by poster: Honestly Trevyn, I think you may be suffering from the same confirmation bias. Again, I'm not interested in studies, I'm interested in personal experiences. It is what I asked for. I've got enough google fu to look up studies on my own.
posted by discokitty at 10:36 AM on December 17, 2006

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