Interview Pt 3: Miscarriage
This month I’m continuing to answer questions that were submitted by readers for Gentle Delivery’s 10th anniversary “ask the midwife” series (feel free to check out Part One and Part Two if you haven’t read them yet!) There were several questions asking about miscarriage and how that affects future care, and I’ve decided to make that the focus for this month. Sadly, miscarriage is a reality for many moms, and I’ve had more moms than usual experience miscarriage throughout this past year. Hopefully some of these suggestions and this information can be a blessing to those of you walking through this valley, or those of you wondering what happens next…
What is your approach when a client has a miscarriage? What do you say or do to help her through the process, and if she gets pregnant again later, does your prenatal care for her and the baby look different in any way?
This is one of the “flipsides” of midwifery practice…it’s not always dealing with excitement and new babies. Oftentimes miscarriage occurs “out of the blue”, and usually there is no obvious explanation, even though we usually wish we knew why, or what happened.
Typically, a client will have just been in touch to let me know that they are excited to set up a time to talk about homebirth (or resume care if they were a previous client), and then they let me know that they are having some spotting. Spotting in and of itself can indicate an impending miscarriage, or it can be indicative of an irritated cervix, or it can be sign of a “subchorionic hematoma” (which usually results in spotting/bleeding without harming the baby, and resolves on its own). Quite honestly, if a miscarriage is going to occur, there really isn’t much that you can do, as oftentimes if it is indeed going to progress into a miscarriage then the baby has already died by the point you are experiencing spotting. But the unknown is not easy, as you want to KNOW what is going on. Our options at this point include doing labwork to see where the progesterone and Hcg levels are by now and going in to an OBGYN or an ER for an ultrasound (usually this is a vaginal ultrasound in order to get the best look at the uterus in early pregnancy). If the mom is 5 or 6 weeks or more, they should be able to visualize the baby, and be able to tell if the heart is beating, and labwork can reveal whether the pregnancy hormones are continuing to increase as they should. If mom prefers to wait, then there are some herbs that can be taken, and some moms choose to also use progesterone cream to help support the body until we know for sure what is going on.
If the ultrasound or labwork shows that miscarriage is inevitable, then I try to offer support and encouragement while the mom walks through the next several days. In most cases, mom is able to pass the baby on her own, and we stay in touch via phone or email. Spotting usually progresses into bleeding, and cramps accompany the bleeding as the cervix dilates enough to pass everything, which typically happens within a week of the initial spotting. In the event that it takes a longer amount of time, then we can use herbs to help encourage things to move along, we closely monitor for infection, and occasionally we need to transfer to an OBGYN for further care.
Once a miscarriage has taken place, I really encourage moms to take it easy, and make sure that they give their body time to heal both physically and emotionally. Oftentimes a mom can be left feeling very tired and anemic, as the body usually loses a significant amount of blood, and the intensity of labor can leave her worn out. There is also the emotional side of processing the loss, and this combined with the hormonal swings that go along with pregnancy followed by delivery can create quite a roller coaster of emotions to work with, and mom needs to know that this is normal and okay…and that her body is grieving and adjusting, which takes time!
The good news is that a previous miscarriage in and of itself does not negatively affect care for a future pregnancy. As I mentioned before, we usually don’t know what the root cause was, but there are many moms who go on to carry a healthy pregnancy following a miscarriage. Sometimes it can help a mom to relax more if she has more frequent monitoring during the early weeks of pregnancy after a miscarriage, and I am glad to do progesterone and Hcg testing to make sure that these levels are increasing like they should during the initial weeks. Oftentimes these moms also want to get an ultrasound performed earlier, in order to know that everything is looking good and that baby is growing like he should. Other than these factors, there isn’t much different for prenatal care, unless a mom has had several miscarriages in a row.
If a mom has had several repeat miscarriages, I highly recommend consulting with a NaPro Fertility Specialist (these providers concentrate on helping to achieve and maintain correct hormonal balance in order to prepare a mom’s body for and help in maintaining pregnancy). Many moms have inadequate progesterone levels, and having a specialist helping to monitor levels and provide prescription strength progesterone when needed can be a tremendous blessing, and prevent the trauma of further losses.
In closing, here are some suggestions if you are walking through a miscarriage:
- Drink red raspberry leaf tea frequently in order to help balance your hormones and increase your iron as you recover (although stop drinking if you become pregnant again, until you reach the second trimester).
- Take Evening Primrose Oil to help regulate hormones and support the body.
- Consider taking an herbal-based iron supplement for several weeks to help restore your iron levels.
- Take time to rest, don’t push yourself too hard, drink a lot of fluid, and take time to reflect on the short life you were given to carry, and allow yourself time to recuperate and heal before trying to resume your normal responsibilities.
- Check out these sites that have further tips: Healing After Miscarriage and Healing Naturally.
And if you are preparing for pregnancy following a miscarriage, here are some ways to support your body:
- Take folate (not synthetic folic acid!) and methylated B vitamins regularly.
- Start taking a high-quality plant-based (not synthetic!) prenatal vitamin to build your body’s supply of needed vitamins and minerals.
- Look into the benefits of using a quality, natural based over-the-counter progesterone cream to help promote healthy progesterone levels.
- Consider having some herbal tincture on hand (such as C & B formula from Mountain Meadow Herbs) that you could take at the first sign of any cramping or spotting-this tincture helps to calm the uterus.
- Check out this blog post for more practical tips: Preventing Miscarriage
In closing, would you have any suggestions you would add? If you have experienced a miscarriage, what was the best information and advice you were given? Any suggestions for moms hoping to get pregnant soon after going through a loss? I’d love to hear your answers if you would be willing to share!
One really practical piece of advice I’ve received is, during the process of miscarriage, to put a strainer in the toilet bowl. That way if the baby is passed, the strainer will catch him/her, instead of inadvertently losing the baby down the drain.