Dos and Don'ts for a Natural Pregnancy Loss
These tips are garnered from my experiences during four miscarriages. I am NOT a trained herbalist or naturopath, and the advice I lay before you is not meant in any way to substitute for the advice of a trained medical professional. I have personally used and can vouchsafe each of the herbs and remedies discussed in this article. However, you should discuss all supplements and dosages with a certified healthcare practitioner.
It was the case with me that each time I miscarried a baby I knew ahead of time that the loss was coming. Or was it that it had already occurred, just that the ripples of it had not reached the outer shores of my awareness? This is the way for most women these days; either hormone levels or ultrasound results reveal that no viable new life lies within. I think this is a mixed blessing. I always find myself making room in my heart for a new baby the minute I get the faintest pink line on the pregnancy test. For me, the new life exists undeniably from that moment on. In spite of tests showing inadequate hormone levels, or morning sickness that vanishes suddenly early in the pregnancy, even in spite of the dark brown spotting that is sometimes the first sign, I can never seem to lose the hopeful space in my heart, or to entirely fill that space afterward. These tips are for the time that comes after knowing you are not going to bring forth a living baby. For those who choose to miscarriage naturally, this is a time of both grieving and waiting.
Do begin the process of grieving as soon as you know. I believe grief is a necessary part of allowing a miscarriage to proceed naturally, and this is true whether you know of the loss for weeks or only minutes before the physical process of miscarriage begins. For me, it seems the more I hold on to the idea of having a newborn baby, the longer the process takes. During the waiting time, maintain a dialogue with your lost baby that communicates both gratitude and release.
Don’t let yourself be pressured into medical intervention. If you are going to do this naturally, that means no D and C, no Misoprostol to stimulate contractions. I let myself be talked into speeding my third miscarriage with medication. While it was convenient to “schedule” my miscarriage, it was by far the most painful miscarriage I had. I was having a hard time emotionally and could not bring myself to begin grieving which truly does stall the process. If you have waited almost a month for miscarriage to happen, you may be feeling the pressure of your OB/GYN to get things moving to reduce your risk of infection. But if no signs of infection are present (fever, pain, foul odor) then it is perfectly fine to wait. Refer back to the paragraph on grieving and be patient.
Do use natural remedies to promote miscarriage and heal the uterus. An herbal combo of red raspberry leaf and black cohosh can help to speed the onset of the miscarriage while it prepares the uterus for the labor. I have used it with success. Blue and black cohosh can be used together to promote onset. But by far my favorite remedy is homeopathic Sabina. Sabina is used to treat heavy menstruation, but it is also an excellent promoter of miscarriage, stimulating the uterus to release its contents. Sabina should be kept on hand in case of retained tissue or prolonged heavy bleeding. It will help with both. Sabina can also be used in conjunction with the herbs listed above.
Don’t use crampbark during the actual miscarriage process. By this, I am referring to the time when your uterus is cramping or contracting to bring forth the expired tissue. Miscarriage pains vary widely in intensity. With my first miscarriage, development stopped at 2 or 3 weeks, and it was no more than a heavy period. When my second miscarriage came, development had stopped at 5 or 6 weeks. That time, the cramps meant business, and I was debilitated by them. Unfortunately I was at work when they hit, and it was one of those times when there was no one to work for me. I got about halfway through the day before I took the crampbark. This wonderful herb works beautifully, the pains and heavy bleeding began to subside. But I had prolonged bleeding after that, a sure sign of possible retained tissue. After 6 weeks, I took the remedy Sabina, passed the tissue (a small bit, no larger than a fingernail) and the bleeding finally stopped. For more on Sabina, see the tip above.
Do prepare yourself for after pains, especially if you have given birth before. A tincture combo of hops, cramp bark, and blue cohosh will relieve the intensity of pains while your uterus does the work of recovering from pregnancy. Dosage is 20 to 40 drops as needed, not to exceed 4 doses in an hour. These same herbs can be taken in tea form.
Do ask your doctor or midwife what you can expect during your miscarriage. Of course a loss at 4 or 5 weeks is not the same as a loss at 16 or 18 weeks. It is helpful to know how much tissue you can expect to pass. With my fourth miscarriage, the fetus died just short of 12 weeks. When the miscarriage came, the tiny fetus I passed was about the size of an Easter egg with its umbilical cord attached. I also passed a small mass of tissue, which I assumed was the complete afterbirth. After three days of heavy bleeding it became apparent that I had not passed everything. The tissue remaining to be passed was the size of a large grapefruit. Bringing forth the remainder of the tissue was not unlike labor. In fact, a natural miscarriage at any point after 12 weeks proceeds in much the same way as a live birth. My later-term miscarriage even began with the bag of waters breaking. If you are experiencing a late-term miscarriage, talk extensively with your doctor or midwife so you will know what you are in for. You may even want to consider having a midwife present.
Do be prepared for blood loss, but know the signs of hemorrhage and get medical care if needed! A certain amount of heavy bleeding is normal. But, if you are soaking more than one pad in an hour, it is time to go to the ER. I did go into the ER after substantial blood loss with my fourth miscarriage. Heavy bleeding accompanied by chills, dizziness, and a feeling of prickliness all over my body were all indicators that it was time to seek medical help. Badly in need of fluids, I felt much better after I was put on a saline IV drip. I was not prepared for heavy blood loss because I did not have what I needed.
Any woman embarking on a natural miscarriage at home should have shepherd’s purse tincture on hand. This wonderful herb can assist in slowing bleeding. Administer as needed. Additionally, chlorophyll or “green drink” will help to keep your body nourished and replenished in the case of heavy bleeding. I highly recommend Dr. Schulze’s SuperFood Plus for this purpose. It kept me from passing out during more than one miscarriage. With miscarriage number four, I did not have shepherd’s purse tincture. I simply could not find it in time, though I used it successfully during my third miscarriage. It may or may not have prevented my trip to the ER. In any case, please be prepared for heavy bleeding, and if you begin to experience chills, dizziness, or a “pins and needles” feeling throughout your body, get help at once.
Do accept the loss as a gift from the better-knowing power in the Universe. This does not make the loss less genuine or significant. But accepting the unknown wisdom of the Divine is the key to placing control of the mystery of life into greater hands, thus releasing you from any temptation to blame yourself for the loss.
Do also accept the comfort of your partner and the solace of your friends. Now is an excellent time to pamper yourself. Take hot relaxing baths (though not when bleeding), drink wine, read a good book. Let others do for you. You will especially want help if you have young kids at home. I was so fortunate that during my first miscarriage, my in-laws took my 2-year-old son, and I could just lie in bed with my partner’s arms around me for hours. At the time I was experiencing a curious mixture of grief and clingy love whenever I was with my son, making the experience harder. His presence made me acutely aware of the precious life I had lost. For this and other reasons, I recommend that you get someone to take the kids for a while.
Don’t forget to express your grief to those closest to you. Your partner may or may not be experiencing the same feelings of loss that you are. This can create a stressful dynamic if you find yourself grieving for an extended period of time. Of course, the process of grieving has its stages, anger being one of them. Reminding your partner that you are going through this process will promote understanding of this anger as well as the other faces of grief. And though it may be difficult for them to understand, children also need to be aware of the loss that has occurred. How else are they to know that Mommy has a good reason to be sad? You may also experience some conflicting emotions when you are around your young children. I find that my sons are daily reminders of all that makes life precious. But during pregnancy loss, they are also reminders of the new life lost. This is common. In time, however, I have found that hugging your children close is a crucial part of the healing process.
Don’t think of your womb as a vessel of death. After four miscarriages, I sometimes fall into this thought-pattern. But I also share my life with three precious sons who are a testament to the amazing life-giving properties of my marvelous uterus. It is true that a woman can wait several weeks before her body begins to expel the remains of her baby. But in almost every case, the womb possesses an innate wisdom and knows exactly what to do. Your body begins the work of carrying a baby at the slightest hint of life developing within. If you look at the ultrasound of a 3 – 5 week blighted ovum, you will see the structures that were to become the amniotic sac and placenta, even though the clinician can identify no traces of embryo whatsoever. How astonishing and moving it is to know how quickly your womb will embrace the chance to harbor new life. When there is a loss, your body follows a pattern of gradually decreasing hormone levels that somehow bridges the gap between life and death for the fetus. Imagine that the uterus can carry death within it and still pose no risk to the life of the woman. It is astounding! But I like to think of my womb as the first heaven for my unborn, a place where they were immersed in nurturance and love.
Do take time for your body to recover. If this is your first pregnancy loss, you will want to try again right away. Waiting a few months is a good idea though, continuing to nurture yourself with nourishing foods and supplements, of course. I have found that recovery is an also excellent time for self-reflection. When someone suggested to me during my first miscarriage that it was now time to re-evaluate my reasons for wanting a second child, I was deeply offended. But after many years I can now see the wisdom of that suggestion. If you already have children, ask yourself, do you truly want another? If so, may it be the case that the timing was not right? A miscarriage may also be a good prompt for you to re-evaluate your diet and the stress level of your lifestyle, as well as your general health. Be patient, be kind to yourself, and be open to all the possibilities.