Some of my patients tell me that they feel pregnant towards the end of some cycles but then get a negative pregnancy test. Others briefly show a positive result on a home pregnancy test but then get their period.
I encourage my patients to look out for the early warning signs of pregnancy because they can give us information. Some people are conceiving regularly but their pregnancies are not continuing. These people often experience some of the signs of early pregnancy but their period comes on time or just a few days late. This is known as a chemical pregnancy and is surprisingly common. In fact, it is estimated that 50%– 60% of conceptions fail in the early stages often without any knowledge of being pregnant.
Recognizing that this is happening gives both your doctor and your acupuncturist important information.
Your doctor will look at your progesterone levels to see if they are dropping when they shouldn’t. They will also examine your uterine lining to make sure it is thick enough and that there are no obstructions such as fibroids. A good doctor will also look for infections such as ureaplasma, which may be causing a pregnancy to fail at the beginning. Many of the causes of a chemical pregnancy can be sorted out; however, it is important to remember that a large number of chemical pregnancies are due to chromosomal problems in the fetus and therefore cannot be prevented.
In Chinese medicine, there are also a number of explanations for a chemical pregnancy. I use Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis to work out whether my patient has weak yang, dropping qi, blood stagnation, or heat in the blood.
Patients with weak yang have poor circulation and run a bit colder. Often their progesterone levels are not as high as they should be and I give them yang tonic herbs, which do not supplement progesterone directly but help the body to make more of this hormone over time.
Patients with dropping qi are often tired and have periods that are very heavy to start with. Sometimes they spot before their period. I give them an acupuncture treatment in their luteal phase that raises qi and also give them an herbal formula.
Patients with blood stagnation have blood that does not flow smoothly causing their uterine lining to be lumpy and making it hard for a fetus to implant. These patients are hard to treat with herbs because the herbs that move blood in the uterus are contraindicated in pregnancy. I usually give blood-moving herbs during the period to help develop a healthy endometrial lining later in the cycle. If the dense tissue has become a fibroid or polyps I usually send the patient to their GYN to find out if these need to be removed.
Heat in the blood correlates to an infection in conventional medicine. I give the patient herbs to help with this but also refer them to their GYN for detailed testing and possibly some antibiotics.
As my patients know I am an enthusiastic advocate of a combined approach when it comes to getting pregnant. So I always encourage my patients to consult their doctor and take advantage of the best that both conventional and Chinese medicine has to offer.
So if you suspect that you may have been briefly pregnant do not worry that your feelings will be dismissed. A good health care practitioner will take you seriously and work with you to help you find a solution.