There’s been a lot more buzz in the news this past year on the topic of miscarriage and recurrent pregnancy loss with more and more celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg opening up about their own struggles and creating the space for others to have that dialogue. I think this is great because this is something that women too often suffer through alone. I have seen how devastating it can be for women who want nothing more than to hold their own child in their arms to have to go through recurrent pregnancy loss. It’s not just the pregnancy that’s lost – it’s also a loss of hope with each miscarriage. It’s the creation of a negative spiral that leaves women believing that they’ll never be able to have a healthy baby or that there is something innately wrong with them. Imagine the toll that this can take on someone’s health and well-being, especially if they are going through it alone. This is why it is so important for us to reach out to the women in our lives who we know are going through this, and just to say “how are you doing, really?”, and be willing to just be there and listen. It might turn out to be one of the most therapeutic things they experience that week.
To bring more attention to this issue which we commonly see at Yinstill, I wanted to write about causes and contributing factors for miscarriage and recurrent pregnancy loss which I have come across in my own research and practice, but which are also often overlooked by western medicine. All of these factors require having a holistic perspective and approach to the body which is of course, essential to my practice.
1. Subclinical hypothyroidism: Although thyroid problems are well known to be associated with miscarriage, this is never assessed the way it should be. Functional doctors recommend assessing all parameters of thyroid health in order to get the full picture. This includes TSH, T3, T4, TPO, and RT3 (lab tests). Ninety nine percent of the time (in Canada), doctors will only check for TSH and leave it at that, even if the number falls in the lower or upper end of the normal range. The problem with this is that symptoms of thyroid issues can start to arise years before anything ever becomes detectable in the labs. Symptoms can also be very general and non-specific, making it difficult to zero in on thyroid involvement. Therefore, if we only run one basic thyroid test like TSH, we have much less of a chance to catch a thyroid issue that is just in the beginning stages. I have seen this in practice and I have seen it affect pregnancy and cause miscarriage. This is why I now always check the thyroid and suspect thyroid issues in anyone with a positive family history, infertility issue, or recurrent miscarriage. The benefit of seeing a functional medicine practitioner or a naturopathic doctor in this case would be to have the option of checking the thyroid in a detailed and specific way that gives us the opportunity to catch these abnormalities before they have a chance to become worse. This may also give you answers as many women are told their thyroid function is “normal” and the doctors don’t know why they are having recurrent miscarriages. Treatment of the thyroid in this case is also integrative. Rather than prescribing the mass-manufactured medication that only comes in set doses, I am able to work with a compounding pharmacy to create a personalized medicine to treat and support the thyroid, at a dose that is customized for each patient. I work with a local compounding pharmacy (Pure Pharmacy) to achieve this.
2. Undiagnosed immune issue: This is something that is sometimes more difficult to diagnose but something that I definitely suspect and treat when it comes to recurrent pregnancy loss. Have you ever known anyone who got sick with a cold as soon as they became pregnant? This is because a woman’s immune system is suppressed with progesterone – the pregnancy hormone. This is a normal response to pregnancy as we do not want the body to assume that the embryo is a foreign body (which it is) and attack it. However in some women, the immune system can be over-active and this is what we call autoimmunity. In this case, women can continuously attack their embryos or even their partner’s sperm as these are seen by the immune system as invaders. Autoimmune issues are known to be associated with each other so if someone has one autoimmune condition, chances are there is autoimmunity happening in other systems of the body as well. The simple way to think of it is having an immune system that constantly wants to attack everything. This includes food as well, and since our first line of defence is actually in the gut, leaky gut syndrome is considered an autoimmune problem as well. Furthermore, the thyroid disorders discussed above are most often autoimmune in origin as well (Hashimoto’s/Grave’s), so as you can see, balancing the immune system is an important goal when it comes to treating recurrent pregnancy loss. We often start by treating the gut and regulating digestion. I have developed a 4 step protocol for this purpose. Other ways that I regulate the immune system include specific herbs and supplements as well as intravenous administration of nutrients that are beneficial for the immune system.
3. Nutrient deficiency: It’s safe to assume that the majority of doctors and patients are aware of the necessity of supplementing with folic acid during pregnancy. However, some doctors don’t even prescribe a prenatal multivitamin as they either don’t think it’s required or are unaware of it’s benefits. The human fetus undergoes most of it’s growth and development in the first trimester. For this reason, it is crucial to have lots and lots of nutrients in your system to support this. It’s often not enough to just have the recommended daily allowance of certain nutrients and vitamins – these numbers are simply guidelines for survival. When it comes to an integrative approach to wellness, we want you to THRIVE not just survive. Yes, you can still live with a daily vitamin C intake of 50mg, but the real immune, antiviral, antimicrobial, antioxidant benefits are unlocked at 3000-5000mg! See the difference? When it comes to recurrent pregnancy loss, certain vitamins and nutrients like folic acid, iron, vitamin B6, zinc, etc, have been associated with miscarriage. I’ve started to administer intravenous vitamins and nutrients to my patients who are newly pregnant and found this very helpful. Where they previously miscarried at 5 weeks, now they are past that milestone with their HCG levels continuing to rise and evidence of a healthy fetus on ultrasound. Where they previously were unable to get pregnant and had failed IUIs, they are now able to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy. Therefore, IV vitamins and nutrients have tremendous applications when it comes to fertility and pregnancy support. I am able to customize this treatment for each patient. I can add extra folic acid for women who are over 35, or extra B12 for women who are anemic. I can simultaneously focus on immune and thyroid support by using things like zinc, L-tyrosine, vitamin C, and selenium. Nutrient deficiencies are rarely ever diagnosed by western medicine, nor are they even on the doctors’ radar. It is essential to see a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor in order to address this – especially if you also experience fatigue, sleep issues, pain, depression, and other signs of vitamin and nutrient deficiencies.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, recurrent pregnancy loss is a devastating experience because it can go on for months or years. At Yinstill we are aware of the sensitivity and impact of this on women, which is why we really provide the space for them to receive exactly the type of treatment that they need. At your visit, you’ll be heard, cared for, and treated as an individual. All treatments are personalized and we do our best to work within your schedule and budget. Treatment cost is comparable to the cost of a dentist but the reward can be priceless – the family you’ve always wanted.
I provide 15 minute phone consults to all prospective patients so please call 604 873 9355 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book today.
All the best,