Miscarriage, or pregnancy loss, is a heart breaking experience, one that is often not talked about, but dealt with by the couple privately. Irrespective of when in the pregnancy the miscarriage occurs the feelings of grief, hurt, frustration, confusion, anger, and guilt are understandable and can be very intense, especially when faced with recurrent pregnancy loss (defined as three consecutive pregnancy losses prior to 20 weeks, from the last menstrual period).
While kind, gentle and understanding emotional support is needed, physical recovery is also important. Then it may be time to undergo some thorough investigations in order to try and understand why this may be happening to you both.
I think here it is important to note that miscarriage happens to a couple not just the female. And that male factors play a role in miscarriage as well.
Studies have linked sperm with DNA damage to a history of recurrent miscarriage. We are now aware that an egg has the capacity to repair some of this DNA damage in the sperm, but if the egg has to do too much ‘repair’ there is limited cellular energy left for the important task of cell division and growth.
Some studies have shown that sperm samples taken from couples who have experienced recurrent pregnancy loss, showed higher levels of DNA fragmentation (damage). This can be tested through an IVF lab (known as a SCSA or SCIT test) and is done along with a sperm analysis.
Sperm DNA fragmentation can be successfully treated with 3-4 months of preconception care including dietary and lifestyle changes, herbal and nutritional medicine. This reduction in ‘housework’ for the egg can have a very positive impact on the chance of a successful pregnancy.
Taking Proactive steps – some things you can do
- Find a good support team – this would include seeing a specialist fertility trained herbal or naturopathic clinician, and a doctor or specialist who specialises in miscarriage. Once you have your team, invest in thorough testing for the male and female to try and understand why and manage it better in your next pregnancy.
Testing may include things such as a genomic test, checking for infections, immune and autoimmune issues, anatomical abnormalities, hormonal issues, blood clotting problems, and environmental toxicity.
- Invest in four months preconception care (as a COUPLE) – given sperm makes up 50% of the equation it is important that men, as well as women, be fully committed to this process. Under the supervision and support of your specialist herbalist or naturopath you will be following some dietary guidelines, trying to reduce your exposure to chemicals and toxins and taking the right nutrients for your genetics.
- Address your stress levels, introduce regular exercise (that you love), nuture yourselves on all levels. Take time out to talk and process the grief of your previous losses. Talk about how you might manage the expected anxiety and worry when you do conceive again. What might work to help you through this process? Many use things like journaling, guided relaxations, counselling, mindfulness, joining support groups – it’s a matter of finding what works for you as individuals and as a couple.
- Have hope – there are answers out there and with the right support team and referrals hopefully you will find them. It is a tough journey, with many highs and lows, hopes and expectations, and we truly hope it is a fulfilled dream for you in the near future.