I never thought I’d be someone who would choose to not have a baby.
This is the story of how I came to do so.
For 7 years I have successfully used the rhythm method with my partners. I have a regular period and charted my basal temperature for 6+months in the beginning, making me confident of my ovulation timing. This data is entered into a phone app which now keeps track of my cycle.
At the end of last year, my boyfriend accidentally broke my phone. For two months I used second-hand phones. When I replaced my phone, it restored all the apps as usual, and I went back to charting—not realising that as those two months were now blank, the average period length and predicted date of ovulation had changed. The day we conceived, I checked it as usual, reasonably certain he’d need to pull out. Ovulation was listed as 5+14 days, instead of 5+9=day 14. I sat in confusion and manually counted the days 4-5 times, (mid-sex) and eventually went ahead with a wonderful mutual orgasm.
Easy mistake to make.
It felt like I pulled a stomach muscle. My boobs got bigger. I started feeling nauseous most of the time, putting it down to career and relationship stress. Soon though, my favourite foods made me feel sick (almond milk, blueberries, cocoa, fruit in general, coconut, any Thai spices) and I craved dairy (which I’m allergic to). I became very emotional and broke up with my boyfriend (who I live with). I started sleeping all. the. time. I would get up at 10am, nap 3-6pm, and got back to bed at 10 or 11pm. I couldn’t believe how much I needed to pee, and it felt like my organs were being squashed inside me.
I didn’t test until I was 7 weeks LMP (5 weeks 2 days since conception). Years ago I’d had false pregnancies, where my boobs would get big n sore, and my period would be up to 10 days late. This usually happened after an emotional break-up or stressful life event. I was confident in my charting, and figured that’s what was happening—a pseudo-pregnancy.
Eventually it clicked that my app was missing data. I took four pregnancy tests and all came back positive, the first with only a very faint line (which has been a false positive for me in the past). The digital test dated 2-3+ weeks, and the blood test came back as 102, 000 HCG—very, very pregnant.
LMP: 20-24th Jan
Conception: 31st Jan
Symptoms began: 3rd March
Urine test: 9 & 10th March
Blood test: 11th March.
For the first 2 days, I cried every time I talked about the pregnancy. When the doctor asked me if I had made ‘a decision’, I started crying. This told me a lot about the decision I needed to make. Even though my partner and I want children, at no point did I feel joyous to learn of my impregnation. We each have a business, his coming into its 2nd year, and I’ve recently published a book which I have the obligation to promote. I need to travel for work, and he’s fixed for work, and I couldn’t do much in my pregnant, exhausted and sick state. I was unhappy with where we were living and didn’t want to have a baby here. My partner had really struggled to balance his work commitments with our relationship, and as I became tired and emotional, I started to lose my temper. Not a happy or nurturing environment for a child. After a couple of days to sit with the reality before us, we made the decision we wouldn’t have thought. I realised with surprise I didn’t want to have a baby. Not now. I cried and bargained to god, that if the baby came, I would love it with everything I had, but that I would really appreciate it if he left my body.
I read anything I could get my hands on about natural, non-interference based miscarriages, including vitamin C, herbs, acupressure and visualisation (my main inspiration came from this woman). I chose herbs I was comfortable with (in terms of possible side effects), and consulted with women who are familiar with them—one who used them to induce labour as a midwife, and another whose friends have on numerous occasions successfully terminated pregnancies with herbs.
I encountered significant resistance from concerned family and friends who pressured me to get a D&C (see below). Subsequently, for the vast time where I was pregnant, herbally aborting and miscarrying, I spoke to only a few people. My focus and clarity was precious if I were to succeed in what I wanted to do, so I protected myself from anyone who made me feel any more stressed or scared than I already was.
If you are considering herbally miscarrying, please read this summary in its entirety and also do your own reading. Consult as widely as you can with anyone who may have information to help you. This is not a decision to make lightly, though I’m sure you realise that.
My blood type is O+. If your blood type is negative your body may attack the blood of the baby, if it has inherited positive blood from the father causing Rh incompatibilityy. This can be problematic during miscarriage, abortion or birth and can harm future babies. A doctor can give you a shot of Rh-immune globulin (rhogam) within 72 hours of miscarriage.
With any pregnancy, there is a risk of it being ectopic– where the egg is embedded somewhere outside your uterus. 1-2% of pregnancies are ectopic, and these usually result in miscarriage. Symptoms include abdominal pain and bleeding, and pain in the shoulder if you bleed internally. Risk factors include chlamydia, smoking & using an IUD. I saw a doctor to confirm my pregnancy and he was reasonably confident it was not ectopic, due to my appropriate hormone levels (HCG). Proceed with caution if you haven’t had an ultrasound.
Remember, you can consult with a doctor and request any relevant blood tests, shots or ultrasounds, without disclosing your individual pregnancy choices.
I took high dose vitamin C, 1g every couple of hours initially while we processed the decision before us and I researched the herbs. Vitamin C is the lowest risk self-induced abortion option, as it’s is not proven to be associated with miscarriage and is not contraindicated for pregnancy. If the pregnancy doesn’t miscarry and you decide to continue, there is low risk of harm to the embryo (possible risk of scurvy). A number of studies from the 1950’s & 60’s show ambivalent results for causing miscarriage and this method was advocated by women’s rights movements in 60-80’s. Vitamin C is best used initially in the weeks immediately following conception, and is less effective later on. Pure vitamin with no bioflavanoids is required—such as ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate. I gradually discontinued vitamin C as I began herbs, as I did not want it to detoxify the effect of the herbs or further burden my kidneys.
Once I was sure of my decision, I began a dedicated regime which lasted a week.
Tues 17th March: Reiki, calming
Weds 18th March: Blue cohosh and nettle tea ritual began. Reiki (different shaman).
Thurs 19th March: Massage pressure points. Added pennyroyal to blue cohosh.
Friday 20th: Herbs and pressure point
Sat 21st March: Blue cohosh & pennyroyal. Acupuncture.
Sun 22nd March: Blue cohosh & pennyroyal. Acupressure.
Mon 23rd March: Final doses of blue cohosh & pennyroyal.
Tuesday 24th March: Rest. Stopped herb tea, ate parsley. Spoke to parents.
This is the day the embryo died—though I didn’t know it yet. I was 9 weeks LMP, the cut-off date for misoprostal (see below). As I hadn’t seen any significant bleeding, I took a break from the herbs and considered getting RU486. I spoke with abortion clinics & my boyfriend. I also spoke to my parents and let them know I was pregnant and did not intend to bear it to term. (This was particularly important with my mother, who was near hysterical and pressuring me to have a child).
That night, I had a tiny dot of pink spotting. I excitedly showed my partner, who squinted to see what I was talking about.
Thursday: Had energy! Returned to life & errands. Boobs not sore, not feeling sick. No longer felt pregnant. Steeped black cohosh & mugwort. Drank parsley tea, had diarrhea.
Friday: Dong quoi (Angelica root) & black cohosh tea in the morning to induce bleeding. Ultrasound confirmed no heartbeat. Doctor diagnosed ‘delayed miscarriage’ 9wks 1 day LMP.
Saturday 28th March: Consulted with termination clinic (pre-booked) to discuss medical options. My GP, gynecologist and the doctor at the termination clinic supported my decision to wait up to 2 weeks and then seek surgical or medicated assistance.
Wednesday 1st April: Acupuncture.
As the two-week point approached, I realised my body wasn’t ready to pass the embryo. Statistically, only 50% percent of women complete a miscarriage in the first 2 weeks after a delayed miscarriage diagnosis (after 6 weeks, rates may be 74-86%). One journal article recommended a wait time of 2-6 weeks, and this is what I decided to go with.
April 11th: Yogi Women’s Moontime tea, 1 cup
April 13th, 2015: Went into labour at 6.30pm. Passed the placenta at 1am, 3 weeks after the embryo’s heart stopped beating. The bleeding calmed down once I passed the placenta.
My period was due April 11th, two days beforehand. Other women report bleeding beginning when their period would be due. I had period-like bleeding for 6 days, and spotting continued until April 27th. My period resumed May 8th, 26 days later, in line with where it would have occurred originally.
The day I had the ultrasound confirming my embryo’s heart had stopped, a friend of mine also died in an accident. I flew north to attend her funeral and stay with her family. My partner joined me and we began the drive home.
When the bleeding started, it began in the morning, as it normally does, lightly and with minimal pain. We continued driving. In the afternoon, I had 4+ bouts of intense cramps spaced 20mins or so apart, and then a solid block of what I would call contractions. This intense pain (probably a 9.5/10) lasted about half an hour, and felt like my lower abdomen was being sliced open with a knife. I had a strong urge to poo and was hot & cold, dizzy and nauseous.
I’d expected the miscarriage to happen more gradually (like a period rather than labour), and so despite the cramps, as the sun set we were in a national park cooking rib eye fillet on the BBQ. I ended up stripping my clothes off (in the male toilet, I didn’t make it across to the ladies) and alternating laying on the ground and going to the toilet (I had 4 bowel movements). During this time, there was no bleeding, but I became increasingly unable to function or speak without panting. I tried pacing, bending, leaning over a bench, curling into a ball—No matter which way I positioned my body, the pain persisted relentlessly. I was scared something was wrong, and would have taken pain medication if it was in reach. My partner bundled me into the car and drove to a motel. As he checked us in, I felt a big gush of what I assumed was blood. I soon realised it was a little blood mixed with liquid, and that my water had broken. This felt like an odd plop inside of me.
From that point on, the process was much less painful. Every 15-20mins, I would feel mild cramps and the urge to bleed. I’d half crawl (at one point, my partner carried me) to the bathroom, and once I stood up, a big gush of blood would splash into the toilet. I stayed laying down when not on the toilet. The amount of blood was far beyond what any pad could capture and I saturated a few before switching to carrying a towel between my legs. (The accepted amount of bleeding is something in the range of 2 pads an hour). The discharge included clots, and then large red clumps of what I assumed was placenta. At approximately 1 & 1.30am, I passed the actual placenta. It had a textured inner surface (not unlike the texture of the g-spot lining the vaginal canal), didn’t break apart, and was far less stretchy than the dark red clumps—which were actually a combination of the lining of my uterus and blood clots designed to assist in the passing of the pregnancy sac. When the placenta/embryo begin to come through my cervix, I panicked, called my partner, caught it, and felt quite surprised when I abruptly started crying. We kept it in a jar to bury. (In the following weeks, I did wish I’d kept it clean and eaten it). Once the bleeding subsided after 2am, I went to sleep.
The following day I had blood tests and an ultrasound to confirm there was no ‘retained products of conception’. The ultrasound showed the miscarriage complete. My platelets, hemocrit and haemoglobin were low (107g/L), causing me to be breathless, weak and pale. Standing up gave me a stabbing headache.
Blood volume makes up approx 8% of your weight, and when you lose above 15% of this, your body goes into hypovolemia shock. This begins with slightly elevated respiratory rate, narrowed pulse pressure and mild anxiety. See the notes below for more information on Blood Loss.
Half of blood is plasma, which is mainly water. Instinctively, I drank large amounts of celery, carrot, pineapple & ginger juice to rehydrate my body and replace electrolytes. Day 3 was the worst as my body rebuilt plasma, after that I gradually recovered. It takes the body 3-6 weeks to rebuild haemoglobin from bone marrow.
Throughout the first day, I continued to pass clots and chunks of uterus lining. This eased up in a couple of days.
If the bleeding continues to be heavy beyond 4 days, or if it gets heavier, get an ultrasound to check for retains placenta, and closely monitor for infection. Symptoms of infection include a temperature above 38′ for 24hrs+, offensive smelling vaginal discharge, and tenderness over the uterus.
Discussion, Studies & Stats
The advantage of having a delayed/silent/missed miscarriage was that I could seek medical assistance without needing to discuss what caused the miscarriage, as a miscarriage is considered a random aberration of nature, minus the stigma of abortion. When miscarriage is delayed, there is generally no difference in risk of infection for surgical, medical or expectant management. There may be a slight increase in risk of hemorrhage, however. Once bleeding begins, (incomplete miscarriage) medical removal of the embryo is associated with a slightly increased level of hemorrhage, infection/septicemia and other complications than ‘expectant management‘ otherwise known as watch and wait, with a risk of 11% compared to 3%.
D&C (dilation and curettage) is associated with a risk of scarring or puncturing the uterus. During pregnancy, the uterus is incredibly soft, and any invasive operation has a higher level of risk than I was comfortable with. (For example, ‘Non-surgical management would also reduce the morbidity related to general anaesthesia and surgery, such as aspiration, cervical trauma, uterine perforation (1%), and uterine adhesions (7.7%)’.). When I consulted with the abortion clinic, I was also given the option of vacuum suction removal, which is slightly lower risk.
Medicated abortions are a combination of an antiprogestogen such as mifepristone (causes the placenta to separate from the endometrium and softens the cervix) followed by a prostaglandin such as misoprostal, which causes the uterus to contract. The tablets can be administered orally or vaginally- with a difference in side-effects (orally-diarrohea, or vaginally-extended heavy bleeding). Once I miscarried, I had the option of using the uterine contractive to complete the process.
For terminations, the medicated option is limited availability up to 9 weeks in Australia. In developing countries, however, the prostaglandin misoprostal is used into the second trimester as an abortive. It has a 99% success rate for abortions, delayed miscarriages and also for finalising incomplete miscarriages (with a lower risk of infection than watch and wait), though this depends on length of term—note that over 90% of miscarriages would resolve themselves anyway.
Misoprostal may be associated with a higher level of pain, usually requiring pain medication and is given with a dose of antibiotics. (Some studies report women with delayed miscarriages are more likely to experience severe pain or heavy bleeding whether they receive expectant management or medical therapy anyway). I preferred to allow my body to initiate itself, and avoid medication. On the positive side, the pill is lower risk of infection or complication than invasive abortions, and meant if needed, I could determine when I would bleed to ensure my partner was at home, as bleeding generally starts within 8 hours. This was my plan B if my body refused to release the baby.
When I initally imagined aborting at home, I was not at all comfortable with the idea. Our home is isolated from family and friends, and my partner works nights. When I thought of miscarriage happening, I saw an image of myself on the bathroom floor surrounded in blood (this instinct turned out to be correct, as I went into labour in the evening and was at risk of bleeding out). I was mindful to stay in reach of help, should I need it. For the week of herbs, I stayed with friends by the beach. Once the pregnancy was over, I initially considered forcing bleeding with herbs, but ultimately decided to wait for nature to take its course rather than risk inducing hemorrhage. The process eventually happened once my partner was on holidays and we were staying together. Pay attention to your instincts. Be clear and focused enough to tell the difference between fear and intuition, so you can stay safe as you move through the process. Go to the hospital if you feel like something is wrong.
Treatment: Herbs, Supplements, Energy work & Acupuncture
See notes below regarding dosages
Vitamin C: 1g every hour, dose though the night if possible. This is less effective if you usually take high doses of vitamin c (which I do).
Blue Cohosh root: I simmered 1 handful/6 tbsp of blue cohosh each day in a ceramic saucepan for 20-45 mins. I used a wooden spoon for stirring and a teapot with an inbuilt spout strainer to ensure the herbs did not touch metal. I avoided boiling the herbs where possible. I drank half of the brew and kept half in a glass jar to drink in the evening. I did this for 6 days. I treated this ritual with respect and did it quietly, with focus.
Blue cohosh is a uterine contractive traditionally used to induce labour. It is, however, associated with fetal abnormalities such as increased heart rate at birth. It is similar to nicotine (ref), and I found it made my heart race, which was initially confusing as I assumed it was emotional. Most accounts of blue cohosh recommend taking it for 5-6 days (and when herbal miscarriage is effective, it’s often on the 6th day). My naturopath recommended up to 1 week. When used for birth, blue cohosh was traditionally used for 2 weeks.
Pennyroyal leaf: I added pennyroyal from the second day. I simmered half a handful with the blue cohosh. Pennyroyal is an emmenagogue, which causes bleeding. I used a low dosage to minimise risk of hemorrhage. The oils in pennyroyal can be fatal if taken in oil form, and caution is advised when dosing.
Note: Leaf teas, and those with volatile oils (like pennyroyal) are best steeped—for example, placed in a jar with boiling water and covered with a sealed lid.
Acupuncture & acupressure: I visited the acupuncturist twice, once before the embryo died, and once before I went into labour. While I was inducing the herbal miscarriage, I received either acupuncture, acupressure or massage every day.
Acupuncture was used for abortion in China during the one child policy, or for unwanted girls, for example. The same points used to induce labour can also induce abortion. These points were very tender, and I needed someone else to help. It’s best to apply pressure using a soft round object for 5 minutes, as often as you can.
1#: Inside of shin, four fingers up, towards the back of the bone: this is the most prominent point for inducing labour.
2#: The tender point between the thumb and forefinger is also used for other ailments, such as reducing nausea.
There are other points as well, along the shoulders and on the lower back.
If at all possible, engage your partner in the process of letting go. I had cramps through the miscarriage and my partner would massage my stomach. This was a very delicate and tender area and he needed to be careful, but I think it was a positive step for him to actively contribute to our decision not to have a baby.
There are also yoga postures and stretches ‘contraindicated’ in pregnancy. This means they may induce miscarriage. As I wasn’t very well, I only did one pose (see right).
Spirit: I had two sessions of reiki, one the night before I began herbs, and one during. The first session was designed to calm me down. (I also sought spiritual help after the miscarriage and burial was complete). Talking about the pregnancy elicited a very strong emotional reaction, making me sob uncontrollably, and I knew I needed to be calm and centred in order to focus (see discussion here). The second session was with a shaman friend of mine who I haven’t spoken to in some time. During the session, I saw two images. I saw myself bending to pat a golden retriever and reassuring it everything was going to be okay. I also saw my hand scooping a small blue jellybean boy out of my uterus, and putting him on a shelf in my friend’s house. His face was looking up to me sadly, beseeching. This is the one point of the process where I felt a pang of guilt. I let him know he could come back to me at a later date, but not now. Afterwards, my shaman friend said she felt I was clear in my choice and she was sure a river of blood would come. Likewise, my friend who I was staying with dreamt she saw something akin to guides coming into her house and taking the spirit of the child away. My personal view was that the embryo did not yet have a spirit- however, I found this quite reassuring.
‘Best results are obtained by those who can take the time to focus on the goal. Seriously consider taking time off work or school to really focus on releasing the spirit, nurture yourself through this process’- Sister zeus
I believe that talking to my parents and asserting my decision was crucial to my body letting go. It is important to address the spiritual, emotional and social aspects before/ as you attempt to physically let go.
After the initial time period which culminated in the pregnancy discontinuing, I used a second batch of herbs with different effects to give my body a break and also gently encourage bleeding. Once the ultrasound confirmed the baby was no longer growing, however, I made the decision to stop herbs and let my body initiate the bleed. This lessened any risk of excess bleeding which was herbally induced.
Black Cohosh & Mugwort: I simmered black cohosh and poured it over mugwort to steep on jars, which I drank 4 times a day. Mugwort is widely used for other conditions and is often available for purchase in herbal women’s preparations. Black cohosh was used traditionally in combination with blue cohosh for inducing labour, the idea being that the black cohosh encourages letting go.
Nettle: Initially I added nettle to my tea or drank it separately to build my iron stores and nourish my body. Nettle also supports the kidneys by assisting detoxing, useful when drinking toxic herbs! I was, however, concerned about herbal interactions, and later omitted the nettle in the interests of simplicity.
For the first 4 days of herbs, I ate very plain foods, primarily toast and gluten-free pasta with my tea at midday (breakfast) and in the evening (dinner).
I cooked a few tablespoons of Turmeric in olive oil as an anti-inflammatory, and mixed this through the pasta with salt, pepper and rice malt syrup. This tasted horrible, but I couldn’t stomach any kind of nut milk to drink Golden Milk.
Ginger: Peeled, sliced and seeped in boiling water to drink as tea. I included this occasionally, either added to my herbal tea or drunk in between. Ginger helps with nausea and as a stimulant, may intensify the effects of the other herbs.
Parsley: The day the silent miscarriage occurred, I was not drinking herbal tea. For lunch, however, I made a massive batch of parsley pesto on gluten-free pasta. I only managed to eat 3/4 of it due to nausea from the strong taste. This may have helped, however, as parsley is a known progesterone blocker and is otherwise best avoided during pregnancy.
During the week of herbs, I made pessaries of fresh, organic parsley. I rolled up a small bunch of washed parsley leaves like a tampon and inserted into my vagina, near my cervix, every 12 hours.
I also tried having strong parsley tea at the end of the second week, which resulted in violent diarrhoa, gas and abdominal discomfort. I would not recommend this.
Shepherds purse: From the time I began herbs, I carried with me a pouch of Shepherd’s Purse, labelled ‘prevents hemorrhage’, in case I started bleeding and it didn’t slow down. I couldn’t find a tincture, which is preferable, so I carried leaf. I did not end up using this.
Raspberry leaf, marshmallow, astragalus: I brought a number of regenerative herbs in preparation for healing. The raspberry leaf is a uterine tonic which coordinates contractions, the marshmallow is a demulcent which soothes the stomach and intestines (I used this after I overdosed on parsley tea), and the astragalus is a proven immune booster (good for preventing infection afterwards).
Women’s Moon Cycle Yogi tea: This was hard to find in Australia. I ended up purchasing it by chance in a health food store in Byron bay/mullumbimby while waiting to pass the embryo. It contains Dong Quoi, Chaste Tree Berry and Raspberry Leaf. I was reluctant to use the Dong Quoi, but had left my raspberry leaf at home.
Pregnancy supplements: I began taking a quality pregnancy multi-vitamin as soon as I realised I was pregnant. These were highly absorbable forms of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc & B-vitamins (Fabfol). I continued taking these daily once I decided to abort, and after I had miscarried. Pregnancy places enormous strain on the body, as does miscarriage. In order to fully empty the uterus, the body forms large blood clots around the placenta which function to flush it out. For this reason, it is crucial to keep up your iron stores. Begin iron supplements as soon as you know you are pregnant.
I was also using Nutrition Care zinc lozenges due to a sinus infection the week before I miscarried. This had Echinacea, propolis, slippery elm, vitamin C and other immune supportive herbs. Zinc supplements need to be taken separately from iron to ensure both are fully absorbed. (I actually somewhere an account of a women whose missed miscarriage proceeded on the same timeline as mine, including her having sinusitis the week before! I will add a link here).
Probiotics: I used Gastrohealth broad spectrum probiotics, as well as Blackmores Women’s Biobalance probiotics. The latter probiotics are the exact strain of bacterium found in a healthy vagina. Infections from abortions or D&C’s are often associated with high level of unhealthy bacteria in the woman’s vagina prior to the procedure (such as Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoea or bacterial vaginosis). For this reason, I took probiotics daily. Probiotics also help with fungal or bacterial sinus infections.
Regarding dosages: Almost every unique source had different dosages for most of the herbs listed above. I read extensively and collated these (left). As far as I can tell, there is little rhyme or reason, as every herb differs according to where and how it was grown, how old it is, and the constitution of the person taking it. As a general rule, 6-12 grams of tea brewed strong or 1 ounce of tea to a quart of water, and combos work better. Exercise caution, begin with a minimal dosage and increase if you have no ill effects. Once bleeding begins, maintain herbs as required.
‘The fight for human rights does not take place on some bureaucratic battleground with a bevy of lawyers running from congressional suite to congressional suite, sapping resources into laws. The war for peace and love and other nice things like that is not waged in protests on the street. These forms of fighting acknowledge the oppressor outside of yourself, giving that entity yet more life. The real fight for human rights is inside each and every individual on this earth.’ IngaM, via Sisterzeus
Prior to beginning the herbal abortion, I received counselling through ‘children by choice’ about my life situation and the decision I was making. They were very supportive, kind and helpful. Once I was clearer in my decision, I spoke to all the abortion clinics within 1-2 hours of my house about their cutoff length of term, pricing, availability and abortion methods (misoprostal/suction). I then chose to use herbs. After 5 days of herbs with no bleeding, I booked in for a clinic appointment the following week when my partner was available to support me. As I had taken a significant amount of herbs which jeopardise the well-being of the embryo, I needed to ensure I could finish what I started if I did not miscarry naturally.
The doctor at Macquarie Fields Clinic gave me some advice about abortions and miscarriages: Make no decisions about your relationship for 2 months, until the hormones and emotional intensity has died down. Sage words.
I knew my exact date of conception, as I chart my sexual activity. So I counted my weeks of how old the embryo ACTUALLY is. One cause of confusion is that doctors count ‘LMP‘- that is, weeks since your last menstrual period. This is how dating ultrasounds (including those in abortion clinics) will count. So when they say misoprostal is available ‘up to 9 weeks’, this is approx 7 weeks after conception. After this point, it is no longer considered an embryo, and becomes a fetus.
The reason for the time limit on misoprostal (in Australia) is that the risk of complications such as hemorrhage are much higher once the placenta and embryo are further developed. For this reason, websites & herbal e-books recommend caution with herbal miscarriage beyond this point as well. Sister Zeus does not recommend commencing after the 8th week or continuing herbs into the 10th week (LMP).
I found out I was pregnant at 7 weeks LMP and began herbs at 8 weeks LMP. I miscarried at 9 weeks and 1 day LMP. For this reason, TEST AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE to allow yourself ample time to process and respond with your chosen course of action within a safe time-frame. It is much easier and safer to miscarry early in pregnancy. As I assumed I’d keep a baby if pregnant, I didn’t test early. The body may bleed more readily on an expected period, so the best times to try to force a miscarriage is the 4th & 8th week of pregnancy. I bled on the 12th week.
Only 3% of pregnancies miscarry at 9 weeks or later. Of these, 1% of pregnancies become a delayed/missed miscarriage.
I wrote this blog to share my experience and add to the existing body of wisdom available to women. Unfortunately, the persecution of ‘witches’ throughout history combined with the current Western masculine medical system of interference and domination of the human body means that accurate information (such as safe herbal dosages or information on side effects) is near impossible to come by. (Discussion) Furthermore, in many places it is still illegal to make the decision to end a life process which is occurring within your own body. Like many women, I didn’t previously consider the right to choose a big deal. Once I was uncomfortable, sick & tired, with no end in sight, and everything I’d worked for on the line, I felt very differently. Women are not breeding machines, they are humans, and if there is a contest between their well-being and that of an unborn embryo, the mother’s rights are more important.
I believe that a large part of the feminine trauma around abortion results from the way termination occurs (this is similar, for example, in higher psychological distress in women who have a D&C compared to miscarrying at home). To me, it sounds like a nightmare to be under anesthetic and have someone violently suction a living embryo/fetus out of your uterus, while separated from the people who love and support you. I imagine I’d wake up hysterically crying. That process is more passive, as something which happens ‘to’ you, not something which you actively move through. I much preferred to work with my body in my own time and let go gradually at each step of the way. This was a very empowering and bonding process for my partner and I. I also valued the option to bury or cremate our embryo.
I believe this approach is more respectful to the sanctity of both the human body and of life itself, and honours the hormonal and physical progressions which occur within pregnancy. I believe sudden termination via drugs or surgery is quite a shock to the female body, with an abrupt jolt and added emotional turmoil. All of that said, I recognise this approach isn’t for everyone, as it can be intense and is time-consuming. The same goes for choosing between a home birth and a D&C in the case of delayed miscarriage.
‘Conservative management does not suit all women, however women who express a preference for medical or expectant management usually do so because they wish to avoid general anesthesia and to feel ‘more in control’. Condous, 2003.
To miscarry at home, is important to have a healthy, robust body, which you can connect with and listen to, in order to safely navigate each step. It is also important to have/find/build a supportive environment where you have at least one person on board to support you. In the first weeks before a missed period, it may be possible to use herbs to induce a late period by yourself without issue, however once the pregnancy is established, miscarrying is quite an intense and potentially life-threatening experience. Women have birthed since the dawn of humanity, but they also often died doing so. It is important to be in the presence of someone who can call an ambulance or drive you to the hospital if necessary.
I was much more comfortable with a naturally-initiated labour, even though I was particularly nervous about hemorrhaging. I tend to bleed heavily with my period or surgical operations, such as having my wisdom tooth out. For this reason, I boiled rather than steeped the pennyroyal leaves, as the oil is notorious for causing hemorrhage. I also avoided dong quoi and other strong herbs known to cause heavy bleeding.
Interesting, the morning I miscarried, I had the strongest meat cravings I’ve ever experienced. Walking into a butcher smelt good. This makes sense, as my body was preparing to bleed epicly.
Most people have 4.5-6L of blood, calculated at 77ml/kg. As mentioned above, hypovolemic shock generally sets in at 10-20% of blood loss. This means most people can lose 750ml comfortably. I have about 3.5- 3.75L of blood, because I’m small. For me, 15% equals approx 500ml. My body bled as much as it could, to empty my uterus as thoroughly as possible, without me passing out. Clever body.
To put this in perspective of birth, Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is defined as the loss of 500 ml-1,000 ml or more of blood within the first 24 hours. Signs and symptoms of low blood volume may initially include: an increased heart rate, feeling faint upon standing, and an increased breath rate. As more blood is lost the women may feel cold, their blood pressure may drop, and they may become restless or unconscious. Treatments may include intravenous fluids or blood transfusion.
Regarding blood loss, be careful with the risk of passing out. It would have been much more convenient for me to bleed in the shower rather than sit on the toilet for 5 hours. Although consciously I was not worried about the blood loss, I felt unsteady and instinctively knew it was a bad idea to get under a hot shower.
In the case of delayed miscarriage, many sources say there is a decrease in embryo size each week at the same rate as it would have grown. According to this theory, my embryo would have been the size of a 6-7 wk embryo, that is, as big as a jellybean. It is also possible my body began to reabsorb it. We did not see the embryo, as whatever was still inside my uterus came out wrapped in a (largely intact) placenta.
At ultrasound after miscarriage, my endometrium was 17mm. (Measure of endometrial thickness vary widely and aren’t usually related to whether or not a miscarriage is complete; that said, this was slightly thicker than you’d hope). This thickness is gradually shed as liquid and blood until it returns to normal, approx 3-7mm. My next period after the miscarriage was heavier (though less painful) than usual.
It’s interesting to note that ‘miscarriage’ was previously called ‘spontaneous abortion’. This was intentionally renamed to differentiate between those who chose to terminate their pregnancies and those who deserved sympathy because they had suffered a loss. I received sympathy when I miscarried, even amongst those aware I initiated it. It’s definitely more socially acceptable to miscarry rather than surgically abort.
The day after I had my ultrasound showing I’d miscarried,
we found 4 kittens in our yard.
The sisterzeus website was an amazing overall resource, though it doesn’t seem to have been updated in the past 7 years.
Good herbs info here.
The Hot pantz zine is a great overall summary of all things contraceptive and herbal.
There are a small number of website which have gathered together and documented women’s experiences with herbal miscarriage, both positive and negative. One such site is www.naturalmiscarriage.org, which gives you access in exchange for completing a questionnaire.
I used 2 eBooks available online through scribed. (The main one I used is also available as a PDF, though the page order is mixed up Herbal Abortion). Other books on abortion/herbal abortions listed here.
BE VERY CAREFUL WITH CONTRACEPTION AFTER MISCARRIAGE. The body is super fertile immediately after miscarriage and for the next 3 periods or so. If miscarrying further along (EG after 5-6 weeks), avoid sexual activity for 2 weeks as you are at risk of infection.
For information on natural fertility charting, see ‘Natural Fertility’ By Francesca Naish. I previously used to use the android app ‘ovuview’ (which I would highly recommend) and am now using Womanlog, which has a slightly more confusing format. This app actually has a setting ‘ignore abnormally long cycles’, which I didn’t know about before all this happened.
I ordered my herbs online from a Queensland based company through ebay called ‘accolent‘. The company had a wide range of loose leaf herbs and was very professional. They combined our shipping and shipped next day express. Although not publicly recommended for abortive use (legally an issue due to the legal and political implications), similar herbs are often available through herb shops and health stores, marked ‘do not use during pregnancy’.
Here are some more links, with the caveat: This is an emotionally charged topic, with a wide range of attached prejudices and experiences. If you go digging around on the internet, you may find yourself taking on others pain and fears (in addition to stirring up your own). Side effects include feeling depressed, overwhelmed, hopeless, heavy and sad. Use at your own discretion, as required.
Delayed/silent/missed miscarriage http://www.birth.com.au/pregnancy/pregnancy-difficulties/miscarriage/missed-miscarriage-and-blighted-ovum#.VUcinEZkmc1
Vitamin C & parsley with discussion: http://angryforareason.blogspot.com.au/2006/02/how-to-induce-miscarriage-herbally-and.html
If you want to see an example of two males arrogantly criticising women using alternative methods to make choices over their own bodies, click here.
“I want to finish my book, travel around the world, make art, and fall in love with a person I can build a life with.”
None of those things consist of having a baby right now. >>>http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/my-abortion-story