We've all seen the Hollywood film portrayal. A pregnant woman has a sharp pain and then is rushed to the hospital. In the next scene a solemn doctor enters the hospital room and shakes his head. Then the woman cries and it's over. Unfortunately, that's not usually what happens. According to some statistics one in every three women miscarries. Unlike the Hollywood portrayal, miscarriage can take awhile to complete and, often while it's happening, women are at work, at school, cooking dinner, caring for children--sometimes without anyone knowing what she's going through or without a day off to recover.
Last month when working with a miscarrying customer she asked if I would write about the topic. I agreed but then put it off because it's a difficult topic. A couple days ago someone else sent me an email with the same request. This one goes out to those two and all of the women out there miscarrying in silence.
First of all, a miscarriage occurs when a pregnancy fails. Once this happens the pregnancy matter--consisting of a fetus and maybe placenta (depending on how far along the pregnancy is)--has to clear out of the uterus. The process of clearing out the pregnancy is quite different depending on the pregnancy stage. For early stage miscarriages a woman may test positive for pregnancy but then get what seems like a period a few weeks later. The miscarriage will usually be similar to her normal period and she won't really notice the pregnancy matter clearing out.
For more established pregnancies the miscarriage may start with spotting, contracting or both. Over several days (or weeks) the bleeding will get heavier and the contracting will increase until the pregnancy matter comes out. The fetus and placenta are greyish (as opposed to the color of blood) and the fetus will be in an amniotic sac which resembles an egg yolk. Since the amniotic sac is clear the fetus might be visible.
Alternatively, sometimes the pregnancy matter may break up before it comes out. In this case the pregnancy matter will still be identifiable as grey but the fetus will not likely be recognized.
Some women choose to miscarry on their own while others seek medical assistance. Medical assistance during miscarriage usually includes two options. The first option is to take a misoprostol pill meant to speed up the uterine cleanse by increasing blood flow and contractions. The second option is a D&C (dilation and cuttelage) procedure. During a D&C the doctor will forcibly open the cervix (using a dilation tool) and use a cuttelage tool to scrape the inside of the uterus.
[Recently a midwife who read this article reached out to me and asked me to include information on how dangerous D&Cs are. The uterine walls can be ruptured and it might result in scar tissue which can cause future fertility issues.]
Whether a miscarriage is natural or medically assisted, old tissue commonly remains in the uterus. In this case the miscarriage is incomplete. Signs of an incomplete miscarriage would include ongoing cramping, missing periods or heavy-clotted periods. According to a period survey I conducted, incomplete miscarriages are more common than not. Furthermore, although miscarriers knew that their cycle had changed, they didn't seem to be aware that the miscarriage was incomplete and that their cycle would go back to normal if they were to recover fully.
When it comes to miscarriage recovery vaginal steaming has a history of use dating back to ancient times. As you may know, vaginal steaming is a therapeutic practice that naturally cleans out the uterus. The steam appears to relax and open the cervix rising into the uterus and helping the uterus contents to loosen and flow out. The heat from the steam also helps to increase the blood circulation to the area which improves the uterus's self-cleansing function. Let's take a look at some miscarriage case studies where vaginal steaming was used.
Case Study A
Case Study A already had two successful pregnancies. Unfortunately her third and fourth pregnancies both ended in miscarriage. It had been six months since Case A’s last miscarriage and her period had not returned. Case A steamed for 45 min for five days in a row after which her period returned . Her period had lots of signs of old residue with black and brown blood and lots of clots. She continued to steam over the next several months and was able to get her period and cycle entirely healthy-- four days of fresh red menses with 28-day cycles. At that point she started trying to conceive again and she got pregnant on her third try. The pregnancy was successful.
Case Study B
Case Study B had been trying to get pregnant for a year when she finally conceived. Unfortunately, the pregnancy ended in an early-term miscarriage. Disheartened, B steamed every day for two weeks straight to recover. Her period returned after a month and she conceived a couple months later with a successful pregnancy.
Case Study C
Case Study C had an ectopic pregnancy in her fallopian tube. A dangerous situation, it resulted in an emergency surgery where her fallopian tube and ovary were removed. Doctors told her that she could still conceive with only one ovary but that it would take her a long time so she should start right away. Upon seeking how to naturally boost her chances of fertility she found out about vaginal steaming. She ordered a vaginal steam sauna and started using it right away. Her next period never came. A pregnancy test revealed that she was pregnant (!!!) She had ovulated a couple days after steaming and got pregnant without even planning. Although baby came premature he is strong, healthy and perfect in every way.
Case Study D
Case Study D had recently miscarried when she attended a talk on vaginal steaming and learned that it could be helpful for miscarriage recovery. She purchased a steam sauna right away and started to do a post-miscarriage cleanse. After her third day of steaming she started to have really terrible cramps similar to when she miscarried. After several hours of cramping Case Study D appeared to pass the fetus. Initially she had passed a series of large clots which she believed was the miscarriage, but in fact the fetus and placenta were still inside.
Case Study E
Case Study E had a miscarriage at 12 weeks. An avid steamer she decided to steam 30 days consecutively to recover entirely. During the first week a lot of pregnancy matter and clots were released. To Case E’s surprise, after a week or so without any discharge she appeared to pass additional grey pregnancy matter and large clots. This discharge continued for several more days. According to Case Study E she would have never known that additional pregnancy matter was left in her uterus. She’s glad she stuck it out and continued to steam consecutively for four weeks. Her periods returned normal after a month.
Case Study F
Case Study F went in for her 16 week checkup and, unfortunately, discovered that her baby no longer had a heartbeat. Her doctor sent her to the emergency room for a second ultrasound. The emergency room confirmed that there was no heartbeat and sent her home with instructions to call her doctor for follow up D&C procedure. When Case F’s doctor didn’t return her phone messages Case F decided that: 1) she needed a new doctor, and 2) she would try to initiate the miscarriage naturally. She steamed for four days consecutively accompanied by bed rest and a diet of warm soups and tea. On day four she says she felt the pregnancy "pop" off her uterine wall. After that she started contracting and birthed the fetus and placenta intact.
Case Study Findings
Although yet to be tested clinically, these case studies present an interesting picture. Vaginal steaming, a much gentler approach than the medical alternatives, appears to have equal or even greater ability to clean out the uterus. Furthermore, the miscarrier seems to have a better chance at full recovery not having to deal with ongoing period complications. Lastly, it seems that vaginal steaming post-miscarriage might increase future pregnancy success.
Guide for Miscarriage Recovery Using Vaginal Steaming
What is Miscarriage Recovery?
Full miscarriage recovery would be when the uterus is entirely cleared out after an unsuccessful pregnancy and the period returns with medium flow fresh red menses for four days. That type of period would indicate a clean uterus and full recovery.
How to Use Vaginal Steaming to Recover from Miscarriage
Wait until the miscarriage blood turns to brown and then do a complete uterine cleanse by steaming 30 days consecutively. If the blood turns fresh red again stop steaming (!) Only resume once it returns to brown again. The miscarriage and any old residue prior to the pregnancy should entirely clear out. This may also help to optimize the uterus health for the next pregnancy.
If you miscarried in the past and your period didn't return to normal you can also do a 30-day cleanse. Stop when the period comes and then resume afterwards. The period naturally helps to aid in this process.
IMPORTANT: Steaming with fresh red blood is contraindicated and may cause heavy blood flow which can be dangerous. ONLY steam as directed--once the bleeding has turned brown. If you are not sure whether or not it is safe to steam it's best to wait.
How Long Should the Steam Session Be?
The session should be 10min for women who had short cycles (27 days or shorter) prior to the pregnancy, who have the herpes virus, who are prone to yeast/BV infections or who are prone to interim spontaneous bleeding (often referenced as two periods per month).
For all others the session should be 30 min.
What to Look for with Miscarriage
The fetus itself looks like a grey color egg yolk. It might come out all at once or be broken up. The placenta is also grey. There might also be blood clots but do not mistake those for the pregnancy.
Which Herbs to Use for Post-Miscarriage Vaginal Steam Recovery
The Steamy Chick cleansing herbs are recommended for the first 10 days. After that the best herbs to use can vary. For best suggestions do a vaginal steam therapy consultation tailored to your specific situation.
Vaginal Steam Sauna with 3 bags of herbs
Yunnan Baiyao Herbal Pills
Yunnan Baiyao is a first aid that all women should have in their medicine cabinet. It stops heavy bleeding and hemorrhaging. Although rare, miscarriage bleeding may become extremely heavy and hemorrhaging can occur. If bleeding starts to get too heavy (more than a pad per hour) or starts flooding, take the pills to immediately stop the bleeding. Note: women should have this on hand when miscarrying whether or not they are using vaginal steaming, medical assistance or letting it naturally happen.
Additional Tips During a Miscarriage
Restrict the diet to warm soups and tea and rest, rest, rest. Often taking four days off with 100% bed rest can mean the difference between a successful versus unsuccessful miscarriage.
There isn't any more important time in your health to call in your sick days, order take-out, have a loved one cook soup for you and send the kids to grandma's house for a sleepover if possible.
Go to an acupuncturist and get a special herbal formula for post-miscarriage. Take the herbs daily for 1-3 months.
Avoid intercourse during miscarriage recovery. Resume after the period returns to normal for three months in a row.
Emergency Situations and What Signs to Watch Out For
If the miscarriage discharge starts to smell foul or if feeling feverish these are signs of an infection which is an emergency situation. Seek help from a midwife, acupuncturist or doctor immediately.
If the miscarriage bleeding gets too heavy, take Yunnan Baiyao pills immediately. If the bleeding stops or slows you can continue to take the pills as directed in the instructions and engage in full bed rest for the next 24 hours.
If the miscarriage bleeding gets heavy and you don't have Yunnan Baiyao pills get to your midwife or emergency room ASAP.
When to Try Again
The body and hormones need a chance to recuperate and reset. It's optimal to wait a full year but you can try again as soon as you've fully recovered from the miscarriage and have had three healthy periods.
About the Author
Keli Garza has a Masters degree in International Development graduating cum laude. When Garza founded the company Steamy Chick--the largest distributor of vaginal steam supplies in the United States--Garza began to work with her customers to research their results with vaginal steaming. Having recorded over seven hundred case studies, Garza holds the only known research database on vaginal steaming. Learning from her customer's experiences she developed unique vaginal steam treatment protocols for different conditions becoming a skillful practitioner able to treat a wide array of women's health concerns. Based on her practice Garza is now founding a new field of women's medicine called Peristeam Hydrotherapy--the use of vaginal steaming for menstrual and reproductive health. She has certified over one hundred practitioners worldwide through her Peristeam Hydrotherapy Institute and is conducting clinical studies which will help to establish vaginal steaming as an evidence-based medical science.