Preparing for Pregnancy 102: Dr. Burton’s Secrets to Avoiding Miscarriage

It was in the middle of the night early on a Sunday morning. My eight-month-old baby lay sleeping in his crib in the room across the hall. I heard snoring from my husband laying beside me when I was suddenly awakened. It was the week after Thanksgiving and I knew something wasn’t right. Something wasn’t right with the little girl growing inside of me. The two of us were nearing 20 weeks of pregnancy when I woke up to find myself wet from fluid. My first thought was to just clean up and sleep it off. Everything would turn out fine. But as I laid back in bed, the contractions began, and I knew exactly what my body was experiencing.

“Honey, wake up. We’ve got to go. I’m in trouble.”

And so, our night began.

It was an experience I never want anybody to live, let alone live multiple times. I cannot describe the emotions I felt as I was wheeled out of the hospital having experienced labor and birth, but with no baby in my arms. Addison had already returned to her Heavenly Father.

Although the memory of that nightmare-turned-reality seems like only yesterday, I can look back and know that everything was out of my hands. I specialize in hormones and avoiding scenarios like this. But this event was out of my control. I know Heaven has a greater plan for me and for my sweet family. There is nothing I could have done different to avoid the night I lost my little girl.

However, in other cases, there are a few things I know that can help you avoid a similar experience. Let me share some.

#1: Prime your body for pregnancy 

Progesterone is a pregnancy hormone. Instead of levels dropping off a week or so after menstruation, it remains high if the egg was fertilized. Progesterone needs to stay elevated throughout pregnancy, communicating to your body that you are pregnant and there is no need for a menstrual cycle. There are two scenarios that affects progesterone negatively:

  1. Estrogen dominance.
    1. When estrogen levels are too high, it sends a signal telling the brain to reduce its production of progesterone. The body’s estrogen levels can build up quickly and easily too. One of the key players in this build up is the liver. Because we live in the 21st century our liver has more to deal with than ever before – toxins, artificial fillers in our foods and supplements, polluted air, etc. It becomes overburdened and fails to complete its job of estrogen metabolism. If you want to learn more about the other key players and what you can do reverse estrogen dominance (or avoid it), watch this video: https://vimeo.com/244675824
  2. An uncontrolled physiologic response to stress. See the next point. 

#2: Keep stress levels at a minimum

 Due to the biochemistry pathway known as the pregnenolone steal, progesterone can either stay progesterone or it must breakdown further and become cortisol – our stress hormone. Unfortunately, stress is unavoidable, especially during pregnancy. But limiting the extra burden we place on ourselves with extra-curricular activities is not necessary.

When I was in med school, I thought I could handle it and my first pregnancy at the same time. I did. Barely. I will forever be grateful for my professors who allowed me to miss a few extra classes so that I could care for myself. There were days where I physically could not get out of bed. Mornings were particularly rough as “morning sickness” lasted the first six months. On some days I spent my lunch break at the local nurse’s treatment room receiving an IV, just so I could accumulate enough energy to treat my patients at clinic that afternoon. Despite the rigorous demands placed upon me during my first pregnancy, I still managed to find a way to eliminate the need for excess cortisol production. You can too.

So, next time you are asked to add one more thing to your to-do list, remember your cortisol production directly impacts your production of progesterone. 

#3: Herbs to calm your uterus

“In threatened abortion, it is our best remedy,” said Dr. Fred J. Peterson, MD back in 1905 regarding the herb cramp bark. This herb relaxes smooth muscle. The uterus is an organ surrounded by smooth muscle. It has been used to stop uterine spasm, contraction, bleeding, and nervous tension in early pregnancy (when the cervix has not started to dilate).

If you have experienced the heartache of a miscarriage and are wanting to get pregnant again (or even for the first time) might I suggest you add this herb to your first trimester regimen. You can learn more about it, the dosage, where to obtain high quality herbs, and more here. I will caution that taking herbs during pregnancy needs to be done under the supervision of a practitioner who is experienced with pregnancy and consuming herbs as remedies.

Please, don’t let your health stop you from living your dreams anymore. If you have suffered from miscarriages in the past or even a still birth, I would love to join your healthcare team in assisting you to achieve your dreams. And fear not about letting your emotions out during any consultation – I’ll cry with you!

Also check out part one and part three in our Preparing for Pregnancy series!

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