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The Ancient Chinese said in the first month of pregnancy:

  • A woman should be waited on.
  • Her food thoroughly cooked, sour and exquisite.
  • Her sleeping place must be peaceful and quiet and she must not be exposed to fear and harm.

Every pregnant woman would no doubt relish the prospect of being waited on and eating exquisite food!  Yet these suggestions are not so outlandish as they may initially seem and have resonance today.  Particularly the idea of being peaceful and quiet, which links into the importance of reducing stress during pregnancy.  Clinical trials demonstrate that reducing anxiety can significantly reduce miscarriage rates (a 25 to 30% chance in all pregnancies).

The New Scientist in 2004 reported that “women who miscarried were more likely to have reported stress than the others”.  The researchers believe that the release of stress hormones (cortisol) suppressed the production of essential pregnancy hormones (progesterone).

This fits in with idea of our “flight or fight” response, where the body produces a cascade of chemicals (adrenalin and cortisol) to get the body into “save my life mode”.  In this situation, non-essential functions such as reproduction and digestion are switched into “standby” mode.  It is well know that people under stress suffer stomach upsets. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for example, is often thought to be triggered by stress.  Likewise, if your life is in danger, your body does not want to cope with pregnancy, as it struggles for survival.  While we are not generally in life or death situations we are often in chronic, long-term stressful situations with all the consequences this brings for our health.  Our stress hormones are constantly at heightened levels.

Reducing the risk of miscarriage

Clinical trials demonstrate anxiety-reducing techniques reduce miscarriage rates.  Regular weekly treatment with acupuncture reduces anxiety, stress and induces relaxation.  You can also enhance this by trying:

  • Meditation or a relaxation tape
  • Yoga/Tai Chi/Qi Gong
  • Exercise
  • Reducing work commitments and socialising

Emotional support is also important.  A study showed that ‘unexplained miscarriages” generally effect 15% of pregnancies but this figure is reduced to only 5% when emotional support coupled with relaxation techniques are offered by medical personnel.

So the Ancient Chinese, many thousands of years ago, had the wisdom to know a surprising amount about supporting a woman’s pregnancy.  Now where is that waiter!

Liddell H. Recurrent Miscarriage – Outcome after supportive care in early pregnancy 1991.
Clifford K. Rai R. Regan L (1997). Future pregnancy outcome in unexplained recurrent first trimester miscarriage.  Human Reproduction.  Vol 12 (2) 387-389