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Natural Treatment for Placenta Previa

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What is Placenta Previa?

Placenta previa occurs in about 1 out of every 200 pregnancies.  Many times, previa is detected in the third trimester, but it’s sometimes spotted at as early as 17 weeks usually either in a routine ultrasound or because some bleeding or pain is occurring.  In this condition the placenta lies low in the uterus and may grow to partially or completely cover the opening of the uterus, the cervix.

The concern with placenta previa is that the birth canal could be blocked by the placenta, either partially or completely. It’s possible the placenta could be pulled from the uterine wall when the cervix dilates during labor. This could cause bleeding and potentially be harmful to you and your baby.

Many cases of placenta previa resolves themselves as the uterus grows and the placenta naturally moves upward. In more pronounced cases, the previa completely covers the cervical opening and will not move far enough up, regardless of treatment. In these cases, a caesarian section delivery is a necessary miracle.

Because the the risks, if you’re planning a home birth, placenta previa will need to be resolved before your midwife will give the go ahead to birth at home.

Chinese Medicine’s Approach to Placenta Previa

Debra Betts (2006) notes in her book,  Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth, “Although it has been estimated that as many as 30% of placentas on ultrasound are positioned low at 20 weeks gestation, less than 1% require further monitoring by 32 weeks, with only a small proportion of these requiring any medical intervention” (p.11).

Traditional Chinese Medicine views placenta previa as “sinking Qi.”  Additional symptoms that such a patient may experience might include digestive complaints, frequent bruising, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and a tendency to depression. The goal of treatment is raise and fortify the Qi, stop bleeding, and calm the fetus.

TCM practitioners use two techniques to treat placenta previa:  herbal formulas and acupuncture.  Usually, practitioners employ a combination of these two treatments, which provide a safe treatment option that can be effective in helping to resolve this condition in cases where the previa is minor.

  • Herbal Formulas – An experienced TCM practitioner will administer an herbal formula designed specifically for your condition. Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang is a classic Chinese formula used for raising Qi. It’s very safe for pregnancy and is  often used to prevent recurring miscarriages as well as for treating  placenta previa.
  • Acupuncture – Acupuncture treatments are quite successful in minor cases of previa. Your practitioner will recommend a schedule of  acupuncture sessions to treat your individual condition.  Du 20 is the key acupuncture point for treating placenta previa. Located at the very top of the head, and it’s very effective at raising Qi.

In my own acupuncture practice, I’ve treated many moms with placenta previa. In nearly all cases of partial previa, the condition resolved itself while the patients were undergoing regular weekly acupuncture taking herbs daily. In more pronounced cases where the placenta was too low lying to resolve, treatment helped to improve the patients’ underlying imbalances which seemed to improved their overall health and sense of wellbeing.

References- Betts, D. (2006).  Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth. Hove: The Journal of Chinese Medicine Ltd.

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Comments

  1. Jennah S says:

    As someone who had Placenta Previa with both of my pregnancies I would not classify it as a minor complication. In my experience it was terrifying. During my first pregnancy I started hemorrhaging at 24 weeks which caused pre-term labor and landed me in the hospital for 10 weeks were I continued to hemorrhage at least weekly if not more often for the final 10 weeks of my pregnancy. Despite the fact that my placenta moved in the final weeks the hemorrhaging continued. I was able to have a vaginal delivery (induced) and delivered a healthy baby girl. My son was more of the same except I was able to evade the prolonged hosp. stay and was only in for 3 weeks his birth had to be by cesarean though and my scar is a bit bigger than necessary due to the fact that they had to cut through the placenta to get to him. I had my tubes tied after his birth. I could no longer take the risk, I was grateful for my 2 children and have been happy with my decision, but MY experiences were not minor and were rather terrifying, I wish that I knew my naturopath during my pregnancies.

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  3. Angela says:

    I agree with the above poster – I have this right now and mine is not even covering os, it is .9 cm away from it. Still, I was rushed by ambulance to hospital last week at 29 weeks pregnant with severe bleeding and clots coming out the size of golfballs. It was terrifying to say the least – and to know that at any minute you could hemorrhage to death is a draining and petrifying position to be in. This is a severe and life threatening condition that puts the life of baby and mom at risk. The biggest study I could find on the condition was only able to be composed because they studied POST-MORTEM autopsy reports of women who had it. Not exactly a situation to talk lightly about.

  4. Kelly says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have been looking for a resolution to my marginal placenta previa and this has given me hope!!

  5. Bekah says:

    I’m having a hard time believing true previa can be ‘cured’ by TCM. Do you have any personal stories, studies, articles you could share that would provide more info?
    Partial previa is most often resolved enough to birth vaginally and often does not put the patient in the high-risk category, but complete previa is a whole other matter. To lump low-lying placentas and partial and complete previas togethers seems a bit naive.

    • Emily says:

      Hi Bekah – Thanks for your comment. This post was originally written many years ago before I had much experience treating moms with previa firsthand. I’ve now updated it slightly to reflect my years of experience with this condition.

      You’re right, not all previa is the same: some will resolve on their own and others will not resolve despite all of the alternative treatments available. In my experience though, acupuncture and herbs can be quite effective in supporting the process. More than anything, it depends on the individual woman who is in question, including her age, constitution, and lifestyle.

      One recent example was a 34 year old patient recently diagnosed with nearly complete previa who had been over-working and highly stressed during her first trimester. Otherwise completely healthy, she changed their lifestyles (rested a TON), got acupuncture, and took herbs, and on her next visit to her OB the previa had been resolved.

      The beauty of Chinese Medicine is that offers a perspective that is not just a flat-out diagnosis but also seeks to understands the underlying reason why a condition occurs. Through this, the practitioner can help to determine how it may be possible to support the patient’s body in healing the problem at hand.

  6. Dria says:

    Hello.
    Im 15 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I have placenta previa and have been bleeding heavily for 5 weeks straight. I have had huge blood clots fall out and excrutiating pain throughout my midsextion. I have been in the ER several times, and all they say is that its a “Threatened Misscarriage”. My doctor got mad that I keep coming in, so Im out of options. Im loosing alot of blood and feel weaker and weaker by the day. I bruise easily and Im nautious. I just dont know what to do. I hope this will help me in some way. Im so worried about my baby. And Im still early in the pregnancy!

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