If you have an unplanned pregnancy it’s easy for your mind to be overwhelmed especially when you are not ready to bring forth a newborn to the world. Fortunately, if the pregnancy is detected early, you have an option to terminate the pregnancy, which is called abortion, but in some cases there are factors that may hinder you from undergoing this experience. These are described in sections below but first you need to go through the following checklist to make sure you are really pregnant.
Symptoms of early pregnancy
You may not get classical symptoms of pregnancy if you have been taking contraceptives inconsistently or if you have prior menstrual disturbances. However, in most cases you should experience the following symptoms of pregnancy:
A. Main symptoms
- Missed period: You either skip your period completely or you only go for very few days, usually one day, when you are supposed to go for several normal days. This is called amenorrhea and in most cases once this happens you are prompted to take a pregnancy test as described below. Keep in mind that missing a period doesn’t automatically mean you are pregnant as there are other conditions which cause this amenorrhea. Examples are stress, hormonal imbalances, and contraceptives to name a few. Therefore you need to confirm further with tests outlined below once a week has passed with no period.
- Nausea/Vomiting: This is a common combination of symptoms and in some cases may be severe. You experience nausea, sometimes even vomiting and this is due to an altered hormonal state in the body as the pregnancy hormones flood the system. It is also called morning sickness, and in severe cases the vomiting results in dehydration.
- Tender breasts: Another symptom you get is tenderness of both breasts and they feel engorged or full. Remember this may also occur if you are taking hormonal contraceptives so don’t panic if it’s the only symptom you have. However, if the other symptoms described are present this is also strongly points to pregnancy. In most cases the breast discomfort subsides as you adapt to the pregnancy state.
- You feel weak or dizzy: Once fertilization occurs, the embryo quickly establishes itself in the uterus and this causes levels of progesterone to spike. This hormone is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the pregnancy. Unfortunately, the high level of this hormone in your blood circulation results in you feeling dizzy.
B. Other symptoms
These other symptoms may also occur and frequency varies amongst women. A combination of these minor symptoms with the major symptoms above strongly suggests pregnancy and you should definitely do confirmatory tests.
- Increased frequency of urination: If you have been voiding your bladder every hour you need to think about the possibility of pregnancy. Usually the urination has no pain or discomfort and it is brought about by the increased circulation of blood in the body. Once you are pregnant, the body goes into a hyperdynamic state, which is more of an overdrive. As a result your kidneys go to work, and excrete excess fluid. Fear not, that excess urination is not due to a urinary tract infection, but all you need to do is take a pregnancy test.
- Mood swings: This is another symptoms which occurs in early pregnancy and is due to the altered hormonal state in your blood. This same hormonal phenomenon explains the mood changes which take place in the post-menopausal period or prior to onset of menstrual period. While you may feel bad about your change in behaviour, your partner should understand that it’s a natural process that is explained scientifically.
- Food preferences: It is normal if you start developing a craving for specific foods and avert your appetite from other foods. All this is due to the pregnancy hormones in your system. In some cases you do this sub-consciously only for someone to raise the suspicion of pregnancy.
- Abdominal cramps: This symptom misleads most women who have a history of menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea. Actually these cramps are usually caused by implantation of the embryo in the lining of the uterus (the endometrium), about 10 to 14 days after fertilization. A slight bleeding also occurs and you should not mistake it for menstrual periods. If the other symptoms above are present, you need a pregnancy test.
- Mild headache: As mentioned above, when you fall pregnant you get an increase in circulation and even dilation of blood vessels. This causes a lot of blood to reach the head resulting in a mild headache.
- Bowel changes: Another common symptom you get is constipation as pregnancy causes abnormal bowel motility. You may want to increase the amount of fibre in your diet so that you don’t trigger other bowel-related conditions like haemorrhoids or fissures.
Tests in early pregnancy
Once you experience the above symptoms it’s important to confirm the pregnancy. There are specific tests you will learn about which are carried out and fortunately you can quickly confirm if you are pregnant or not without visiting the clinic. These tests detect the presence of bHCG (beta-Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) in the urine. This is a hormone secreted by the developing placenta in increasing amounts and is abundant in the blood and urine during pregnancy.
- Home test: When you suspect that you are pregnant, it is wise to dissipate the suspense at home by performing a home pregnancy test. Afterwards you may go to your doctor for a definitive confirmatory test. Home pregnancy tests come in various forms, manual or digital and all use the same principal of detecting bHCG in urine. bHCG starts appearing in urine about 2 weeks after conception, which is usually the time when you skip your period. It’s a simple test where you add a few drops to the test strip, wait 1 or 2 minutes and read the result according to instructions. With current test kits false positives are unlikely which means a positive result is most likely to be correct. Similarly a negative result a week after you skip your period is almost always true.
- Laboratory blood test: When you see you doctor a definitive test is done to confirm pregnancy and this test also checks for bHCG, but this time a blood sample is collected. This is the most accurate way to tell if you are pregnant and the beauty of the test is that:
- It can be done earlier than a home pregnancy test (as early as 7 days from the date of conception!)
- The concentration of bHCG can actually be measured in your blood, hence it’s possible to tell when you actually fell pregnant.
This test is highly specific and highly accurate so the results which you given confirms or rules out any pregnancy.
- Ultrasound scan: Contrary to what you may have heard, an ultrasound scan isn’t that useful in early pregnancy because the embryo will be very small. Remember your goal is simply to find out if you are pregnant or not and a scan will give a false negative if done too early. It becomes useful around 5 weeks of pregnancy if you decide to check for viability of the pregnancy. This is way after the above tests have detected the pregnancy so don’t stress yourself by insisting for a scan if your doctor says you are not pregnant.
Your options if you don’t want the pregnancy
Now that you have confirmed that you are pregnant and you decide you don’t want to keep it, there are options you can utilize to revert to a non-pregnancy state. It is important to note that the effectiveness of some of these options is time-dependent. This means if you go beyond a certain gestational age they become ineffective or are totally out of the question.
- Abortion: The commonest method is termination of pregnancy or abortion. This is done at an abortion health centre by a qualified health professional, who will offer post-abortal care after you have undergone the procedure. Two methods are used, either medical abortion using the abortion pill for pregnancies below 10 weeks, or surgical abortion for pregnancies above 10 weeks. The technicalities of these methods are discussed elsewhere but it’s important to highlight the drawbacks involved in opting for abortion:
- There is a risk of infection if done in a non-sterile environment, leading to post-abortal sepsis.
- You can get psychological complications like mood disorders if you don’t receive proper counselling.
- In some states it is illegal to do the procedure beyond a certain gestational age.
- Scarring of uterus may affect future chances of conception.
- Complications may occur during the procedure like severe bleeding, perforation of uterus, injury to bowel or anaesthesia-related adverse effects.
- Inducing spontaneous miscarriage: This is what you learn about in the next sections and involves administering natural substances so that the body expels the foetus spontaneously. You take this route if you don’t want abortion as there is no abortion pill to administer or any surgical instruments used.
If you are 1 month pregnant and you want to terminate your pregnancy via the abortion route, your only option will be medical intervention. However, that’s what you don’t want so check out the natural ways to induce spontaneous abortion at that gestation.
Ways to avoid abortion
These natural substances have overlapping properties which serve to destabilize the implanted foetus and induce your body to initiate spontaneous expulsion of the foetus. It must be emphasized that you combine several of these inducers for maximum benefit but make sure you are aware of the dos and don’ts described later. The efficacy of these substances differs amongst individuals and they are not listed in any order of potency. Studies of some of these methods are inconclusive so results are not guaranteed.
- Ascorbic acid/Vitamin C: This has been a subject of controversy and literature has cited a study documented in a Russian journal in the 70s. In this study it was found out that high doses of Vitamin C or Ascorbic acid induce miscarriage without any residual post-abortal complications. Vitamin C is abundant in these foods:
- Citrus fruits
The daily requirement of Vitamin C supplementation is usually below 100mg per day and taking high doses involves administering excess of 3000 mg per day. You can buy the supplements as tablets from a pharmacy without any prescription. However you have to be cautious because high dose Vitamin C may cause kidney stones and is contra-indicated in people with kidney disease.
- Cinnamon: This is another arbotifacient you may have come across. Studies have not been clear as to its efficacy in inducing miscarriage but sources have cited its ability to trigger miscarriage. The mechanism of action is not clear but some schools of thought indicate the increased concentration of cinnamon in the placenta and triggering of uterine contractions. To achieve maximum effect you have to consume uncooked cinnamon usually in powder form as cooking diminishes the potency.
- Black Cohosh: This herb is known to induce miscarriage and has even been used by midwives to induce labour. The exact quantity you have to administer is not clear but the substances alters the hormonal state in the body which triggers uterine contractions and subsequently miscarriage. You consume the herb or its extract. Some combine this with red cohosh for maximum benefit.
- Semi-ripe or unripe Papaya: Eating ripe papaya has no effects on pregnancy because compounds which can trigger miscarriage break down as the fruit ripens. However semi-ripe or unripe papaya has been shown by in-vitro studies to cause uterine contractions. You can get this oxytocin-like effect by consuming raw papaya either on its own or mix it with other foods to make it more palatable. It then induces contractions of the uterus hence causing miscarriage.
- Chamomile tea: This herbal tea has been shown to induce abortion due to the presence of oils in the plant. You prepare the tea without adding any milk for it to be effective and drink daily. This stimulates uterine contracts and you get a miscarriage. Caution must be taken by avoiding excessive amounts because you may trigger an anaphylactic reaction.
- Dong quai: This plant grows in East Asia and its roots are used to induce a miscarriage although there are few studies that have been carried out on the plant. It also triggers uterine contractions and is either administered as capsules which contain the powder form, or as a root which is boiled. For best result you combine with high doses of Vitamin C.
- Pomegranate: This seeds of this plant contain a steroid called beta-sitosterol that has causes uterine contractions and they are also rich in Vitamin C described earlier. If you consume a lot of pomegranate seeds daily you trigger miscarriage. They can also be used to make pomegranate juice which is easier to consume.
- Cotton root bark: You use cotton fibre for making fabric but did you know the cotton root has long been used as an arbotifacient? This plant is grown mainly in Africa and Asia. The cotton root bark is used to induce labour and also to trigger a miscarriage. You use it as a liquid extract where you take about 2 to 4 mls in 2 divided doses. According to one school of herbal medicines, if taken in recommended doses you won’t have any problems.
- Sepia and Sabina: These herbal remedies are used to increase the chances of a complete miscarriage, which leave no retained products in the uterus. Sepia is derived from cuttlefish and the use of these two remedies is associated with body pains as a side effect. You have to relax and let the phase pass unless the pains become unbearable.
- Vigorous exercise: A study was conducted by the National Institute of Public Health in Denmark which shows a link between vigorous exercises and miscarriage although further studies are needed to confirm the association. However, if you perform high-impact exercises you increase your chances of miscarriage.
How do you know it has worked?
If you succeed to miscarrying, there are signs that suggest to you that your pregnancy is no longer viable. The common ones are outlined below and a combination of these signs strongly supports a pregnancy that is miscarrying:
- Bleeding: Bleeding usually occurs early in pregnancy even if there is no miscarriage going on. However, if you find that the bleeding is increasing in quantity and stretches for days, chances are you will be miscarrying. As the foetus becomes non-viable the levels of progesterone fall, hence the lining of your uterus is shed off.
You have to be alert once you start noticing the bleeding (see dos and don’ts below) so as to avoid complications of excessive bleeding like anaemia.
- Abdominal cramps: Mild bleeding alone is a common symptom in the first trimester but if you also get abdominal cramps, most likely you will be miscarrying. Once the foetus becomes non-viable, a chain of events trigger contractions of the uterus in an attempt to expel the products of conception. This process is usually painful, hence abdominal cramps and the pains become progressively worse. You may need to take something for the pain but if you find that it’s getting worse, you need to see you doctor.
- Loss of pregnancy symptoms: In the earlier sections under symptoms of pregnancy, the role played by hormones (progesterone in particular) in bringing about most symptoms of pregnancy was highlighted. This means if the pregnancy is miscarrying, the hormonal levels come down and symptoms subside. You now understand how you no longer feel nauseous and symptoms like frequent urination, dizziness, headaches or cravings may disappear.
Do’s and don’ts when miscarrying
There are precautions you need to take when miscarrying so that you go through the process safely. If you are aware of what to look out for it’s easier to see help on time if things go out of hand.
- Once you start noticing blood, you need to carry out pad checks. This is done by monitoring the rate at which you change pads and if it starts to increase each passing day, you know the bleeding is becoming severe. You need to see your doctor right away to stop the bleeding.
- The other important precaution you need to follow is to rest. Increased activity causes more blood to flow to the uterus hence cause more bleeding. Resting also helps relieve abdominal cramps resulting in less distress during the process.
- Take painkillers to relieve the abdominal pains. Pain causes more discomfort so don’t soldier through the cramps when you can access analgesia. However, if you find the cramps getting severe, you need to see your doctor.
- Eat something so that your body stays balanced. A miscarriage places a demand of resources to the body. It’s easy to get physically and emotionally drained so remember to replenish the vital nutrients the body needs.
- This also means you have to stay hydrated. Women need to drink about 2.7 litres of water a day and if you don’t like drinking clear sparkling water, juices will also do the trick as it’s largely water.
- Don’t ingest excessive amounts of the herbs and substances described above as they may result in toxicity in your body. If you are not sure you need to consult a professional.
- Never attempt to seek help from a non-qualified individual when you suspect that you are developing complications of miscarriage.
- Don’t consume the above substances if you have kidney disease
When to seek medical attention
With the background of precautions outlined above it’s easy to know when to see your doctor should you suspect any complications. Don’t hesitate to visit the rooms if you encounter the following:
- You experience prolonged bleeding which is not subsiding
- The abdominal cramps become severe
- You start noticing blood clots or bleeding is excessive
- If you clinically start feeling progressively unwell
- When you are not sure and need medical advice
- You continue to have pregnancy symptoms like nausea or vomiting and they are getting worse despite suspicion of a complete miscarriage
- If you have pre-existing kidney disease as most of the herbs and substances are excreted via kidneys after they are metabolized.
When you reach 1 month of pregnancy (about 4 weeks) and you don’t want to keep it, one option is to undergo medical abortion. However if you don’t want to use the conventional methods of termination of pregnancy, you can try inducing spontaneous miscarriage using the natural products. Studies are still underway to evaluate the efficacy and safety of some of these substances and results vary amongst women. You should also pay attention to precautions so that should you experience any complications you see your doctor right away. Prevention is better than cure, so once this event is over you need to be on a good contraceptive to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.