In October of 2007 I got a call from a man whose wife was pregnant for the fourth time, although they had no living children. The first two pregnancies ended in miscarriage. During the 25th week of the third pregnancy, doctors did an emergency C-section because the blood flow to the uterus was impaired (no diastolic flow) and beginning to show signs of reverse flow. After the C-section, the baby lived for only two weeks.

On the day I got the call, they were again in the 25th week of pregnancy, and the same problems with uterine blood flow had begun. Their doctors told them to be prepared for a C-section, if necessary, at their next appointment, the following Tuesday.

Her husband explained the situation to me on the phone: his wife had been diagnosed with antiphospholipid-antibody syndrome during her third pregnancy, and she had been taking heparin when pregnant. However, the medication alone was not working. With the possibility of a C-section looming, I was determined to find a time for her the next day.

When she came into the office, I immediately liked her. She had an easy, graceful and gentle way about her, with a solid grasp of the gravity of her situation. Yet, she also had a sense of humor, and of hope. 9 years had passed since her last pregnancy and she seemed to have taken her recovery seriously and lightly at the same time–a winning grief-meets-Zen sort of combination.

From a diagnostic perspective 3 signs were striking during that first visit. First, this young woman in her thirties had a head full of gray hair. Second, despite the fact that she was over 6 months pregnant, she didn’t look like she had much extra weight on her. Third, her pulse was deep and weak and lacked that slippery quality practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine expect in pregnant women. Given these signs, given the fact that any condition that involves pathology at the blood level is dangerous during a pregnancy, and given that the baby’s lungs were not well-developed for life outside the uterus at 25 weeks I felt it was important to treat her daily to try to increase blood flow to the uterus.

My treatment strategy was to open the Chong Mai, which I did daily for 3 weeks. Some days I also opened the Ren Mai. I always treated the shen, and the kidneys, often did ear points for kidney, liver, spleen, lung, sympathetic nervous system, and uterus. I often included St 36, and at times included Liv 3.

The following Monday, after three acupuncture treatments, the pulse had changed significantly and for the first time had a strong, healthy slipperiness to it, just what acupuncturists expect during pregnancy.

The next day was Tuesday, her first OB appointment since starting acupuncture. Tuesday came and went–without a C-section. We were encouraged! The following Saturday, however, at her next appointment with the OB, she was hospitalized for closer monitoring. She had had 8 acupuncture treatments over 8 days at that point. We decided to continue her daily treatments in the hospital, and her doctors agreed. I continued to treat her, but now in the hospital. Rather than leaving the room as she rested with the needles, I sat in her hospital room with her, and meditated.

Sometimes nurses or other hospital personnel would come in, see us sitting in the dark, and become very apologetic. They backed out of the room politely, promising to come back when we were done. My client told me it was the only time during her day or night in that hospital when she felt her need for rest and rejuvenation was honored. At any other time, as is the practice in hospitals, she could be (and was) interrupted at all times of night and day for various testing or monitoring procedures, which were believed by all personnel to be of the highest priority.

Daily ultrasounds showed variable blood flow. Sometimes there was no reverse flow, some days there was reverse flow. Baby was judged to be in good health and to have adequate resources. The doctors began focusing on the baby’s size. If she didn’t grow a certain amount by a certain time, they felt her resources would begin to decline in utero placing her more at risk at birth. Better, they felt, to enter the outside world with strong resources a little earlier than to enter it already depleted, and still early. No one expected her to go full-term.

After two weeks in the hospital the baby’s lungs had a chance to pass a critical point (usually around week 27) with the production of surfactant. No one had expected to reach week 28 with the baby still in utero, but they did. At that point it was decided between the parents and the doctors to do a C-section.

It was a girl! They were very glad, because statistically girl preemies have higher survival rates than boys. Their last baby born by C-section at 25 weeks was a boy. Baby had no major problems, other than being extremely small (just over one pound). She is expected to make a full recovery.

Was it the acupuncture? We’ll never know. But it certainly played a role. I love this job!