A Personal Story

Mariahís experience is an example of what can go wrong. The herbs succeeded in killing the fetus, but not expelling it from the uterus. Some bleeding occurred, but the fetus and tissue remained. When this happens it is called an incomplete abortion. It is resolved usually by a D&C abortion.
The dangers of incomplete abortion are hemorrhage and infection.

Did you have a pregnancy test? Yes
What was the result? Positive

How would you rate your experience?
It was a learning experience

Were you successful in using the herbs? Yes, Partial
[Fetus was killed but not expelled]

Is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have listened to advice to get an herbalist or midwife to advise. I was feeling secretive and that I would get rejected for choosing to abort.

How much do you weigh? 235 lbs

Commits -

I am choosing to relate my experience with herbal abortion because I found myself looking desperately for indications of what I might expect, physically, in books, and on the Internet. While this page was by far the most helpful, I had trouble understanding what might actually happen, so I wanted to share my experience. I am relating exactly what I really did, and I'm not claiming it was smart, or right. I'm just sharing what really happened, and I'm trying not to judge myself.

Since my choice to take herbs was directly related to a botched surgical abortion, I take the liberty of including that experience here.

Other than the pregnancy that created my son, I was 38 before I encountered an unwanted pregnancy. Having been a longtime supporter of Choice, I went to an abortion clinic, expecting some version of what I remember reading in the original version of "Our Bodies, Our Selves". I imagined I would be cared for lovingly and in the spirit of true feminism, would have a friend present to hold my hand, and that it would be an empowering and enriching experience.

Instead, my first surgical abortion was nightmarish. Because I am asthmatic, I chose a local anesthetic, which didn't work at all. Without my being consulted, a hydrocortisone IV was ordered for me, which I only discovered while I was tied into stirrups. When I questioned the medication, the doctor said that if I refused, I could die. He injected my cervix with a needle, which hurt tremendously, and then he was in me, and I felt everything. You never forget where your uterus is after an un-anesthetized D&C. I felt the fast cramps of my cervix dilating, then each scrape with the curette. The pain was excruciating. I was yelling to stop, then went into a vaso-vegal (?sp) response (blood pressure and pulse dropped, felt hot and cold at the same time, broke into a sweat) and the doctor was yelling, "Shut her up!" It was over in a minute, but I cried for days. I was traumatized, and so two years later, when I found myself again pregnant two years later, I was desperate to avoid that situation.

At the time, I also thought my health insurance was in jeopardy (I am disabled, and have to pay for it out of pocket) and this also impacted my decision. I have been leery of allopathic doctors now for years, choosing instead homeopathic, and other means. I found information on the Internet, and decided an herbal abortion was worth a try.

The date of my last period was 12/30/98. I had felt cramps from the fifteenth day LMP (which, strangely, has happened in each of my pregnancies - mild cramps seem to be a symptom of pregnancy), but I did not test, or look into herbs, until the thirtieth day of my cycle, when I tested positive in a home pregnancy test. At that time I was in Florida, on a vacation. I called Planned Parenthood down there, and tried to get information on RU 486. They don't even give referrals for abortion in Florida, which really surprised me - and made me feel even more scared and desperate.

I went to a public library, talked my way onto a computer, and looked up herbal abortions, as well as RU 486. It seemed the RU 486 was very invasive, Hormonally. I decided to use Susun Weed's recipe: 20 drops of tincture of American Pennyroyal, 20 drops of tincture of Black Cohosh and 20 drops of tincture of Blue Cohosh. I went to a huge health food supermarket in Florida, with two aisles of herbs and supplement. I couldn't find pennyroyal, and when I asked for help, a salesperson was very nice, went to ask her manager, and then came back very curtly and said, "We don't carry pennyroyal of any kind, any where, in any form, in the store." I felt rebuffed, embarrassed, purchased the Black and Blue Cohosh tinctures, as well as something called "Timely Menses" by Dr. Tori Hudson (mostly because it said, "Not to be used by pregnant and lactating women").

I started taking 1000 mg. of crystal Vitamin C as often as I could remember, as well as the Timely Menses stuff a few times a day. I got into my car, and drove from Florida to New York in a day and a half.

When I got home, my lover bought the Pennyroyal tincture, and about 5 weeks LMP (2/4/99), I completed a closure ritual with the spirit of the fetus, and I started taking the mixture in hot water, every four hours, round the clock. I also continued to take Vitamin C, and drank ginger and parsley tea in between.

Twelve hours after I started drinking the tincture mixture, I bled about a vagina full. I saw some dark clots, as well as chronic villi, then the bleeding abated. Occasionally my cervix would being to spot, (which I checked with a Q-tip), but there was no real bleeding or even spotting. I continued drinking for five days, then stopped. While my cervix had that soft velvety feel when I started the herbs, by the end of the five days, it felt hard and like cartilage. I spent about three weeks in very close communion with my body - and feeling very cut off from the world. My uterus was cramping mildly, and with each cramp, I felt hopeful that "it" would pass. It was very anxiety producing to be watching myself that carefully. I felt full, like a glass filled to the brim, very bloated and a bit sorry for myself.

On the 27th of February (about 8 1/2 weeks LMP), I stimulated a reflexology point on my right inner ankle, and twelve hours later, I bled again vaginally. Again, I saw clots and some minor tissue, and wasn't sure, "was this 'it'?" I started drinking ginger tea again about once or twice a day, and hopefully laced it with Dong quai tincture once or twice, which felt very powerful.

[A herb stronger than the ginger may have been better, the Dong quai would have been more likely to stimulate uterine contractions and bleeding than ginger would be. However, Dong quai can increase bleeding and at 8 Ĺ weeks pregnant you were at increased risk for hemorrhage.]

From then on, I spotted continually. It was very light, but my cervix continued to bleed lightly. I was still cramping, and at that time, I found out that miraculously, my health insurance was still in force. It was eight weeks, and I figured if I had miscarried, my period could have come around on my 'moon' schedule - only four weeks late-- and it had not. I decided to make an appointment with an OB/GYN. I thought, at this point, that I might have to have an abortion after all.

I saw the OB/GYN on Tuesday, March 2nd (9 weeks) was very upfront about what I had done with herbs. She tested my hormone (HcG) levels, which was positive for pregnancy, about 900 (but very low for 9 weeks.) The one test itself was inconclusive, because it might have been decreasing, indicating the result of a miscarriage. She tested me again two days later, and the level had doubled to 2000 - an indication that I was still pregnant. By then, I was spotting sizably, changing lightly stained pads about four times a day.

That Sunday, I had sex with my lover, and I started to bleed more. Now, it was like the third day of a period. On Monday, I had a sonogram, which showed a gestational sac about a third the size of my uterus, a tiny fetus without a heartbeat about a tenth of the size of the sac. Seeing the sonogram was momentarily painful (although I'm quite clear that I don't want to be a mother again, I still felt a connection to the possibility of 'child'.), but it was also helpful to visualize. From that moment on, I kept seeing that sac leaving my body. It was like a rhythm, something I couldn't help thinking about.

After the sonogram, I was delivered of a diagnosis: missed abortion. This was technically an incomplete, spontaneous abortion prior to 10 weeks. The traditional approach is to have a D&C, and 'clean out' what's 'left in there'. I made the appointment with the Doctor for Thursday for the D&C. Because of complications with my asthma, as well as my fears of feeling intense pain again, we decided to do the operation in the hospital, so I could have an anesthesiologist.

I had a lot of feelings about 'giving in' and spoke with my homeopath, who assured me that "I could pass this sac if I gave my body the chance". I was also angry at everyone and everything. I did, however, have concerns about when and where a miscarriage might happen, what it would look like, and whether I could survive the process.

[At 9 weeks, waiting for the sac to pass could have been dangerous, because at 9 weeks you are at risk for hemorrhage and incomplete abortion which you were already in the midst of. Personally, I think you did the right thing by seeking medical attention]

On Tuesday, I went in for pre-admission testing at the hospital. My HcG level was getting much higher, about 12000. Tuesday night, on my homeopath's advice, I took phosphorus 30C, which I repeated Wednesday morning and night as well.

Wednesday, I was at my allergist's office, getting tested for allergies to the anesthesia they wanted to use because I am chemically sensitive. At about 1:15 in the afternoon, I went downstairs into the lobby of my allergist's office, and while on the phone, I felt this gush pass out of my vagina. I said to the person on the phone, "Goddess, I just passed it", hung up, and rushed back up to my allergist's office.

Over the next three hours or so, I went through 20 or more pads, soaking them completely.
[Bleeding was profuse, hemorrhage is when you soak one pad or more per hour, the more blood lost, the more dangerous the situation becomes. It is possible to bleed to death.]
The blood and tissue was everywhere. It was dark; they were clots the size of jumbo eggs, lots of it seemed stringy, gooey and so much-- and it flowed from my vagina like water. No sooner did I put on a pad (and then a plastic-coated sheet under the pad) then I'd feel another huge gush, and have to return to the bathroom to change again. I felt very afraid, and concerned. In retrospect, I really wish someone had told me how much blood accompanied a miscarriage, and how significant an event it is. It seemed many of my friends had gone through it, but out of some sense of propriety, failed to mention significant bleeding.

[At 9 weeks the tissue is much larger and there is more of it than in the first few weeks of pregnancy. The embryo of early pregnancy has become a fetus. ]

After passing some really large clots (which looked to me like the sac, so I recovered it), I felt a sense of calm come over me. I knew the worst was already over.

Then I started to contract fiercely. It was like giving birth. With each contraction, I felt another gush. The pain was barely manageable.

My allergist put me on saline solution IV, we called the OB/GYN and I was taken to the hospital by ambulance. My BP was high - 180/95. I could walk to the truck, but when I got to the emergency room, I started to feel faint and went into another vaso-vegal response.

I was examined in the ER twice, and they said the exterior os was still open, although the internal os was closed. They pulled tissue out of my cervix with forceps. A sonogram revealed more tissue inside my uterus. Over the next hours, the bleeding slowed considerable, to a normal heavy period. My pulse and BP stayed low overnight - 100/60. I spent the night in the hospital, and then had the D&C the next day.

Thankfully, the spinal anesthesia worked well, and I didn't feel any of the D&C. I felt a rush of hormones afterwards, and cried for about two hours. When I was released, I was kind of dizzy, but that could have well been from not eating for two days. My homeopath said that what I had experienced was completely normal, and that had I not been 'interfered with', I would have probably passed the entire contents of my uterus.

[I donít know that I agree with your homeopath on this, you also could have bleed to death. It is better to be safe than not.]

I felt badly that I had incurred big hospital bills, not to mention a lot of drama -- and my doctor said 'you did a very dangerous thing, you know'.

It's the day after, and I don't know if what I did was right or wrong, but maybe my experience will help another woman decide how she wants to handle a similar situation. I have yet to figure out what this is all about for me; I am at 40 and feeling like it's a very big turning point for me. Perhaps this is a part of that.

12 March 1999

Three weeks later April 5th
After a lifetime of supporting choice, this was an important lesson for me in what 'choice' means, not necessarily leaving ourselves beholden and subject to an allopathic approach, but also not eschewing life-saving methods available. I did notice, in re-reading my message, how fear played such a part in my decisions. Now, on the other side, after the end, as the Iching says, I see how afraid I was.

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