Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Alternative perspectives?

Some months ago, a fellow Asherman’s syndrome (AS) sufferer who writes the blog Alternative Asherman’s had a missed miscarriage after AS and wrote of her experience (Three steps backwards) using misoprostol, linking it to the blog about my own experience using misoprostol. I feel it is necessary to clarify certain points in her experience as they may be inadvertantly misleading and appear to implicate misoprostol in what apparently ensued. She has also since updated her blog to clarify her interpretation of her experience.

Misoprostol is a non-invasive uterotonic drug that expels the uterine contents in a way that is analogous to a natural miscarriage. Scarring and subsequent adhesions are the result of physical injury (or severe infection) to the basal endometrium. In fact management of miscarriage with misoprostol has been shown to prevent adhesion formation compared to blind D&C (Tam WH, Lau WC, Cheung LP, Yuen PM, Chung TK. J Am Assoc Gynecol Laparosc.2002; 9 (2): 182–185.). Misoprostol can be used to expel the contents of the uterus for either pregnancy termination, after a missed or incomplete miscarriage has occured or for labour induction. It also dilates the cervix and is useful prior to hysteroscopic surgery. Unfortunately, misoprostol is often referred to as a 'pregnancy termination drug' despite its various uses.

With regards to misoprostol's efficacy it should be noted that she obtained Chinese herbs from her accupuncturist to help 'prepare her body for miscarriage'. (See her comment below). This is unnecessary. It is not advised to mix Chinese or any other alternative or over the counter drug/herb with the treatment prescribed by your qualified ObGyn. Any responsible qualified homeopath/alternative medicine practitioner (some are MDs) would not dispense drugs whose effects and interactions with drugs prescribed by another specialist is not known and has not been vigorously trialed. There is no regulation or standardization of alternative drugs (herbs, extracts, etc.) so their concentrations, compositions quality and therefore effects and interactions vary greatly. We don't know if using these herbs could have interfered with misoprostol's effect in some way (for example, reducing its efficacy by blocking the same receptors targeted by misoprostol).

She was told that she developed IUA after using misoprostol and prior to hysteroscopic surgery to remove retained products. Her hysteroscopic surgeon said that the RPOC from an incomplete evacuation led to fibrous scar tissue formation. While I have heard about this anecdotally, I have not seen any reports of women developing IUA from RPOC in the absence of severe infection. It is also difficult to reconcile the observation of dense scar tissue with products retained for just 5 weeks when scar tissue is not complete until about 8 weeks. Anecdotally, I personally had substantial retained products for 3 weeks after my second trimester miscarriage treated with misoprostol and did not develop IUA. RPOC and retained placenta can be managed conservatively (under medical supervision).

However, she does mention that she may have already had some recurrence of IUA before her pregnancy as her Obstetrician noticed what appeared to be synechiae on ultrasound. This appears to be an important clue.

She says that there were dense adhesions whereas she previously had had only mild adhesions at initial diagnosis.One possible way to explain the deterioration of her condition could lie in the initial treatment of her AS: she had a uterine cook balloon inserted following adhesiolysis. While I underwent the same procedure without any apparent complications like hundreds of others (a proportion of whom have gone on to have children), it is possible that if the stent was not removed properly, or if it somehow adhered to raw surfaces in the uterus, it could have caused damage on removal (the balloon is deflated and simply pulled out). This explanation would also be consistent with her ObGyn's observation of scar tissue during a prenatal scan. Note also that there is limited data from studies on the benefits of using the Foley catheter and IUDs after surgical lysis and no controlled or comparative trials on the Cook balloon. Some Asherman’s syndrome specialists even believe that stents can stunt endometrial regrowth.

A well researched and routinely used drug like misoprostol should not be treated with suspicion compared to many other medical and even pseudo medical treatments the same women undergo without questioning, from unproven and potentially harmful altnernative drugs to contraversial fertility therapies to treatments of Asherman’s syndrome on which there are comparatively less data and of a lower quality. This leads me to wonder whether it is the attitude of the treating doctor(s) which influences patients' perceptions of treatments. I agree that more doctors need to be trained in the use of misoprostol for miscarriage (and in particular among women with a history of AS) and that a followup hysteroscopy may be needed depending on clinical symptoms and gestational age at time of miscarriage to ensure there are no retained products of conception. Followup hysteroscopy may also be necessary in women with a history of AS if the miscarriage passed naturally as there is a possible tendency towards retained tissue from scarring. We already know that women with past AS are at an increased risk of abnormally invasive placentation such as placenta accreta. Retained tissue and placenta accreta may be different ends of a spectrum of abnormalities associated with placental invasion in a defective endometrium. Whether misoprostol is necessary to evacuate miscarriages that occur very early on in the pregnancy (prior to 7 weeks) is also questionable. These can be managed expectantly. It is especially risky to perform a blind D&C in women who already have suffered damage to their uterine lining. It is time for miscarriage management as a whole to be reviewed in light of advances in medical therapy and hysterosopic alternatives.


  1. Thank you for this feedback on my blog post. I will update my post to clarify some of the points you mention. Also, I wanted to clarify that I took the herbs prior to the use of misoprostol,not during. I agree that Chinese herbs should never be used while using other drugs.

  2. Hello,
    I didn't want women to misinterpret your experience as there is already too much unfounded suspicion about such a well researched drug and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that it could cause IUA- on the contrary, it has been shown to prevent them compared to blind D&C.

    Regarding the herbs, you state they were taken for 'preparing' the uterus for a miscarriage. I don't know what this means scientifically or which herbs you took, but there is still a potential for interaction with misoprostol's effect even if you did not take them at the same time. Misoprostol can evacuate the uterus alone.