Chinese Medicine has helped women over thousands of years with menstrual cycle regulation and disorders, which ultimately assists with improving fertility.
When treating in the clinic, many of my patient’s are surprised to hear that the “perfect” period is one that is symptom free. i.e. no cramps, pain free, no bloating, no breast tenderness, no irritability, fresh red flow and no clots. But unfortunately, the education surrounding the menstrual cycle is not ideal leading to the social normalisation of pre-menstrual syndrome signs and symptoms.
The menstrual cycle consist of 4 weeks where each week reflects a different process in preparation for conception then potentially conceiving and carrying pregnancy to full term.
Week 1 consists of Day 1 where it is the first day of heavy bleeding. The length of the period and how heavy will reflect constitution, age and overall health.
Week 2 is where the hormone Oestrogen is on the rise leading up to ovulation is where the “Perfect” egg ripens. Vaginal discharge which has the texture and consistency similar to egg white will start to be observed typically around day 10 and lasting up to ovulation where the egg is released around day 15. Some women will be tracking their Basal Body Temperature (BBT) and will observe a temperature spike on the day ovulation. I advise having sex every second day from the first signs of egg white discharge if trying to conceive naturally to maximize the chances of conception. Sperm can survive a few days within the uterus, so trying a bit earlier rather than waiting to target the 12 hour ovulation window reduces the chances of missing that fertile window.
Week 3 is post ovulation when Oestrogen slows down and Progesterone takes over and starts to rise, signaling the endometrial lining to thicken up in preparation of an embryo (combination of sperm + egg) to implant if there was conception. This preparation continues into Week 4 and turns into support for a developing fetus which is typically checked around week 7 to confirm heartbeat via an Ultrasound scan. If there was no conception, then the body signals the shredding of the endometrial lining results in the period and restarting of the cycle.
Menstrual cycle disorders such as PCOS, PMS, irregular cycles, painful periods or no periods occur due to the disorderly transitions/fluctuation or low levels of these hormones throughout the menstrual cycle. There are many factors which can contribute to this like, stress, age, constitution etc.
How does Acupuncture help?
Acupuncture can assist to stimulate and encourage the ovaries/uterus to function better which results smoother transitions of the hormone fluctuations. There are acupuncture points on the lower abdomen which are located over the ovaries and uterus. Studies have shown that local stimulation can reduce the uterine arterial impedance, or improve the blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. By increasing the blood flow, this will allow the ovaries and uterus to perform their functions as best as possible.
I work with the 4 week cycle to target the key aspects as described above to try and emulate/encourage these key events that happen each week which in turn encourages the cycle to proceed as close as possible to what the perfect cycle should be. For younger women going through puberty or in their 20s this can mean symptom free/minimal periods to minimise discomfort felt each month. For women who are trying to start a family, this means improving fertility to increase the chances of conception.
Acupuncture is a natural/drug free approach and works by stimulating the body to correct itself. Herbs may be prescribed if I feel the patient’s body is too weak and unable to correct itself. So why not give it ago?