How Present Periods affect Future Fertility
When treating women with Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, we always take and keep records of the menstrual cycle as a guide to their general health, as well as their reproductive health. This enables the practitioner to be aware of the possibility of different syndromes occurring now in a woman’s life, and in her future.
Observing menstrual patterns over a period of time can inform us if there are predisposing factors for fertility issues further on in life. From the time of puberty, women may experience menstrual symptoms such as:
- Cycles that are short in length (fewer than 23 days), or long (more than 33 days)
- Cycles that have shortened blood flow (less than 3 days), or long (more than 5 days)
- Heavy or light flow
- The presence of clots
- The presence of pain and its qualities: how strong it is, where it is located in the body and at what time of the month it occurs.
How menstrual disorders can lead to infertility
As menstruation has, in the past, been a taboo subject to discuss in public, young women in particular have often been reluctant to mention any patterns that they may be experiencing, which, if treated early on (including during adolescence), could be dealt with through acupuncture, Chinese herbs and lifestyle advice. Additionally, some doctors commonly prescribe painkillers and the contraceptive pill to alleviate (although not treat) menstrual symptoms, the latter which, when taken at too early on in life and for an extended period, may be a causative factor for infertility in the future.
Severe pain experienced at period time and during ovulation may be a sign of endometriosis – a chronic, inflammatory reaction where the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) migrates outside of the uterus, to the ovaries, parts of the pelvis and other areas. Endometriosis can cause further disorders and health conditions, such as problems conceiving.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, ‘stagnant blood’ is the main cause of menstrual disorders such endometriosis. Endometriosis’s underlying causes can be attributed to genes, lifestyle, stress and being overworked. It is often called the silent disease because it frequently goes undiagnosed, but in fact one in ten woman suffer from it, which means that 146 million women in the world may be experiencing endometriosis-related health concerns.
Another fairly common disorder associated with infertility, is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. Women who have PCOS often experience symptoms such as pain and a lack of menstruation (due to irregular ovulation) – which is a definite barrier to falling pregnant. The diagnostic techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine can help qualify imbalances leading to PCOS and may draw on allopathic testing to confirm it. Having acupuncture and herbs has been shown to be effective in regulating ovulation, therefore helping to address infertility as a result of PCOS.
PCOS is often associated with insulin induced metabolic disorders, like diabetes. In fact, Western medicine often prescribes diabetes medication for young women who experience pain due to PCOS (and who may also have a mild level of metabolic resistance). While treating PCOS with medication may work, it doesn’t treat the cause, and Traditional Chinese Medicine may be used as a complementary therapy to assist those with PCOS. Traditional Chinese Medicine helps to strengthen and harmonise the body’s energy, in order to avoid getting out of balance again. Dietary advice is often given, as the food as medicine concept is an important tradition of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
How acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can help menstrual disorders
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help relieve pain, by stimulating the brain and nervous system to release endorphins. Through having individualised treatments according to the different times of the month, the period can be regulated and stress levels lowered. The efficacy of acupuncture to treat menstrual disorders is improved when used over an extended period time, usually at least 3 cycles’ worth, as it helps to establish a baseline history of health and allow the practitioner to observe patterns in pain and symptoms.
If you or any women you know have any of the above mentioned symptoms, check in with your friendly local acupuncturist to see how they may help your health.
To make a booking with Clare at our Lane Cove Clinic, please call 02) 9418 9555.