In TCM, when treating women, 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 disorders occurring in the future.
So, of course, observing these patterns – from adolescence – can inform us if there are predisposing factors for fertility issues in the future. From the time of puberty, women may experience menstrual symptoms such as cycles that are: short in length=less than 23 days, or long=more than 33 days; where the blood flow is short= less than3 days, or long= more than 5days; heavy or light; whether there are clots; and probably most important: if there is pain, and its qualities: how strong it is, where it is located in the body and at what time of the month it occurs.
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 ie during adolescence, could be dealt with through acupuncture, Chinese herbs and lifestyle advice. As well, until fairly recently some doctors would just prescribe painkillers and the contraceptive pill, the latter which, when taken at too early an age for extended period, may also lead to infertility.
For example the symptom of severe pain, at period time and at ovulation time, may be sign of endometriosis (a chronic inflammatory reaction, where the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, which is normally regenerated and partially shed during the menstrual cycle, migrates outside, to the ovaries and other areas.) The appearance is likened to ‘chocolate cysts’.
In TCM the main cause of this is ‘Stagnant Blood’(similar to its physiological appearance), but can have other – ‘hot’, ‘cold’, ‘excessive’ or ‘deficient’ – characteristics. The underlying causes can be genetic, lifestyle, stress and overwork. It is often called the silent disease because it frequently goes undiagnosed, but in fact one in ten woman suffer from it, which means 146 million women in the world!
Another fairly common disorder is ‘Polycystic ovaries’ or PCOS. This may have pain involved or exhibit as a complete lack of periods, as the patient may not be ovulating, a definite barrier to falling pregnant. The diagnostic techniques of TCM can help detect this and the practitioner may encourage Western Medical tests to confirm it. It is often associated with insulin induced metabolic disorders, so may have the added problem of not being able to lose weight.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help relieve pain, by stimulating the brain and nervous system to release endorphins. Through having different treatments according to the different times of the month, the period can be regulated, and stress levels lowered. TCM can work in tandem with Western medicine for example if surgery is needed, but prevention is better than cure.
If you or any women you know have any of the above mentioned symptoms, check in with your friendly acupuncturist soon!
Clare is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist available at the Bondi Junction clinic on Monday and Thursday afternoons. Please call 02 9389 0890 to book your appointment or book online!