Acupuncture and TCM Can Help Regulate Menstruation and Boost Fertility
Regulating menstrual cycles and boosting a woman’s fertility are some of the most common treatable conditions in women’s health.
Acupuncture Herbs and Beyond uses solid, filiform needles that are safe, disposable and are approximately the size of a strand of hair. The needles are inserted at specific points along the channels of the body. Each of the points help regulate the flow of Qi of the channel, along with their corresponding organs. So, for example, if the patient’s chief complaint is amenorrhea for the last 6 months and she is not pregnant, the treatment plan for her would likely include points on the body that would help balance and move the Qi in her body and help circulate her blood to promote menstruation. In a case like that, DR. Weihui Li will use specific known Acupuncture points to remove blood stasis of blood in the uterus and regulate the blood.
With regard to Chinese Herbs, they are formulated to maintain health and prevent illness by creating balance and harmony within the body. Dr. Li creates herbal formulas for her patients that can help in many ways such as; warm us up when we’re cold, strengthen our immune system when it is weak, give us energy when we’re feeling lethargic, and help calm our mind when we are feeling anxious or having trouble falling asleep. These are just a few examples of what seeking treatment at Acupuncture Herbs and Beyond can do.
In a clinical study done in December 2011, ‘Acupuncture might have contributed to improving amenorrhea in a top athlete’ concluded that after hormone replacement therapy was started in May 2010 in conjunction with regular acupuncture treatment, menstrual blood flow restarted and BBT moved close to the biphasic pattern. (PubMed)
Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle is complex and is controlled by many different glands and the hormones that these glands produce. For example, the hypothalamus within the brain sends signals to the pituitary gland which secretes hormones into your bloodstream and alerts the ovaries to produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The menstrual cycle acts as a biofeedback system in that the hormones, glands and organs are affected by each other’s actions. Therefore, if you are trying to conceive and haven’t been able to, or are experiencing any menstrual or hormonal irregularities, regulating your cycle and balancing your hormones are key to your fertility health.
Dr Li believes that it’s important to ensure good quality of Qi and blood, support the heart-blood and uterine connection and help manage the amount of blood flow. So, if there is little blood flow, Acupuncture points and Chinese medicine can be used to help build and invigorate the blood. While if a patient is experiencing painful cramps, heavy blood flow and blood clots.
Dr. Li’s Chinese herbal formula used for many menstrual disorders, helps promote blood circulation, stop pain and removes blood stagnation in the lower abdomen.
The follicular phase also starts on day one of the menstrual phase, with follicles developing between days 6 – 12 and ending with ovulation. The hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to release the follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) which stimulates the egg cells in the ovarian follicle to grow and produces about five to twenty follicles. Out of all of these follicles, usually one dominant egg cell matures and while it grows, it releases estrogen and causes the lining of the uterus to thicken for a potential pregnancy. During this part of your cycle, Acupuncture points and Chinese herbal medicine are used to help nourish the blood of the liver and kidneys, support the ovaries and help build an ideal environment for fertility.
During the mid-cycle or ovulation phase, the release of the mature egg surfaces from the ovary between day 13 to 15. For this part of the phase in TCM Acupuncture Herbs and Beyond would provide treatment to help nourish and strengthen the blood and essence of the spleen and the kidneys. The rising levels of estrogen cause the hypothalamus to release a chemical called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which prompts the pituitary gland to produce elevated levels of the luteinizing hormone (LH) and FSH. It is the surge of the LH that triggers ovulation causing the mature egg to burst from the follicle, which transforms into a ruptured structure called the corpus luteum. This phase of the menstrual cycle is the ‘fertile window’ of knowing when you are ovulating and the optimum time for getting pregnant. The egg then exits the ovary and moves to the fallopian tube via cilia where sperm may be present. Fertilization occurs here and once the egg has been fertilized, it travels down the fallopian tube into the uterus for implantation where it continues to grow. The average life span of the egg is only 24 hours so in this limited time if the egg and sperm don’t unite, the egg will disintegrate.
The pre-menstrual or luteal phase starts from about day 15 until the end of your cycle. The corpus luteum begins secreting elevated levels of progesterone and small amounts of estrogen needed to maintain a thickened uterine lining for the embryo to stick. Once implantation occurs, it produces a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) which is the hormone detected in a urine pregnancy test. If pregnancy does not occur, the corpus luteum degenerates and triggers an increase in FSH and a decrease in estrogen and progesterone. This causes the lining of the uterus to shed and return to the menstrual phase on day 1 of the cycle. If there is a chance that implantation has occurred, Acupuncture points and Chinese medicine can help support Qi and blood flow to the uterus as well as help ready the endometrial lining for implantation. If there’s no chance of pregnancy, liver Qi begins to rise meaning some PMS symptoms can occur so Acupuncture points that will help move the Qi and invigorate the blood would be used.
Boost Your Fertility
Acupuncture Herbs and Beyond treatments can also improve fertility health in both men and women on its own or in couples needing assistance for fertility support with Western modalities in ART (assisted reproductive technology) such as, intra-uterine insemination (IUI) and in-vitro fertilization (IVF). First, your doctor must determine the factors that are contributing to your infertility, the age of the couples and the duration of the infertility.
A systematic review in February 2015 on ‘Chinese herbal medicine for female infertility: an updated meta-analysis’ concluded: Our review suggests that management of female infertility with Chinese herbal medicine can improve pregnancy rates 2-fold within a 3-6 month period compared with Western medical fertility drug therapy. In addition, fertility indicators such as ovulation rates, cervical mucus score, biphasic basal body temperature, and appropriate thickness of the endometrial lining were positively influenced by CHM therapy, indicating an ameliorating physiological effect conducive for a viable pregnancy. (PubMed)
By combining Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, Dr. Li can correct imbalances in the reproductive system in males and females, which could be hindering a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant. It is recommended that in couples wanting to conceive that he or she or both start getting treatments at least 3 months prior to conception. This is also the optimal time to start getting treatments before undergoing IVF.
Acupuncture Herbs and Beyond treatments help: balance reproductive hormones, build a healthy uterine lining and increase circulation to the ovaries and uterus, helps minimize stress, supports a healthy ovarian follicle, helps with diminished ovarian reserve and high follicle stimulating hormone, and helps support and increase the effect of ART’s and embryo transplantation. In men, Acupuncture Herbs and Beyond treatments can also improve: sperm count and quality, motility, morphology, certain immune factors that can also prevent conception, low libido, and sexual function.