A woman’s body experiences significant and constant changes throughout her life. From the beginning of puberty through the menopause years and beyond, imbalances in both hormones and emotions can be the catalysts to numerous conditions and discomforts that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can effectively address.
Whether you are struggling with premenstrual syndrome, painful or irregular periods, infertility or frequent miscarriage, pregnancy-related symptoms or the changes that come with perimenopause and menopause, Chinese medicine offers numerous strategies that can reduce stress, regulate hormones, improve circulation to the ovaries and uterus and restore balance, all in collaboration with your physician.
Menstruation is the first important milestone in a woman’s reproductive life. Traditional Chinese medicine views each stage of the menstrual cycle in terms of energy and essence, with the menstrual flow representing descending energy, the time after the flow as a time of replenishing, ovulation as a time of increased stimulation and the time immediately before menstruation as a peak of kidney yang energy. When there is a disruption in this flow of energy it can result in overly heavy or scant periods, cramps, irregular menstruation, the growth of cysts and fibroids and the symptoms associated with PMS.
The skillful placement of acupuncture needles, as well as the use of moxibustion and herbal medicine, stimulates and corrects the flow of energy and has been shown to alleviate the typical symptoms of PMS and reregulates the menstrual cycle. One retrospective Australian study involving 277 women showed that acupuncture and acupressure can reduce both emotional and physical PMS symptoms, while a study published in the journal BioMed Central Complementary and Alternative Medicine concluded that as few as four traditional acupuncture interventions improved physical symptoms by as much as 77.8%. Herbal remedies resulted in significantly reduced psychological symptoms, including mood swings, depression, anxiety, impatience, cravings and crying.
Endometriosis is a painful condition caused by tissue similar to that found inside of the uterus growing beyond where it should. It frequently involves the ovaries and fallopian tubes, and sometimes spreads beyond the pelvis. The tissue acts as it would within the uterus, including thickening, breaking down and bleeding with each menstrual cycle, but without the normal exit path of the reproductive system. The end result is the development of scar tissue and adhesions that cause severe pain and debility, especially during a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Chinese medicine views endometriosis as dysfunction of the liver, spleen or kidney meridians. Pelvic coldness can also be a contributing factor leading to obstruction of channels and blood stasis. All of this disrupts qi and energy. To counter this, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is used to promote blood circulation and regulate the proper function of the involved organs and channels. Studies of acupuncture’s effectiveness in the treatment of endometriosis have shown it to be more effective than traditional hormone drug therapy, providing relief from pain and a reduction in the size of pelvic masses.
Getting pregnant may have the reputation of being the most natural thing in the world, but roughly ten out of every 100 couples trying to get pregnant in the United States will encounter difficulty in doing so. Where acupuncture cannot address all causes of infertility, it can facilitate healthy ovulation and support the efforts of assisted reproduction physicians, as well as helping to manage and relieve the stress that many women experience while trying to get pregnant.
There are several Chinese herbal medicines that can potentially enhance fertility. Studies have proven that some strengthen the surge of Luteinizing Hormone which in turn supports ovulation and progesterone production, while others affect testosterone in men or counter the effects of anti-sperm antibodies. As for acupuncture, its use in men has resulted in increased sperm count and motility, while in women it improves the blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, regulating hormones and the menstrual cycle, improving the thickness of the uterine lining, enhancing the immune system and countering the side effects of medications and stress.
Once known as “the change” and spoken of in hushed tones, menopause is increasingly being viewed in the West in the way that it has always been in the East — as a natural part of the aging process. That does not mean, however that the symptoms that accompany menopause are simply to be tolerated. Both acupuncture and herbal medicine can significantly reduce some of the most troublesome symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats, sugar cravings and insomnia. One study even showed that acupuncture was effective in minimizing the symptoms of stress urinary incontinence.
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, menopause can be seen as part of Kidney Yin Deficiency or loss of anchoring of the kidney’s yang energy, creating disharmony in the body’s proper regulation. Hot flashes and night sweats are an indication of imbalance that can be corrected through the use of Chinese herbs and acupuncture, as well as education about the impact of foods and lifestyle recommendations that can turn down the body’s internal thermostat.
Reproductive Medicine at Empirical Point Acupuncture
Whether you are interested in preparing your body for conception and pregnancy or need symptomatic relief from a reproductive health condition, Classical Chinese Medicine can help. Sharon Sherman has been licensed to practice acupuncture and Oriental Medicine since 2001, and holds the highest credential available from both the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Her knowledge and understanding of its use assure patients of the highest level of care and professionalism.