The classic Chinese texts often state that ‘Women are more difficult to treat,’ probably referring to the complex interplay of hormones which constitute the Menstrual cycle. Womens health is my special area of interest and it is a particular bugbear of mine that symptoms such as pain and emotional disturbances are considered a ‘normal’ aspect of our cycle and can sometimes be disregarded as unimportant.
The Menstrual Cycle
The chart below shows an optimum cycle of 28 days. A cycle length of 26-32 days when regular is perfectly normal. It is also normal for the occasional disruption to the cycle due to illness or stress. (i.e. the cycle may lengthen or shorten by a few days). A cycle that is always irregular suggests a problem as does pain, emotional disturbances, spotting and anything other than a smooth fresh bleed.
The acupuncturist will treat according to your TCM diagnosis but modifications are made depending on which part of the cycle you are in. The ‘nutritive’ Yin phase or follicular phase is all about egg development and preparation of the womb lining. The ‘active’ Yang or luteal phase is about the egg release and maintaining progesterone levels.
Sometimes treatment will be carefully timed to coincide with the part of the cycle that needs attention.
Menstruation (Days 1-7)
Common problems during this phase include: pain (before, during or after), stop-start bleeding sometimes starting or finishing with brown discharge, small or large clots, a bleed which is watery or foul smelling, very heavy or scanty bleeding which may be prolonged, tiredness, low back ache, night sweating, sweaty palms and feet.
Acupuncture treatment during this phase includes encouraging the smooth flow of blood, improving egg quality and encouraging the development of the new endometrium.
Post menstruation (Days 7-14)
Problems during this phase include: pain during ovulation, lack of cervical mucus, delayed/early ovulation, mid-cycle spotting. Acupuncture treatment during this phase includes: improving egg quality and encouraging ovulation.
Post Ovulation (Days 14 – 21)
Problems during this phase include: inability to maintain progesterone levels which can prevent implantation, low mood Acupuncture treatment during this phase is aimed at maintaing progesterone levels.
Pre-Menstrual (Days 21 – 28)
Acupuncture treatment focuses on promoting ‘a smooth flow’ of both emotions and the bleed (ie a pain free period).
Trying for a baby
Taking your Basal body temperature (BBT)
I’m particularly keen on the BBT charting as it gives us specific information on the cycle and also gives me direct feedback on my treatment!
When is the best time to have sex?
It’s important to maintain a healthy loving relationship and sex life. I’ve jokingly suggested to couples that the woman provides a signal such as hanging a pair of lacy knickers on the bedroom door to signal her fertile phase. As silly as it sounds, it could be a way of keeping things light and fun. Incompatible work schedules and stress puts pressure on couples trying to concieve.
The sperm survives for 4-5 days, so even if a couple only manage to have sex a couple of times during days 9-16, conception is still possible.
We have been trying to concieve for a year now and nothing has happened.
Don’t however let it take over your life. Getting stressed and obsessive about concieving is not going to be helpful. Taking a break from ‘trying’, having some fun, putting away the fertility monitors etc might be just what you need for a few months. There’s certainly plenty of anecdotal reports that couples get pregnant as soon as they stop trying.
There’s some good research on having acupuncture during IVF which suggest that the success rate is increased up to 50-60%. (see research article below). I prefer if possible, to see women for about 3-4 months prior to the proceedure (this is when the egg quality is being determined) which gives us time to work on whatever is appropriate. Where women have had previous failed attempts, perhaps due to poor egg quality or poor endometrium then we can utilise the information we have and target our treatment accordingly.
There is however no reason why women can’t continue having treatment all the way through their pregnancy as it’s non drug treatment used for a wide range of conditions.