Use of Acupuncture for Female Health – PCOS, PMS, Irregular Menstrual Cycle, and Infertility
Acupuncture and moxibustion have been used to treat a wide variety of gynecological conditions for over thousands years in countries such as Japan and China.
Female hormones affect many health conditions
Female hormones not only affect reproductive organs but also influence many other organic functions through interaction with major neuro-endocrine systems including stress hormones, thyroid hormones, and autonomic nervous system (FIG.1). It is therefore, a lack of optimal functioning of female reproductive system can impact a wide variety of other physical and emotional health conditions. It has been frequently documented that patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraine headache, skin conditions, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome report worsening of their symptoms around the time of their menstruation. Acupuncture and related traditional East Asian medicine and therapies can be an effective tool for balancing and optimizing female hormone functions.
Female health conditions that acupuncture and other traditional East Asian medicine modalities can help:
- Dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain)
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Short menstrual cycle
- Metrorrhagia (uterine bleeding at irregular intervals)
- Menorrhagia (heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding)
- Oligomenorrhea (infrequent or scanty menstruation)
- Amenorrhea (absence of menstrual bleeding)
- Anovulation (no ovulation)
- Endometriosis and Endometrioma related symptoms
- Uterine myoma (fibroid) related symptoms
- Ovarian cysts
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease
- Recurrent cystitis
- Vulvodynia, vulvar vestibulitis
- Recurrent candidiasis (yeast infection)
- Pregnancy related symptoms
- Perimenopause symptoms
- Infertility (thin uterine lining, luteal phase defect, high FSH, unexplained infertility etc.)
* Some of the above listed conditions may require conventional medical treatments in conjunction with acupuncture.
Acupuncture for Women’s Health Issues
Certain health conditions affect both women and men; but they may affect women differently. Plus, other health issues including menopausal symptoms and premenstrual syndrome are unique to women. Natural treatment, such as acupuncture, may be useful for some women without the side effects of traditional treatment.
Before learning how acupuncture can help treat certain women’s health issues, it’s helpful to understand a little more about how it works.
Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years. It is used to treat a wide variety of health issues. Acupuncture works by inserting small needles into the body at specific points. The needles stimulate points in the body that increase circulation, decrease tension, and promote the flow of energy that aids in healing.
After the needles are inserted, they may also be manipulated to achieve the desired results. Manipulation of the tiny needles may involve various methods, such as flicking, rotating, and lifting the needles.
Various conditions from migraines to allergies have been treated with acupuncture. Because acupuncture may also promote feelings of deep relaxation, it can be beneficial in addressing anxiety and stress that may accompany physical problems.
Acupuncture May Help Women’s Health Conditions
There are usually few contraindications, if any, for having acupuncture. But to be on the safe side, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider before having acupuncture to make sure it’s safe for you.
In many cases, acupuncture can be used as a complementary therapy along with conventional treatment for various health problems. Acupuncture may be helpful in addressing the following women’s health issues:
Acupuncture for Infertility
Infertility affects both men and women. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about ten percent of women are affected by infertility. Infertility can occur due to hormonal imbalances, structural abnormalities, and for unknown reasons. When a couple is faced with fertility problems, it can be emotionally, financially, and physically draining.
There are a few ways acupuncture can help with treating infertility. According to the American Pregnancy Association, acupuncture may relax the uterus and increase blood flow, which can help with successful embryo implantation. The increased blood flow also enriches the endometrial lining of the uterus, which improves the chances of pregnancy each month. Acupuncture is also believed to aid in decreasing stress and restoring endocrine system imbalances, which can improve fertility.
Acupuncture may increase fertility without the side effects of common fertility drugs; however, it is important to note that the effectiveness of acupuncture differs with each individual.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is extremely prevalent. According to the Mayo Clinic, three out of four women have experienced some symptoms of PMS. Many women have PMS symptoms every month that vary in severity. Symptoms of PMS include bloating, irritability, and sore breasts.
PMS is thought to occur due to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. Acupuncture may help reduce some symptoms of PMS. The exact reason acupuncture may help with premenstrual syndrome is not fully understood, and research is inconclusive. However, it seems acupuncture may improve blood flow, which can decrease cramps and breast tenderness. Since it also increases feelings of relaxation, acupuncture may decrease anxiety and irritability. It may also promote hormonal balance, which can decrease other symptoms of PMS.
It’s important to understand that menopause is not a disease or illness. Instead, it is a normal process in life. Menopause is said to have occurred after a woman has gone a year without a menstrual period. Although menopause is normal, it can cause many symptoms as women go through hormonal changes.
Symptoms of menopause include moodiness, headache, and hot flashes. Eating a healthy diet and exercise can help decrease symptoms. Natural remedies, including acupuncture, may also help.
A study conducted at Wake Forest University indicated that women who had 20 acupuncture treatments over a six-month period had a 30 percent reduction in hot flashes and night sweats. The decrease in hot flashes continued six months after treatment. Although it may not be effective for every woman, acupuncture may be worth a try if menopausal symptoms are bothersome.
Urinary incontinence affects both men and women; but it tends to affect women more often. Incontinence occurs when the muscles that support the bladder weaken, causing urine to leak. Some women only experience stress incontinence that occur with laughing or sneezing. For others, incontinence is a daily problem, which causes frequent urine leakage.
Although incontinence is not life-threatening, it can lead to skin irritation and embarrassment. Some women even limit their social interactions due to incontinence.
Acupuncture may be helpful in some instances. For example, in a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), women who received six weeks of acupuncture treatments had significantly less urine leakage when they were incontinent than women who did not receive treatment. Additionally, they had fewer episodes of urine leakage.