Yes! From my clinical experience, acupuncture can be used to help regulate the menstrual cycle. Acupuncture can help to restore a regular period in women who have irregular periods (metrorrhagia or oligomenorrhoea) or when the period is absent (amenorrhea). Regulating the menstrual cycle is also of benefit to women who suffer from PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and may have irregular ovulation and irregular cycles as a result making trying to conceive a bit tricky.
Optimal results are achieved with weekly acupuncture treatments which are directed at correcting any underlying energetic imbalances in the body, as well as coinciding with the specific physiological changes of each phase of the menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle is divided into four distinct phases; the menstrual, follicular, ovulation and luteal phases. When a woman attends weekly acupuncture different points are used for the various phases of the menstrual cycle.
Acupuncture during the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle
PHASE 1: MENSTRUATION (DAY 1-5)
Day one of the cycle is marked by the full flow of menstrual blood (not spotting). The pituitary gland in the brain signals for the production of the hormones FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteneising Hormone) to stimulate the growth of follicles. Acupuncture treatment during this phase is directed at moving blood in the uterus to ensure the endometrial lining built up over the previous month is fully shed and to reduce the pain from cramping as well as treating any other symptoms that coincide with the period (e.g. clots, flooding, cramps, nausea and constipation/loose bowel movements).
PHASE 2: FOLLICULAR PHASE (DAY 6 – PRE-OVULATION)
During this stage of the cycle, oestrogen builds. This increase in oestrogen thickens the lining of the uterus and increases cervical fluid, otherwise known as “fertile mucus”. Acupuncture during this phase is aimed at improving the uterine and ovarian blood flow to aid development of the ovarian follicles which contain an egg, increasing the lining of the endometrium and increasing cervical fluid.
PHASE 3: OVULATION
The release of an ovum (egg) from the dominant follicle is triggered by a surge in the hormone LH. The cervix is open and fertile cervical mucous increases just before ovulation occurs. Acupuncture treatment during this phase is focused on assisting the release of the egg and helps drive the temperature rise we look for when charting a women’s temperature.
PHASE 4: LUTEAL PHASE (POST-OVULATION)
During this phase, progesterone is increasing. Progesterone is secreted by the corpus luteum (what is left of the follicle after the release of the ovum) and helps to thicken the endometrium for implantation and is necessary to sustain a healthy pregnancy. The ovum travels down the Fallopian tube into the uterus after ovulation. If fertilisation has occurred the embryo will hopefully implant in the uterus. Acupuncture treatment during this phase depends on whether or not pregnancy is trying to be achieved. If a woman is trying to conceive then treatment is focused on assisting implantation and securing the embryo to prevent miscarriage. If not trying to conceive, treatment is focused on regulating Qi (energy) flow to prepare for the next cycle and help to minimise PMS symptoms.
Whilst acupuncture can successfully regulate the menstrual cycle, there can be some side effects from acupuncture treatment. These include deeper sleep, improved digestion, a more relaxed nervous system, a stronger immune system and a decrease in joint pain. Side effects every woman is happy to endure 🙂
In an initial consult with Mandi Azoulay a thorough medical history will help determine if a woman has time to embark upon regulation of her menstrual cycle with acupuncture and herbal medicine or if a referral to a fertility specialist is required whereby, acupuncture treatment to help support medical treatment is really beneficial.
Acupuncture regulates the menstrual cycle in 3 main ways:
- Regulating the feedback loop between the brain and the ovaries, also known as the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian (HPO) axis. If the HPO axis is communicating effectively, this helps to balance hormones which in turn benefits the menstrual cycle, promotes ovulation, and the period will follow.
- Acupuncture may improve blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. High levels of stress and ageing (declining ovarian reserve) can decrease the flow of nutrient dense blood to the reproductive organs. Acupuncture calms the nervous system anddilates blood vessels thereby increasing the flow of blood to the ovaries and lining of the uterus (endometrium). Well-nourished ovaries function more efficiently and good blood flow to the uterus ensures the endometrial lining is able to grow to an appropriate thickness to allow for menses or implantation of an embryo.
- Acupuncture may promote ovulation by increasing blood flow to the ovaries to support the maturation of a healthy egg. Acupuncture may help promote the LH (Lutenising Hormone) surge which triggers the egg to be released from the dominant follicle on the ovary.
Acupuncture may be effective as a stand alone therapy to achieve cycle regulation.
Working as a team at Women’s Health Melbourne, acupuncture can also play a role in enhancing a woman’s response to prescribed medical therapies when these are needed to regulate ovulation in conditions such as PCOS and hypothalamic (central) menstrual cycle disturbance.
Written by Mandi Azoulay, our in-house Chinese Medicine Practitioner