Women’s Health & Fertility
Women’s health needs are truly unique. The basic differences are obvious: only women menstruate, give birth, and go through menopause. But many health concerns that men and women seemingly share – such as aches and pains, headaches, migraines, digestive issues, etc., become uniquely female if they start to occur in sync with a woman’s menstrual cycle, whether before, after, or in the middle. Many family stressors, from multiple children in diapers to racing around driving kids and teens to their after school activities, aren’t technically a woman’s – only issue, but when the burden for these activities falls primarily on a working mom, the stress can be truly astronomical.
Chinese medicine has a long history with gynecology. As early as the Shang Dynasty (1500 – 1000 BC) there have been doctors devoted to women’s health. From these very early beginnings Chinese medicine has considered women’s health a serious part of medicine. The Chinese view of balance in the world is a cycle of yin and yang waxing and waning. A woman’s menstrual cycle is seen as an earthly reflection of this universal balance and so Chinese medicine has always been extremely well-suited for treating female issues. In fact, Chinese medicine contains safe, natural and effective healing strategies for all stages of a woman’s life.
Onset of Menstruation
Menstruation and PMS
Many women experience uncomfortable periods and although this is “normal” in our culture, it is not considered healthy in Chinese medicine. Periods should always be the same number of days apart, the flow should be neither too heavy or too light, and the period should last 4-6 days. They should not be painful, crampy, uncomfortable or emotional. Nor should they be accompanied by headaches, migraines, constipation, diarrhea, or any other symptom. Many women, even girls too young to be sexually active, are placed on hormones (birth control pills) to alleviate these symptoms. There is a safer and healthier way to address all of these discomforts! Acupuncture alone can normalize a woman’s cycle; sometimes herbs are added if there are additional health issues interfering with the cycle.
Pregnancy & Labor
There are a lot of reasons to consider acupuncture during pregnancy. First, acupuncture and all-natural herbs can help with morning sickness. Second, since the mom to be is asked to limit their intake of all drugs, including over the counter medications, acupuncture is frequently the smartest way to find relief from minor ailments like heartburn and headaches.
Special services for pregnancy:
Labor Preparation: Think ahead! Start in week 37.
All new moms – especially first time moms — expect their labor to start naturally. Unfortunately, sometimes babies don’t cooperate, and many women end up having to be medically induced sometime in week 41 or 42. Instead of waiting until the last minute to find out if you are going to be one of the overdue moms, stack the deck in your favor by starting Labor Preparation treatments in week 37. Studies have shown that women who received weekly acupuncture treatments in the four weeks leading up to their due date experienced:
- lower induction rates,
- fewer medical interventions, including C-sections,
- and shorter duration of labor.
Breech presentation: Breech presentations are common and frequently the babies correct themselves long before they are due. If this doesn’t happen by week 36-38 your midwife or physician will likely recommend an ECV (External Cephalic Version) which consists of manipulation of the belly and uterus to turn the baby manually. ECV’s are performed in a hospital because there can be risks. In order to lessen the chances of this happening to you, we strongly recommend you stack the deck in your favor by beginning Chinese breech treatments as soon as you know the baby is breech, usually in week 32-34. At this time the baby is still small enough to turn on its own, and acupuncture coaxes the baby to turn naturally. Our acupuncturist also teaches the mother and father how to do special heat treatments at home to improve the efficacy of treatments.
Post-partum: Post partum issues are very common and we are here to help.
Life with a newborn is full of joy and wonder but is also a time of new responsibilities, continued hormonal and physical changes, and a significant loss of “me” time. Up to 75% of women experience some form of “baby blues.” Migraineurs whose migraines disappeared during pregnancy may see them return. Milk production may be low. Post partum-thyroiditis occurs in 5-10% of women, with long term thyroid complications in up to 25% of those cases. All of these issues can be effectively managed with acupuncture and sometimes herbs. All herbal formulas would be constructed to be safe for a nursing mother.
Peri-menopause and menopause
Women with severe hot flashes, mood swings, and other menopausal symptoms don’t have a lot of great options, since the hormones and antidepressants sometimes used to ease the problems come with some significant risks. Fortunately there is an alternative. There have been several studies demonstrating that after 10 sessions (with a licensed practitioner who had at least six years of experience), women treated with acupuncture reported significantly fewer hot flashes and mood swings. Additional sessions appeared to offer additional benefits, particularly against hot flashes. Acupuncture also treats night sweats, insomnia, dry throat and mouth, and irritability.
The desire to have children is universal. And when it doesn’t happen naturally or just by “trying” the emotional repercussions can be devastating. Every time you have a period it’s a devastating realization that your dream is still unrealized. Sadly, even though the problem is very common (some estimates place the incidence of infertility at one out of every eight couples in the US) it is still somewhat taboo to discuss, leaving many couples in the dark and unsure of what to do.
After a year of trying, a couple can be officially diagnosed as infertile and most doctors will recommend that the couple seek out a fertility specialist. Almost invariably this couple is now relegated to making multiple and lengthy trips to the specialist, undergoing multiple tests, and taking an ever-changing array of hormones to reset the woman’s cycle. This is followed by one of the many forms of ART (Assisted Reproductive Therapies) which includes harvesting eggs, artificial insemination, and in vitro fertilization. Despite all this, many fertility clinics can boast of success rates no higher than 60%.
There are several ways Chinese medicine can help with fertility issues. First, if you are already seeing a western fertility specialist, acupuncture can be done alongside those treatments to help increase the success rate. Studies have shown that adding acupuncture to western treatment can increase the likelihood of a resultant pregnancy by up to 40%.
Perhaps more importantly, Chinese medicine can be started prior to the “official” diagnosis of infertility. If you are concerned that you might be having fertility issues, you can come in and see our Chinese specialist and start alternative treatments immediately. In fact, many couples find this is all they need to achieve pregnancy. Treatments consist of both acupuncture and herbal formulas, and can focus on the woman, the man, or both, as needed.
Habitual miscarriage: if you have lost a pregnancy one or more times and are worried that you are still at risk, acupuncture and herbs can help. This is because the history of Chinese medicine is closely tied to the Emperors and Dynasties of ancient China. It was up to the physicians to ensure that a future heir was never lost. There is never a guarantee, but we have many gentle and effective ways of seeing a pregnancy through the first trimester.
If desired, our acupuncturist also offers couples a private educational session about Chinese medical views of fertility and infertility before starting treatments.