Acupuncture During the Three Stages of Women’s Health
Dec 31, 2014 03:31AM
● By Jody Eisemann
As the world’s oldest continuously practiced healthcare system, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) – of which acupuncture is a part – is a standalone medical science with little overlap with Western allopathic concepts. While acupuncture has gained a level of acceptance in Western society, many people are still unaware that acupuncture can effectively treat far more than just pain.
Acupuncture is not a biochemical, mechanical or even a structural medicine or technique; it is an energetic medicine. Patients’ treatments are based on TCM diagnostic theory that will treat imbalances of the body by using the movement of energy or qi to correct the condition, whether it is pain, a digestive problem, a negative emotional state or resulting from a woman’s unique gynecological make-up.
TCM theory places a lot of emphasis on menstrual health as an indicator of a woman’s overall vitality, as well as her fertility and longevity. All women should be able to expect a comfortable monthly menses, successful pregnancies and a relatively easy menopause. Sadly, many women today do not experience such gynecological ease. In such cases, acupuncture and the many tools of TCM may represent a real alternative to pharmaceuticals or surgery. In fact, acupuncture and TCM can often have some remarkable results, especially in the treatment of women’s healthcare issues at all three stages of life: menstruation, fertility/pregnancy and menopause.
PMS, early, late or missed periods, heavy or scanty flows or even no period at all are indicators that the energetic meridian flow involved in the menstrual cycle is not coursing smoothly. A Western diagnosis of uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts and endometriosis are often caused by similar energetic issues but can indicate the meridian flow has stagnated further. This can also give rise to varied conditions ranging from pain, fertility issues, migraines, emotional irritability to depression.
Western medicine will often prescribe the birth control pill to manage or mask such unpleasant menstrual symptoms. However, the pill will not correct the underlying original hormonal imbalance that gave rise to those symptoms. With acupuncture, often accompanied by the use of Chinese herbs and implementing some lifestyle changes, a woman’s menstrual cycle can be rebalanced and corrected.
Acupuncture and TCM have a long history of treating fertility issues in women as well as in men. The reproductive system, which is not necessary for daily survival, can be one of the functions the body can slow down in order to survive stressful ordeals or if an individual is in poor health. In our daily lives in the U.S., many of us overwork, overeat and get little sleep; most people do not realize just how stressed out they are. Sometimes an acupuncture session is one of the few times people can get to destress and relax.
Acupuncture and TCM generally have a high success rate with functional infertility like various hormonal imbalances, endocrine disorders and emotional problems as well as some structural infertility issues, including pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis and ovary dysfunction. Additionally, acupuncture can also help improve other fertility risk factors such as elevated follicle stimulating hormone, polycystic ovarian syndrome, fibroids, previous in-vitro fertilization (IVF) failures, uterine adhesions and more. Acupuncture has also been shown, when used in conjunction with IVF, to increase the successful transfer of the embryo and to aid in sustaining a healthy pregnancy. With consistent treatment to correct underlying imbalances, a woman’s chances of a successful pregnancy are much higher once she has had three normal consecutive periods and barring any structural abnormalities or reproductive issues for her partner.
Using acupuncture during pregnancy has been proven to be a safe and effective way to strengthen the uterus for the developing fetus, help prevent miscarriages, correct breech birth positions, alleviate morning sickness, and reduce instances of hypertension, edema and eclampsia.
Many practitioners suggest that pregnant women can lower their stress level if they avoid upsetting films and books or negative news reports. Exercise such as walking, swimming, tai chi or yoga classes designed for pregnancy should be mildly invigorating but not exhausting. It is also considered important to rest more often, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, to avoid exhaustion that could negatively affect a woman’s efforts in labor.
Additionally, pre-birth acupuncture in the last four weeks of pregnancy has been shown to help prepare women for childbirth. In a large study in New Zealand, it was shown that pre-birth acupuncture offered a wide range of positive benefits from cutting down on the time in labor to reducing the rate of medical intervention during childbirth.
Acupuncture can help a mother who has had a previous cesarean to deliver vaginally (VBAC) and can also induce labor if it is delayed or not progressing. In China, electro-acupuncture can be used instead of anesthesia during cesarean surgery, thereby making the delivery easier for the baby and aiding in a faster recovery for the mother.
Once the baby has been born, acupuncture and herbs have proven to be helpful in restoring a new mother’s energy, increasing low breast milk production, healing birth injuries, low back pain and hemorrhoids and dealing with post-natal depression.
Menopause represents a major change in a woman’s physiological processes. Traditionally, it represents a time when the children are raised and a woman is now free to pursue her own interests, acquiring new or refining old skills, reflecting on wisdom learned, and teaching and caring for others in a new way.
However, in actuality, menopause for many women can be a very stressful time because of symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, night sweats, frequent urination and irritability. Interestingly, there is no word for hot flashes in Japanese because the women of Japan don’t seem to have them — the reason why is unknown. It may be because, but it may be because they eat very little red meat and milk products. While such stressful menopausal symptoms may be common in our culture, it doesn’t mean it is normal.
In the case of menopausal hot flashes and night sweats, acupuncture and herbs can often give quick relief for these debilitating problems. Using a special point in the ear, known as shenmen (“spiritgate”), is calming for any kind of anxiety or irritability associated with “internal heat,” heat that is often common in menopausal women in the U.S.
Licensed acupuncturists (LAc) go to graduate school for three years or more, are conversant with Western medicine, trained in TCM theory, diagnosis and application, and sit for a national two-day exam. Licensed by each state, LAcs can provide effective healthcare options for women, men and children.
Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine have much to offer all people, especially when it comes to chronic low-grade health conditions that have no explanation or real solution other than just managing those symptoms. Acupuncture is an ancient science that is still relevant today and is far more than just sticking needles where there is pain.
Jody Eisemann, LAc, NCCAOM, of Acupuncture Healing CT has more than 20 years experience treating with acupuncture. She sees patients in Norwalk and Trumbull. Call 203-216-2548 or visit AcupunctureHealingCT.com for more information. See ad, page 75.