Acupuncture and Women's Health

Many women in the West are not aware that Chinese medicine can be used to treat all aspects of their life including balancing the menstrual cycle (regulation, pain, lack of periods and irregular bleeding, etc.), infertility, pregnancy, labor, and postpartum issues.

People know that acupuncture is used for all types of pain. Acupuncture, which is just one part of Chinese medicine, has been around for thousands of years and is a full system of medicine used to treat just about any illness, including menstrual and pregnancy problems. Some of the earliest writing of Chinese gynecological medicine date before 1000 BC. Every Chinese dynasty since has produced writings of intense study of women’s life cycles and issues specific to women. Even today, since the spread of Chinese medicine across the world, there are studies being conducted under strict modern research guidelines in both Chinese and Western hospital and clinics. Acupuncture masters continue to study the ancient texts even after decades of practice and pass their knowledge on to their students. One well-known English language OB/GYN text is nearly 1000 pages long. With this history and depth of knowledge, it is clear that Chinese medicine has something to offer today’s woman.

To reduce the concepts of Chinese medical theory into a few paragraphs is practically impossible. The concepts were developed several thousand years ago, but the theories are simply a different way of looking at how the body functions. It might help to look at the simple basic concept of Yin and Yang.

Yin and Yang describe two halves (opposites) of the something: summer/winter, day/night, hot/cold, excess/deficiency, internal/external. The Chinese concept of Yin and Yang is used to diagnose imbalances in the body. Like days and years all go through cycles, our bodies follow similar cycles. Yin (analogous to water; heavy, nourishing, cooling, resting), and Yang (analogous to fire; upward moving, drying, heat, activity) should be balanced in the body as they are in nature. When there is too much Yang, there may be heat, sweating, and more activity in the body. As people age, the Yin begins to decline, the skin gets drier, the joints are not as well lubricated, and internal processes slow down. When the yin declines, there is not enough water to cool the existing fire, and the fire flares up randomly (hot flashes) or when the yin should be full (night sweats). In the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy, yin nourishment via the blood and fluids is very important.

Beyond Yin and Yang, the Chinese system looks for a balance in the interaction of the internal organs from the ancient perspective, similar to how the seasons are balanced. Obviously, if there is sickness then something must be out of balance. Trauma, stress, poor diet, overwork, and too much heat or cold are just some of the factors that can cause a shift. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are used to bring the internal system back into equilibrium. For women, keeping the menstrual cycle in its natural rhythm and flow is important for general health and for fertility.

When a woman is pregnant, acupuncture can help with morning sickness by determining whether there is too much heat or cold, whether there is dampness from the environment or certain types of food (think sugar, bread, dairy), whether there is depletion of the reservoir of blood because it has been diverted to nourish the fetus, or whether the reservoir of energy has depleted the mother affecting the normal digestive function. Beyond morning sickness, acupuncture is used during pregnancy to help with anxiety, edema, pain, and even threatened miscarriage. At the end of pregnancy, acupuncture can help to induce labor (by using points that are normally forbidden during pregnancy), help with pain control and even turn a breech baby.

Acupuncture uses very thin, sterile, single use needles and treatments usually last 30 minutes to an hour. Licensed Acupuncturists are required to have attended a certified four-year program, pass national exams and are licensed by the State. The system works well in conjunction with Western medicine, is very safe, and oddly enough, very relaxing.