Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is one of the leading causes for infertility in women. It affects 90% of women with irregular menstrual cycles and 10% of women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS develop small cysts that inhibit follicular development by producing androgens (male hormones) and have elevated LH (luteinizing hormone) levels. Because of this, most women with PCOS tend to have irregular periods and do not ovulate, as they don’t generally produce mature follicles (as the ripening of follicles is interrupted mid process).
Symptoms Associated with PCOS
· Irregular or lack of ovulation
· Irregular or absent periods
· High insulin levels & insulin resistance which disrupts the estrogen and progesterone rich environment follicles grow in
· Increased likelihood of miscarriage
· Excessive body hair growth
Acupuncture & PCOS
Acupuncture & Chinese medicine can effectively treat PCOS. Because acupuncture is a holistic system of medicine, treatment varies form person to person. We look at the underlying root cause and treat the foundation of the pattern. It can take a minimum of a few cycles of treatment to positively affect the hormonal state of the body and effectively work on follicular development, ovulation, and regulation of the cycle overall.
In Chinese Medicine, there can be many diagnoses for any one condition. Shannon takes the time to look at what other symptoms and health concerns might be contributing to a patient’s PCOS. She looks at a patient’s lifestyle, diet, exercise routine, emotional state, sleep, stress levels, and past medical issues. This helps her to effectively create an individualized treatment plan for each patient.
Many women with PCOS are prescribed ovulatory stimulating medications to initiate ovulation. These medications are effective for ovulation, but they do not effectively help egg quality. Acupuncture can be a great conjunctive therapy to help to initiate healthy follicles and eggs so that once ovulation has occurred, there is a greater likelihood of conception, implantation, and viability of pregnancy.
Research on PCOS & Acupuncture
A study conducted by Swedish researches at the University of Gothenburg, found that exercise and electro-acupuncture treatments could reduce some symptoms of PCOS. Swedish researchers were looking for a long-lasting treatment for PCOS without adverse side effects. During the 16-week study, 9 women with an average age of 30 years underwent 14 acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture was applied to the abdominal muscles and back of the knee, points associated with the ovaries. The needles in the abdomen and leg were stimulated with a low-frequency electrical charge–enough to stimulate muscle contractions without resulting in pain or discomfort. The study found that the electro-acupuncture treatments led to more regular menstrual cycles, reduced testosterone levels and reduced waist circumference (but no drop in body mass index or weight). The authors noted that their study had some limitations, including a small sample size.
In other research, investigators concluded that acupuncture was able to improve “menstrual frequency and decrease circulating androgens in women with PCOS.” Infertility is an unwanted complication associated with some forms of PCOS, and acupuncture showed significant clinical improvements in the women studied.
Another study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism concludes that low frequency electroacupuncture improved menstrual frequency and balanced sex steroid levels in women with PCOS. The study measured improvements in a wide range of endocrine variables such that the researchers concluded that electroacupuncture may help induce ovulation in women attempting to conceive since participants showed significant improvements in monthly menstrual frequency. There are similarities in the acupuncture point selection in this study with the study of women with anovulatory infertility.
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