What are we treating when we treat fertility?
When I perform an acupuncture treatment I always have a very clear idea of what I am trying to do. The treatment is always aimed at balancing different energies, supplementing areas of deficiency, reducing areas of excess or moving areas that are blocked. In Chinese medicine the diagnostic process is called ‘identification of patterns’. Treatment is aimed at resolving these patterns of disharmony within the body.
Treatment of patterns
Fertility treatment leads on from the diagnosis we arrived at. If energies are deficient then I choose acupuncture points which will tonify those energies. I will use a tonification needle technique to boost liver blood or to help strenghten and balance kidney yin and yang. I will make diet and lifestyle suggestions as to how you can help these yourself in daily life. If there is cold we warm and move the energy, we drain damp, invigorate blood if it is stagnant or cool it if is too hot. There are points and point combinations which aim to treat all these things.
Regulating the menstrual cycle
As well as treating the individual patterns of disharmony acupuncture treatment is also targeted at regulating the menstrual cycle. Different treatment principles are followed at different phases of the cycle:
Menstrual period phase. Treatment principle is to regulate menstruation; to stop bleeding if the period is heavy or invigorate Blood if it is scanty.
Post-menstrual phase. This correlates with the follicular phase. The development of the follicle depends on the nourishing qualities of the Blood and Yin energies. In Phase 2 we nourish Blood and tonify the Kidneys (especially the Yin aspect).
Inter-menstrual and mid-cycle phase. This correlates with ovulation and the early part of the luteal phase. Treatment principle is to tonify the Kidneys and consolidate the Ren and Chong Mai.
Pre-menstrual Phase. Here the principle is to tonify Yang. The Yang energy is the warming aspect of the body’s energies and there is a correlation here with the warming aspect of progesterone in the luteal phase. Strengthening Kidney Yang is thought to help support the luteal phase. We also move Liver-Qi. This helps to regulate a smooth flow of energy to help the movement of the egg from the ovary to the fallopian tube and on to the uterus.
An implicit understanding of Chinese Medicine is that our emotions have a direct influence on our bodies. Stress has a heating affect on the body which causes stagnation of Liver Qi (frustration, irritability, depression, feeling stuck, heavy), causes Heat in the Liver and Heart (headaches, moodswings, insomnia, feeling out of control, stressed and anxious). Heat can travel from the Heart to the Uterus as there is a direct energetic link; the Bao Mai. There is a correlation here with the pituitary, hypothalamus, adrenals, ovaries and the whole regulation of stress and sex hormones.
When I am treating fertility issues I always have an eye on how my patient’s stress levels are and how they might be affecting their internal energies. Patients often start acupuncture for their fertility but keep it going for the relaxation and calmness it brings them!