Women’s Health from a Chinese Medicine Perspective
I recently attended the Integrative Fertility Symposium 2019 in Vancouver BC. The speakers were international ranging from Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists, to Naturopathic Doctors and Western Medical Doctors. It was three days of an outpouring of knowledge about women’s health, fertility, pregnancy, birthing and peri-menopause to menopause.
In my practice here in Smithers BC, I see women of all ages and stages in their life. However the majority of my patients are pregnant or peri-menopausal women. I think the biggest take away for me is how our constitution and current female health affects our bodies so much more than we realize and if the body is not balanced, you may not have a healthy menstrual cycle, you may have troubles with fertility, difficulties with pregnancy and birthing and this can follow you into menopause. If I had only known this years ago when I was having babies!! Luckily, the body responds incredibly well to healing itself if we give it a little boost.
Let’s first have a quick discussion about your period. Often women think that it’s normal to have a painful or heavy period, or even very light period. You should not experience pain, be overly exhausted, sleepless or excessively moody during or before your period. The biggest factor that I see affecting menstrual cycles today is stress. Yes, we all have it in varying degrees and how our bodies and our minds respond to stress affects our monthly cycle. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the characteristics of your period tell me how your stress (be it emotional, physical or environmental) is affecting your body and what that means for your overall health. This is why your Acupuncturist wants to know all the minute details of your period. The different characteristics of your menstrual cycle translate into terms in Chinese Medicine such as, blood deficiency, yin deficiency, yang deficiency, heat in the blood, liver qi stagnation etc. which translate to many different symptoms such as pain, exhaustion, depression, sleeplessness, constipation/diarrhea etc within your cycle. If you are pregnant or heading into menopause, these issues don’t easily go away and can be exacerbated by the changes in your body. In pregnancy, yin deficiency can translate to a range of symptoms from really dry itchy skin, to lack of dilation of your cervix in labour. Where as in menopause, vaginal dryness and night sweats can be exacerbated. These can all then be addressed through acupuncture, diet, supplements and exercise regimes that are tailored to your body’s needs.
It is incredibly important to set your body up for success when we are dealing with large hormonal shifts such as pregnancy and menopause. If we can treat those symptoms that you may think are normal side effects before those big life shifts happen, then we can let our bodies do what they were meant to do and those changes will happen with ease.
If you have any concerns regarding your menstrual cycle or pregnancy, please contact us at Trillium and we’d be happy to discuss your specific concerns.