There are four important milestones in a woman’s reproductive life – menstruation, pregnancy, labour and menopause. While most women are mindful to take good care of themselves during pregnancy and their confinement period, many tend to overlook the importance of a healthy monthly menstrual cycle.
What is a menstrual cycle?
A regular menstrual cycle comprises four phases:
- Menstrual flow – descending flow of energy and blood expels old blood in order for new blood to regenerate.
- Post-menses – a vacuum occurs in the conception and governing vessels that needs to be renourished by new blood and essence. This can be achieved through strengthening digestive and kidney functions. The new blood prepares the uterus for implantation and pregnancy.
- Ovulation – kidney function increases and stimulates the ovaries for ovulation.
- Pre-menstrual – kidney yang energy facilitates the implantation of the blastocyst (fertilised egg). Where there is no implantation, the yang energy will peak and decline and menstruation starts again.
Typically, an average menstrual cycle lasts between 28 to 35 days. Menstrual cycles begin during puberty when the female is between twelve and fifteen years of age – although some girls as young as ten or even eight have their first period then – and end after menopause which occurs between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five. Menstrual cycles are the vital component in a female reproductive system that make pregnancy possible, as the cycle enables the production and maturation of oocytes (ovum) and the preparation of uterus for implantation.
Deviations from the above phases may result in irregular menstruation, scanty or excessive menstrual bleeding, menstrual cramps, or growth of cysts and fibroids. From a TCM point of view, weekly acupuncture sessions can help women maintain regular menstrual cycles. The term 针灸 refers to the use of needles and moxibustion to stimulate the flow of energy and blood via acupoints located on meridians – the paths through which qi flows– that connect the body and organs.
How does acupuncture help regulate menstrual cycles?
There are three ways that acupuncture can help maintain a healthy menstrual cycle:
- Improve circulation – acupuncture can activate the energy gateways to remove qi stagnation or blockages in the body’s meridians. This stimulates energy and blood supply that improves circulation.
- Strengthen body and eliminate pathogens – energy levels and the body’s immune system are strengthened, while the pathogens that create internal disharmony are eliminated.
- Regulate yin yang harmony – where there is yin yang harmony, good health will follow.
Besides going for acupuncture treatments, patients should also abstain from cold food and drinks, exercise regularly and sleep early to maintain menstrual wellness.
IMPORTANT MERIDIANS FOR HEALTHY MENSTRUATION
Conception vessel 任脉, also known as the “Sea of Yin”
Running up the front of the body from the pubic area to the mouth, this meridian is important for and during pregnancy. It is often used to treat menstrual irregularities.
Governing vessel 督脉
Yang in nature, this meridian runs from the tailbone upwards along the mid-line of the back through the vertebrae to the head. Together with the conception vessel, they facilitate the body’s yin yang balance.
Penetrating vessel 冲脉, also known as the “Sea of Blood”
This meridian passes through the uterus. Aside from treating menstrual and infertility issues, it can also help treat digestive and respiratory issues.
Girdle vessel 带脉
This meridian can be used to resolve reproductive issues and treat muscular weakness in the legs and lumbar area.