Several women experiencing post-pill amenorrhea have presented in this clinic in the past few months. Generally, it is considered to be amenorrhea if no natural menstrual cycle has occurred within six months of stopping the contraceptive pill. The medical literature considers this to be a small but significant risk, with an incidence of around 1% or so, however, when it does happen, particularly if it happens when you are ready to begin planning a family, it can be distressing.
In some cases, the woman’s natural (pre-pill) cycles were either irregular, or scanty, or both, which in themselves can coincide with difficulties conceiving.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are being called on increasingly by couples wishing to conceive, and this is not only because there is some research indicating a significant benefit. It is important to realise that problems conceiving can occur both on the male side or on the female side, but women tend to be in the majority of those who, at first, seek treatment.
This may simply be down to the fact that women’s menstrual cycles give a regular snapshot of her general state of health, hormonal activity, nutritional status, and often, stress levels. Men do not have any system that is as obvious for detecting such things.
When treating women for fertility issues that are not caused by physical barriers (such as a blocked Fallopian tube or similar), acupuncture treatment is always aimed at establishing regular and healthy menstrual cycles – a sound proxy for fertility.
We want to see the period recurring at regular intervals, preferably at intervals of 26-31 days, with a flow that lasts between 3-7 days, with a minimum of premenstrual symptoms, or cramping, with a clean red discharge that is neither too copious nor too scanty.
The actual cycle, where it departs from any of these conditions, provides valuable diagnostic information as to how to bring it back to health, however, the complete absence of a cycle can make this more difficult.
With amenorrhea, we have to find other proxies to establish what is preventing the cycle from re-establishing itself. Temperature charting (which I will return to in more detail in a future post), is a second line of important diagnostic information. It is also useful for women who can begin to see the changes that the treatment is bringing about in the shape of their temperature chart, often before an actual visible “result” – such as a natural period.