|Irregular Periods & Amenorrhea|
|A normal menstrual cycle should arrive every 28-32 days, with 4-7 days of bleeding. When the period is delayed significantly, or never arrives at all – it is known as amenorrhea. In western medicine, this disorder can be classified as one of two types: Primary and Secondary. Primary amenorrhea is diagnosed when a woman is 18 years of age or older and has never had a period. Secondary amenorrhea occurs when a woman has had periods, but they have stopped later in life.Causes of AmenorrheaA menstrual cycle that has stopped is not a disease, it may be a sign that there is an underlying imbalance in the body. A regular menstrual cycle is regulated by a complex system of messages and actions orchestrated by the endocrine system. The endocrine glands work together to send messages via hormones. This is called the feedback loop. There are many causes that can affect the endocrine system and disrupt the menstrual cycle.Being Overweight or Underweight
There is a direct link between anovulation and obesity and those women who are over weight. Obese women may have too much estrogen due to too much body fat. Women who are underweight may also have anovulation due to lack of body fat. There may not be enough estrogen or adequate cholesterol levels being maintained to support the menstrual cycle. Studies have shown that women with extreme exercise habits have significantly lower levels of estradiol due to low levels of body fat in key areas of the body, leading to anovulation.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age. Young woman sometimes think that not having a cycle or only one that comes 3-6 times year is a good thing because they do not have to worry about menstruation; however they do not realize that this will impact their fertility. It is not natural for woman to menstruate 3-6 times a year. There are two distinct symptoms of PCOS: absent period or inconsistent menstrual cycles and hyperandrogenism (the body is producing too many androgens, the most common one being testosterone). Hyperandrogenism can cause unwanted body and facial hair, cystic acne and increased weight gain.
Increased stress that goes unmanaged can cause the body to stop menstruating. The Stress Response (AKA The Fight or Flight Response) causes the adrenal glands to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that prevent your fertility hormones from being released at the correct times in the menstrual cycle. This disruption caused by your adrenal glands causes your Hypothalamus and Pituitary Glands from working properly thus creating an imbalance with your hormones. Reducing stress and supporting adrenal health is essential to a healthy menstrual cycle.
Poor thyroid function may cause the menstrual cycle to stop. An overactive thyroid or an underactive thyroid can cause significant problems with reproductive function. Many times discovering this irregularity is the first sign that the endocrine system is not functioning properly. An absent menstrual cycle is a sign of hyperthyroidism, where irregular or heavy cycles may be a sign of hypothyroidism. Often times an autoimmune thyroid may also play a role. Unfortunately, thyroid irregularities are very common among western women. This is something that regularly goes undiagnosed. At Reproductive Wellness, San Diego’s premier Acupuncture and Functional Medicine Clinic, we diagnose thyroid problems every day.
Amenorrhea and Infertility
A successful pregnancy depends on regular ovulation. If eggs are not regularly maturing and being released from the ovary, conception cannot occur. Amenorrhea, or lack of a period, has serious implications for a woman’s fertility because it often indicates that ovulation is not occurring.
Acupuncture and Reproductive Wellness Can Help
Chinese medicine is extremely effective at treating the underlying conditions that disrupt the menstrual cycle.
According to Chinese medicine, a “healthy” menstrual cycle:
- Is about 28 days
- Is regular every month
- Flows 4-7 day
- Has a bright red blood color
- Is of average consistency
- Is of average flow
- Has no clots
- Has no spotting.
Studies have shown that herbal medicine may
- Regulate menstrual cycles
- Alleviate endometriosis pain
- Thicken an unresponsive endometrium
- Restore normal menstruation in patients with amenorrhea and oligomenorrhea
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