Menstrual Irregularities

What Are Menstrual Irregularities?

Before we can talk about irregular periods, we should define exactly what a regular period is. It usually occurs every 28 or 30 days and lasts anywhere from 3 to 7 days. Every woman’s cycle is a bit different. You may get your period every 21 days or every 35 days, but as long as they occur with roughly the same number of days between each cycle, they are regular.

Menstrual irregularities may take various forms, from short cycle to long cycle, irregular periods, heavy periods, scanty periods, long periods, mid-cycle bleeding, painful periods or amenorrhea.

  • Early periods: periods consistently up to 7 days early so that the cycle is less than 28 days long for more than 2 successive cycles.
  • Late periods: periods up to 7 days late for more than 2 cycles.
  • Irregular periods: periods sometimes late and sometimes early in an unpredictable pattern.
  • Heavy periods: periods are regular, lasting 3 to 7 days but heavier than normal. They often start with a gush of blood necessitating an urgent use and frequent changes of tampon or sanitary towels.
  • Scanty or light periods: bleeding is very light, may last only 2-3 days or is extremely sparse, like a small drip.
  • Long periods: prolonged bleeding (for up to 2 weeks) while the cycle is regular and the amount of bleeding itself not excessive.
  • Painful periods (dysmenorrheal): menstrual pain occurring before, during or after menstruation. In severe cases, symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, or even fainting.
  • Bleeding between periods occurs consistently at about the midpoint of the cycle, which may last 1-2 days, though occasionally longer.
  • Primary amenorrhea (absence of period): absence of period by the time a woman is 18.
  • Secondary amenorrhea: periods have stopped for at least three months.

Menstruation may be considered as a monthly report card. The timing of ovulation, the symptoms of pain, emotional fluctuations, breast tenderness, the color and consistency of the blood, the heaviness of the bleeding – all of these different characteristics of the period reveal information about hormonal balance or imbalance, and even the presence of concerns such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome.

Menstrual irregularities can be caused by many reasons: emotional changes, such as anger, stress, or excessive worrying, long term use of antibiotics or oral contraceptives, poor diet, insufficient rest and sleep, too much sexual activity, history of sexual abuse, surgery and etc.

Treatment for Menstrual Irregularities

Most doctors will put a woman with irregular periods on the contraceptive pill. The pill does a good job of overriding your own hormonal interplay and supplementing your body so that it does not experience the symptoms of hormonal imbalance anymore.

This will regulate menstrual cycles but unfortunately does not treat the root cause of the irregularity. Consequently, when a woman discontinues the pill, the irregularity will most likely return. What happens is that the pill tricks the body into thinking that it is pregnant and does not allow for ovulation. No egg is released from the ovary and pregnancy cannot occur. Essentially, the hormones override the body’s natural hormone balance. Therefore, for women who are sure they would someday like to conceive a child, it is to their advantage to rectify the hormonal imbalance without oral contraception.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine provide a natural, safe and effective way to resolve most menstrual irregularities. See the individual topic below to learn more.

Acupuncture Treatment for Menstrual Irregularities

Chinese Medicine views menstrual disorders as a condition of systematic imbalance and disharmony of the body. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believed that the menstrual cycle is dependent on the body having sufficient amounts yin, yang, Qi, blood, and the proper balancing of these elements. If one or more of these becomes unbalanced, irregularities, pain, or other symptoms may result.

To regulate the menstrual cycle by acupuncture therapy, a diagnosis focusing on finding out which pattern of diseases (what kind of imbalance the patient has) will be made based on history, pulse and tongue diagnosis, and lifestyle. Then an individual treatment plan just tailored for the patient will be set according to the Chinese diagnosis.

The average time for treatment is 3-6 months.  It takes time for the body to adjust hormone levels and balance out the menstrual cycle. Acupuncture is effective and safe, and adding herbal therapy to the treatments would enhance the therapeutic effects. Because each individual situation is different, treatment requirements will vary.

In order to maintain the benefits receiving from treatment, patients may need to make some changes in their diet and lifestyle. Acupuncturist may also recommend a Chinese herbal formula to help maintain balance.

Research for Acupuncture and Menstrual Irregularities

Hormonal imbalances are thought to be the cause of menstrual irregularities from a western medical point of view. Acupuncture has been shown to assist the endocrine system in keeping balanced levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body.

Acupuncture treatment can also bring a deep sense of relaxation over the body allowing it to function on its highest level.

A November 2002 study in the medical journal Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics showed a 77.8% success rate in treating PMS with acupuncture as opposed to a 5.9% success rate in the placebo control group.

A German study of 201 women found that acupuncture relieved menstrual pain, severe cramps and discomfort. The majority of patients receiving acupuncture reported at least a 33% decrease in pain following 10 acupuncture treatments.

There are no known side effects from acupuncture. Acupuncture is extremely effective at treating menstrual disorders including painful periods, irregular periods, amenorrhea, and PMS. (American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Feb. 2008).

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