SG was a 34 year old woman that came to City Acupuncture Fulton Street (in downtown Manhattan) to see if acupuncture could help her get pregnant. She had recently been to a Reproductive Endocrinologist who diagnosed her with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and recommended intrauterine insemination (IUI).
The IUI involved a series of intense hormone injections, and the doctor told her frankly it wasn't even likely to work but she might as well try before IVF, as the IVF is very expensive. So SG came to City Acupuncture hoping to avoid the whole process if possible.
As with all of my fertility support patients, I spent some time on her first visit listening to her story. It turns out that like so many of us "city people" she spent most of her twenties and early thirties thinking that she didn't want kids. Instead, she focused on her career as a public school teacher and took the pill. Her periods were very regular and not something that she would have thought to complain about at all.
It wasn't until she and her partner decided for sure they were ready to welcome a baby that she found out that her cycle was actually very irregular, but the pill was covering it up. At first she thought it was just the after effects of coming off the pill but even 6 months later she was only having a period every 6 weeks or so. Some months she skipped a cycle all together.
None of this would have even mattered to her, except she wasn't getting pregnant. After 8 months TTC she began to research natural methods of becoming pregnant, as would any good teacher.
That's when she learned more about her menstrual cycle, and she realized that she was not ovulating with regularity, and she correctly deducted that this was making it much harder to get pregnant. She also realized for the first time that the level of pain she felt during her periods was not typical.
With all of this info and her complete medical history I was able to determine that SG had an acupuncture diagnosis of cold stagnation in the uterus. This is one of the more common acupuncture problems that leads to a medical diagnosis of PCOS. I won't go deep into the theory here but suffice it to say that it leads to purple menstrual blood, painful periods, missed periods, and a feeling of cold in the abdomen during menstruation. SG had all of these signs, so it was a pretty good fit.
I chose acupuncture points to address the cold in the uterus, and gave her some moxa cones to use at home. I also asked her to use a heating pad during her period as much as possible and to report on the result. She was on week five at the time of her first visit.
When she came the next week she still had not started menstruation. We did the same points and she made an appointment for the following week.
When I saw her next she was at the tail end of her cycle. It was still painful but very much less so. She was so greatly encouraged by the result that she committed to a series of 10 more sessions, once per week.
Each week I changed the acupuncture protocol to match where she was in her cycle. In this way I was able to use the acupuncture to "train" her cycle. By the end of the 12th session her cycle was coming regularly every 4 weeks and was not nearly as painful or unpleasant.
SG was also amazed to see the blood color turn more red. I know that's kinda weird to hear if you are new to acupuncture but the truth is you can learn a LOT about what's going on in your body by analyzing the menstrual blood. One of my favorite acupuncture teachers called it her "monthly report card." Especially when treating a problem like PCOS with acupuncture, it's very helpful to have this monthly check in where your body tells you how we are doing.
Now that her periods were regular, we were able to focus the acupuncture on her cervical mucous. When I asked her about it on her initial evaluation she had no idea what I was talking about! But by 12 sessions of acupuncture she was far more empowered with the knowledge of how her body works. Part of that was from consulting with me, part of it was from reading on her own time, but most of it was from lying with the needles in.
I hear this over and over, not just from PCOS patients, that people "connect" to their bodies during the acupuncture session, and then for days afterward they feel more in tune with how they actually feel.
All in all it took 20 sessions (once a week for 4 months) before her cycle was totally regular and her cervical mucous was healthy and to no one's surprise SG got pregnant. This was not an easy fix, or a miracle cure. But along the way, SG noticed improved sleep, improved digestion, and a far calmer mood. Pretty great side effects! Added bonus she has since had two more kids without IUI, IVF or even acupuncture.