What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a metabolic disorder affecting 1 in 10 women in their reproductive years. Poly means ‘many’ and cysts mean ‘fluid-filled sacs’. A woman must have 2 of the 3 below to be diagnosed with PCOS –
- High levels of male hormones (androgens).
- Irregular or missing period.
- Poly Cystic Ovaries that are enlarged and have more than 10 fluid-filled cysts.
A proper diagnosis must involve a pelvis ultrasound along with a blood test to check for hormonal imbalance.
The cause of PCOS is unknown, but if your mother, sister, or aunt has PCOS then you are likely to develop the condition. High levels of androgens prevent the ovaries from producing the hormones responsible for ovulation. The excess androgens can be due to genetic predisposition, insulin resistance, or low-grade inflammation in the body.
There is no known cure for PCOS either – only management of symptoms. Studies have shown Acupuncture and Herbal medicine are safe and effective treatments for Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. There have been significant improvements in pregnancy rates, ovulation, and clinical symptoms of PCOS.
The other accompanying symptoms are –
- Hirsutism (Hair growth on the face, chin, back, and chest)
- Facial acne
- Weight gain
- Darkening of the skin around body creases like neck
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disorders
- Mood disorders
- Male pattern baldness
How TCM sees PCOS?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), PCOS is usually due to poor Kidney energy and Damp retention in the body. The main reason for water accumulation is the failure of kidney yang to ‘steam’ the water upward. Compounded by a lack of free flow of Liver qi and Blood stagnation, the fluid forms a firm phlegmy mass such as an ovarian cyst. Any form of qi and blood stagnation can be seen as a circulation disorder. All those pathologies combined are the root cause of PCOS.
Acupuncture has been used to treat PCOS for hundreds of years with great results. Treatment focus is on the below pathologies –
- Kidney Yang Deficiency
- Spleen Deficiency with Damp retention
- Live Qi and Blood stagnation
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Acupuncture will boost Kidney function and increase yang. This will not just shrink the cysts but also balance hormone levels and regulate ovulation. Resolving dampness from the body involves strengthening the Spleen. Lifestyle and diet can easily impair Spleen in its function resulting in the production of dampness in the body. Moving Qi and Blood will improve circulation and resolve stagnation.
Does PCOS affect fertility?
While PCOS is a condition that has ripple effects like diabetic pre-disposition, cardiovascular conditions, and weight gain, it also is a barrier to conception. The anovulatory cycles make it difficult to time intercourse. There is also an increased risk of miscarriage associated with those suffering from PCOS. This is due to poor egg quality stemming from unbalanced hormones during egg development.
The good news is all the above can be easily corrected with acupuncture and herbal medicine. Jia Wei Xiao Yao San and Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan are commonly prescribed formulas for PCOS. As well, twice-week acupuncture treatments are ideal for best results. Acupuncture not only helps treat PCOS at the root but also helps prevent miscarriage and support pregnancy. Miscarriage prevention involves increasing blood flow to the uterus and boosting kidney qi. This is particularly important during the early stages of pregnancy.