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Can acupuncture regulate a menstrual cycle?

Q:  My menstural cycle can be anything from 40-65 days and I want to try for a baby! Can acupuncture help regulate a menstural cycle?

A: The evidence from research trials for treating the problem of irregular periods is not that great, and this summary of research into menstrual problems

concludes what most of them do, that there aren't enough studies and that more needs to be done. When you consider how trials are conducted, though, this is not a surprise. Researchers like a very clean definition of what they are trying to test, and irregular periods can mean anything and also have a number of distinct causes, as for example polcystic ovary syndrome, which means that it would be difficult to draw conclusions.

Chinese Medicine, however, has an entirely different understanding of the physiology of the human body based on a view that there is a flow of energy, called 'qi', which underpins all body functions and the balance and rhythms of which make sure that all natural processes take place as they should. Irregularities of periods, or sleep patterns or bowel movements, to name three of the most common problems which we treat, often point to specific parts of the system which are out of kilter, and if these are confirmed by the kinds of diagnosis which we undertake, there is a possibility that acupuncture treatment may be of benefit.

Of course, one of the 'management' issues which we always face is that it takes a few months to establish whether or not the treatment is working, and management of the treatment is a crucial business. We do not want to overtreat, and many practitioners have developed expertise at understanding the rhythms of the menstrual cycle in Chinese medicine terms and know how to make effective interventions at just the right time without just treating away weekly for three or four months.

The best advice we can give you is to contact a BAcC member local to you for a face to face assessment fo whether acupuncture may be of benefit in your circumstances. An increasing number of our members now specialise in fertility issues, and although we have not yet recognised agreed standards for expert practice, many of our members have undertaken high quality postgraduate practice in the field. If you good acupuncture and fertility for your area you will undoubtedly generate a number of names.

We have to warn you, though, to exercise caution. Fertility treatment has become big business, and there are many people now offering acupuncture who do not necessarily belong to professional associations and whose charges can be on the high side. Our members will be able to give you advice on who best to see in your area, even if they do not have this particular area of expertise themselves

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