A menstrual cycle begins with the first day of menstruation, and ends with the day prior to the day of the next menstruation.
It includes menstrual, follicular, ovulation, and luteal phases.
The menstrual phase involves shedding of the inner lining of the uterus in preparation for the new cycle.
During the follicular phase a new ovum, a female reproductive cell, grows to its maturity. Its growth culminates in ovulation-maturation of the ovum, followed by its descent from the ovaries into the uterus, where it can become fertilized by a sperm cell. This is the period of fertility.
After ovulation the luteal phase takes on. This is the phase, when the walls of the uterus are lined up with new layers of cells, which are necessary in case the ova become impregnated with the sperm. If pregnancy did not take place, the uterine lining sheds, which is associated with the next menstrual cycle.
Menstrual cycle and the energy of Moon
Synchronicity with the Moon cycles lies at the heart of the classical Chinese gynecological model.
Ideally, a menstrual cycle has the duration of the lunar month, which is approximately 29 days. In this model the menstrual phase comes at the time of the full moon. This time is called the monthly tide.
Then, as the lunar energy recedes, the follicular phase takes place. The lunar recession represents the Yin part of the cycle.
The ovulation takes place on the new moon. This is the culmination of the Yin phase, or terminal Yin. This is the time when new beginnings, new creations, change of destiny including pregnancy may come out from non-existence.
After that the Yang part of the cycle follows. The Moon grows from waxing crescent to waxing gibbous, and reaches the full moon. If pregnancy has taken place, then the Yang part of the cycle carries on, and if not, then we are brought back to the menstrual cycle or the monthly tide again.
General causes of short, long, or irregular menstrual cycles
Since are body is made to follow greater laws of nature, it is our duty to go to bed when the sun sets, get up when the sun rises, eat warm food when the weather is cold, eat cooling food when the temperature gets high.
Long hours of work, excessive emotional experiences like anger and anxiety, staying up late, overeating, taking stimulants and sedatives lead to separation from natural cycles, and make our body lose its precious vitality. In females very often it results in short, long or irregular menstrual cycles, which, if not addressed timely, might lead to difficulty to conceive.
Early menstrual cycle
If you have menstrual cycles of three weeks or less and it occurs for more than three consecutive months, in Chinese medicine this is recognized as an early menstrual period.
Most common causes of an early menstrual period are Deficiency of Energy and Blood Heat.
A energy deficient person typically has chronic tiredness, pale complexion, cold hands and feet, may have poor appetite, loose stools, crave sweets, and can easily gain weight. Her menstrual blood looks pale and watery.
This type of pathology is treated by supplementing the energy of spleen and kidney.
A person with blood heat has menstrual flow that is red and copious. Often there is anxiety and difficulty sleeping, or there are dermatological conditions, such as acne or eczema, which become worse with menstruation.
Blood heat is treated by cooling and supplementing Blood.
Late menstrual cycle
If your menstrual cycles are longer than five weeks for at least three consecutive months, this is recognized as a late menstrual cycle.
The major causes of late menstrual period are Deficiency of Kidney Yang and Blood, and Cold in the Uterus.
A person with kidney yang deficiency may have chronic lower back pain, which becomes worse with the period, cold weather and overexertion. Another typical symptom of kidney yang deficiency is night time urination.
This condition is treated by warming kidney yang. In addition to acupuncture treatments, a patient is often warmed with moxa. Warming herbs might be prescribed as well.
Typically a blood deficient person has dry itchy skin and dark complexion. She may experience hair loss, and have brittle nails. There might be constipation, caused by dryness of the intestinal wall.
In treating blood deficiency, a clinician must determine its cause.
Is the body incapable of absorbing nutrients from food, or does the body have problem storing blood? Once the root cause is understood, the treatment plan must eradicate the causative factor, as well as nourish blood.
Cold in the uterus results from sitting on cold surfaces, like concrete floor, for extended periods of time, and being exposed to cold weather, especially during menstruation. This cold pathogen penetrates the body, and obstructs normal flow of energy and blood in the uterus. Symptoms typically include uterine pain during menstruation, which becomes better with warm applications to the lower abdomen.
Treatment of cold in the uterus requires warming techniques to expel cold.
Irregular menstrual cycle
Irregular menstrual cycle is shorter or longer than a monthly cycle by more than one week for at least three consecutive cycles.
Major causes of irregular menstruation are Liver stagnation or Kidney deficiency.
Liver stagnation often results from chronic depression and excessive anger. On the other hand, one may say that a person with liver stagnation is prone to excessive anger and frustration. Typically if you have mood swings before period, rest assured that your liver is stuck. Liver is the commander of energy. If it becomes stuck, instead of moving blood down and out, as it is supposed to, it may move it else where, causing breast tenderness, bloating, and mood swings.
This condition is the easiest to treat. It requires regulating energy of liver. Often liver stagnation is caused by insufficiency of blood, so blood gets nourished in the course of treatment as well.
Kidney is the most mysterious organ in Chinese medicine, because it has a dual aspect: Yin-cooling and dark, and Yang-warming and light.
Kidney deficiency is often caused by chronic exhaustion of the body. It usually happens as a woman gets older and reaches her pre-menopausal stage. Thus kidney deficiency has constitutional nature mostly.
Depending on the type of kidney deficiency, a woman may experience hot flashes due to insufficiency of Yin, or feel cold and feeble due to insufficiency of Yang.
To replenish kidney both Yin and Yang must be supplemented. This treatment might require a longer period of time.
Early, late and irregular menstrual cycles respond very well to acupuncture and herbal medicine.
We ask clients to commit to three full menstrual cycles of treatment. A treatment course consists of weekly acupuncture treatments and herbal medicines. The clients are asked to chart their Basic Body Temperature. In addition to the length of the cycle, BBT chart is an invaluable diagnostic tool, which provides information about body’s hormonal cycles, their relative imbalance, and it marks client’s progress as well.
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