Receiving a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is very scary and confusing for many women, especially when trying to conceive. PCOS is a syndrome—this means one size does NOT fit all. Classically, women with PCOS were overweight, had inappropriate hair growth and did not menstruate regularly. However, many of the PCOS patients I see do NOT fit that description. Some women have insulin resistance, acne, irregular periods or cysts on their ovaries. Or not. Traditional treatment for PCOS involves birth control pills, blood sugar regulating medications, low carb diet and exercise. When trying to conceive, all of those options are great—with the exception of birth control pills!
This is where acupuncture and Chinese medicine can really benefit women in their attempts to conceive. First, acupuncture can be used to regulate and balance hormones. Acupuncture treats the body symptomatically and uses terms of energy to create balance in the body. In other words, the practice of acupuncture is NEVER “one-size-fits-all”. If we treat two women who both have a diagnosis of PCOS, they will each receive unique treatment based upon their presentation; a women who is overweight with ovarian cysts will likely have a different Chinese medical diagnosis than a thin woman with irregular ovulation. Next, and very exciting, is there is an increasing body of research demonstrating electrical acupuncture (EA) helps to reduce ovarian cysts and restore hormonal balance. EA provides strong manipulation on the needles, thereby increasing blood flow to the ovaries to reduce cyst formation. Chinese herbal medicine is also an important factor in treating PCOS. The herbs are used to address the Chinese medical pattern of each patient, but there are also herbs that have specific effects, such as lowering testosterone levels and regulating blood sugar. Over time, women who use acupuncture in combination with Chinese herbs find the best results.
PCOS can be a disheartening diagnosis for women trying to have a baby, but it doesn’t have to be. Changing health conditions and presentations is difficult and takes hard work but my patients have always found that time, hard work and good habits really pay off! There are many different factors when discussing PCOS that having an individualized, personalized treatment is often the best strategy.