Women's Health

Our plumbing is complex and each stage of life brings new issues and new symptoms.  Modern Western medicine has little to offer until the condition is serious enough to warrant surgery or medication, but we are often left wondering if such drastic treatment was actually necessary.  Aren't there other, better ways of treating women's symptoms and conditions?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), women's symptoms are described in a surprisingly detailed way. It seems the symptoms we experience are not new!  They've actually been observed, documented, studied, organized, and successfully treated for hundreds of years long before modern Western medicine came to be.

 

Why aren't we, in the Western world, aware of this jewel in the crown of TCM knowledge?  China's willingness to share TCM with the west has only come about in the last hundred years; especially in the past fifty years. But TCM has had to compete with our ethnocentric belief that nothing foreign could possibly be better.

Thankfully we've evolved and globalism has opened greater connections between countries and cultures, such that we can now share our best practices and learn from those who have ideas different than our own.  

How Your Period Should Be

TCM can regulate the volume of menstrual flow: if it is too heavy, it can be lightened back to a reasonable amount, or it can be made heavier if it is too light.  Too light, though less annoying, is also not ideal either because it can lead to other problems. Too heavy is when you have to change your pad/tampon/diva cup more than 3-4 times per day, or if you are leaking. If you are struggling to deal with the flow, then it's too heavy.

If you're bleeding for too many days, for example 7-10 days, TCM can shorten it back to 5 days.

If your cycle is irregular such that you never know when it will come or if your cycle is too short such that you're getting a period too often, TCM can regulate it back to 28 days.

Some women bleed lightly between periods, which is called "spotting." This is abnormal and can also be eliminated with TCM.

Pre-Menstrual Syndrome

Also known as PMS, pre-menstrual syndrome can begin, in severe cases, up to two weeks prior to the period and wreak havoc until the period comes. The symptoms can include breast tenderness, bloating, irritability, moodiness,  food cravings, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes early menstrual cramps.   Not every woman gets all of these symptoms, and some women have symptoms for only a day or two before the period comes.

It has taken a long time for these symptoms to be acknowledged as not psychosomatic, but even so, modern Western medicine still has no treatment for them.  In TCM,  pre-menstrual symptoms have long been recognized and can be relieved with a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Which acupuncture points and which herbal ingredients are used depends upon which combination of symptoms you experience.  You will need treatment over the course of several cycles during which your symptoms will gradual reduce.

Topics Coming Soon...

  • infertility

  • labour induction

  • problems during pregnancy

  • vaginal dryness

Is there a topic you would like to know more about?  Email Dr. Baert and ask her to write about it.  If you want to know, others do too!

Resolve Postpartum Depression without Pharmaceutical Drugs

In TCM, postpartum depression (PPD) is known to be more likely to occur in women who:

  • already had low energy or low mood prior to conceiving

  • lost a substantial amount of blood during labour

  • had a C-section

A positive mood requires energy, and when energy is low, one of the first symptoms to appear is moodiness or lack of motivation.  If mom was already fatigued even before conceiving, it would unsurprising if she were to experience PPD. 

In both TCM and Western medicine, blood and energy are closely linked.  When too much blood is lost, we become exhausted, and as stated above, exhaustion causes the mood to drop. (This is true for everyone, not only for postpartum women).

A C-section is widely recognized as being difficult to heal from because the incision cuts through many layers of muscle and fascia. What is not widely known is that the C-section incision cuts right through the dantian region, which is considered the energy center of the body in Oriental medicine. This damage to dantian decreases the new mom's energy level just when it's in high demand to care for the baby and this deepens the energy deficit.  In addition, it is especially hard to heal that incision due to interrupted sleep and the repeated sleep deprivation from breastfeeding.

Thankfully, Chinese culture has a long tradition of recognizing the needs of postpartum women, and the extensive detail of  TCM postpartum treatment is evidence of this.  

Exposing your baby to the unknown and possibly toxic effect of pharmaceutical drugs is an unnecessary risk when a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can resolve depression and restore the energy of the postpartum woman back to normal. The herbal ingredients used to treat depression are nourishing to both mother and baby and have been in common use by the Chinese for this purpose over the past millennia. 

Menstrual Problems That Can Be Resolved with TCM

  1. Flow too heavy (unmanageable, leaking)

  2. Bleeding for too many days (normal is 5 days)

  3. Irregular cycle (26 days long one month, then 38 days long the next month)

  4. Cycle too short (say 21 days long, so you get your period too often) 

  5. Menstrual cramps (whether starting days before flow starts or during)

  6. Lower back ache - before or during

  7. Numb or aching thighs

  8. Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) - including bloating, breast tenderness, irritability or weepiness

  9. Headaches - before or during

  10. Spotting between periods

  11. Too much vaginal discharge between periods

  12. Vaginal itching or unusual odour - may fluctuate with your cycle

TCM Can Get Rid of Menstrual Symptoms - Are You Kidding Me?

No joke.  Why are you the last to know?  Unfortunately, most medical doctors (MDs) aren't familiar with TCM either, let alone knowledgeable about how it works or what symptoms and conditions it can treat.  That's why they've never suggested it to you. Their education is focused on modern Western medicine, where mention of TCM is likely still met with skepticism.  

The only way to discover TCM treatment is by encountering a woman who has had treatment and recommended it or you've been fortunate enough to encounter information like this. So tell every woman you know, especially young women, so that they can avoid a lifetime of suffering.  

Menstrual Cramps Are Common, but That Doesn't Mean They're Normal 

Menstruation should be painless. The idea that menstruation is normally painful is a Western idea that is not shared by Chinese culture. TCM can eliminate your menstrual cramps and make it so that getting your period is not disruptive or debilitating.  This is done by treating with a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and moxibustion. Since every woman's period pain is different, and can include lower back pain, aching thighs, extreme fatigue and many other symptoms, the treatment must be tailored to each woman's symptoms.

Women who suffer from menstrual cramps are typically advised by their MD that their treatment options are to take ibuprofen or naproxen to manage the pain, or to go on an oral contraceptive (also known as "The Pill") to adjust their hormones.  While non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) do provide temporary relief of menstrual cramps for women with mild to moderate cramps, they do not prevent the cramps from recurring on subsequent periods, and they only partially reduce them for women who get severe cramping pain.  It is also known that the long-term cumulative effect of taking NSAIDs can lead to digestive problems.

 

While taking an oral contraceptive to prevent menstrual cramps can be effective, it does not prevent the cramps from returning if you want to stop because of side effects or if you want to become pregnant.  In addition, many women prefer not to take medication continuously to avoid menstrual cramps.  

Vulvodynia and Vaginitis

Genital or perineal pain, whether vulvodynia, vaginismus, vaginitis, or by any other name can all be treated with TCM even though their symptoms are different.  In recent years, women suffering from this type of pain are starting to have their symptoms be acknowledged and some treatment methods are available, but it is not yet well-known that TCM is an effective option. There are several acupuncture meridians (or pathways) that travel through the genital region, and so we can affect this region without needling it directly. A great feature of acupuncture is that we can do treatment far from where the pain is and yet still relieve the pain.  Chinese herbal medicine is also typically used in conjunction with acupuncture to treat such pain. 

Stop Suffering Through Menopause

The symptoms of menopause are familiar to us all: hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, insomnia, vaginal dryness, dry eyes, and sometimes feeling quite cold after being too hot. But every woman's experience of menopause is not the same. Some women experience only one of these symptoms, and some get them all.  For some women, these symptoms can begin years before the period stops, for others the symptoms linger for years after the period has already stopped.    

The only thing that is true for all women going through menopause is that they need not suffer. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is incredibly effective at treating menopausal symptoms, no matter how severe they are or how long they've lasted. Unlike Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), which stops working once you stop taking it and which may or may not have additional health risks, TCM treats the root of your menopausal symptoms so that once you feel better, you no longer need further treatment.

 

Regular weekly treatment for several months is typically necessary to substantially resolve menopausal symptoms,  but most women feel a reduction in the severity and frequency of their hot flashes even after the first few treatments.  Treatment includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and sometimes also moxibustion. 

Vaginal Itching

For some women, vaginal itching can come and go throughout their cycle and vary in intensity such that it can make them wonder if they are continually fighting off a yeast infection. Fortunately, not all itching is caused by infection, but if it isn't, then what is causing it and how do you get it to stop? 

 

Vaginal itching is often influenced by a number of factors that have nothing to do with personal hygiene or the type of fabric against your skin.  A much more significant influence is what you eat, and whether or not it matches your constitution in the Chinese medicine sense. The Chinese perspective on diet and how it affects health is a comprehensive topic which will be covered in another section, but just knowing that what you eat is an important factor can lower your frustration in dealing with this annoying symptom.  When you come in for treatment, Dr. Baert will explain to you in detail what foods will aggravate you in particular.

If you resort to taking an antibiotic to treat the itching, you may find sometimes that the itching not only didn't go away, but may have given you diarrhea or other digestive problems as well.  It is not necessary to trade one symptom for another because the itching can be eliminated without antibiotics even if you do have an infection.

Chinese herbal medicine is very effective at relieving vaginal itching and preventing it from reoccurring.  Don't suffer in silence because this is very common and typically an easily resolved problem.

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