PCOS: A Common Fertility Issue In Singapore
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age, affecting about 5 to 15% women in this age group. It is also one of the most common causes of infertility in women. It is characterized by absent or irregular period, inability to conceive, excessive hair growth and obesity. However, not everyone with PCOS have symptoms, and some are only diagnosed when they are tested for infertility.
A diagnosis of PCOS is made when two out of the following three findings are present:
Infrequent or no ovulation (i.e. no mature egg is being released from the ovary in the middle of your menstrual cycle)
High level of male sex hormone (testosterone), which can be detected by a blood test
Enlarged ovaries with multiple, small fluid-filled cysts which can be seen by an ultrasound
The underlying cause of PCOS is not fully understood by modern medicine. There is no definitive cause and no definitive cure. It is thought that the decrease in insulin resistance of the body tissues causes the pancreas to produce excessive insulin, which in turn leads to the overproduction of the male sex hormone. PCOS likely results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
How Does Herbal Medicine Work?
From TCM’s perspective, women with PCOS often have symptoms that are related to Kidney deficiency, the accumulation of Phlegm Dampness, or stagnation of the Liver Qi.
1. "Kidney deficiency"
In TCM, the Kidney relates to the reproductive system. When there is a deficiency in the Kidney, it may result in delayed period or no period. There may also be accompanying symptoms such as aching in the lower back and knee, clear or white vagina discharge, a pale tongue and a deep, thready pulse. Often herbs with Kidney nourishing properties are used, such as tu si zi (菟丝子), yin yang huo (淫羊藿), rou cong rong (肉苁蓉), he shou wu (何首乌), goji berry (枸杞子) and nv zhen zi (女贞子).
2. "Liver Qi Stagnation"
According to the TCM theory, the Liver regulates Qi (energy) movement throughout the body, and this is necessary to ensure good supply and circulation of blood. It is also responsible for promoting emotional wellness. With the stagnation of Liver Qi, the Blood supply for normal menstruation may be affected, resulting in light or no period. As the Liver Meridian passes through the chest, women with Liver Qi stagnation may also experience breast tenderness. Other accompanying symptoms include emotional distress such as irritability, frustration or depression. When the Liver Qi is stagnated for prolonged period, it may turn into Liver Fire, and manifests symptoms such as acnes, thirst, and constipation. Herbal formulas commonly used to regulate the Liver Qi and to clear the Liver Fire include dan zi xiao yao san (丹栀逍遥散) and long dan xie gan tang (龙胆泻肝汤).
3. "Accumulation of Phlegm Dampness"
Phlegm Dampness refers to a pathological factor in TCM that is usually a result of dysfunction of the Spleen & Stomach. Phlegm Dampness constitution type is characterized by obesity, fatigue, heavy limbs, loose stools. Common herbs used include cang zhu (苍术), chen pi (陈皮), nan xing (南星), zhi qiao (枳壳), ban xia (半夏), fu ling (茯苓).
Besides the use of Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is another Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment method which is widely used to boost fertility. It involves the insertion of very fine needles on specific points (acupoints) on the body to restore a free flow of abundant Qi (Life Energy) throughout the body.
Boosting Fertility With Acupuncture
Does acupuncture really improve fertility? Studies suggest that acupuncture safely increases the chances of conception. Acupuncture works by improving blood flow to the reproductive organs, regulating and maintaining a good balance of the fertility hormones.
In addition, acupuncture promotes emotional wellness and lowers stress levels of women trying for a baby. This helps stressed-out women to become more relaxed and restful.
Acupuncture treatment for PCOS often involves choosing the following acupuncture points:
Fertility related points, such as (guan yuan 关元)、(ming men 命门)、(zi gong 子宫穴)
Kidney meridian points, such as (shen shu 肾俞)、(tai xi 太溪)
Liver meridian points, such as (gan shu 肝俞)、(tai chong 太冲)、(xing jian 行间)
Spleen & Stomach meridian points, such as (pi shu 脾俞)、(wei shu 胃俞穴)、(zu san li 足三里)、(san yin jiao 三阴交)
Ideally the acupuncture treatment should be done 2 to 3 times a week, and each session should last about 30 to 40 minutes.