The Four Phases of a Woman’s cycle: A Chinese Medicine Perspective
Over the last four weeks I have talked about the different pathologies that may afflict women and cause infertility. Today I want to talk about the way I approach a woman’s cycle and how I look at disease. If a woman has been trying for a year and is not getting pregnant, and her partner does not have any problems, then it’s unlikely that the four phases I describe will be her natural cycle, however I use this description as an example of what I am aiming to achieve when treating a patient.
How to Treat Fertility in Chinese Medicine
In Chinese medicine there is a saying:
Tong Bing Yi Zhi, Yi Bing Tong Zhi
Which means, different diseases, one treatment, same disease, different treatments.
If four different patients come in to me with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome this does not at all mean that these four patients will receive the same treatment. On the contrary, the diagnosis could reveal four completely different patterns and therefore all would receive a different treatment.
On the other hand, four woman could come with four different diseases, however the treatment could be the same, if the root and the pathological symptoms are diagnosed as the same syndrome.
As I have pointed out this month, infertility is a varied and complex pathology and each woman or man that comes in for treatment will be given an individualized treatment plan, tailor made for their body.
Today with modern advances in western testing we are able to use the BBT charts, blood tests and ultrasounds to give guidance in the treatment. If the patient chooses IVF as the main treatment, acupuncture can still be used to significantly increase the chances of success.
The 4 Phases of a Woman’s Cycle
When I look at a woman’s cycle I divide it into 4 phases. The first phase is from day 1 to day 7. This phase includes menstruation and it is very important in this phase to ensure a complete discharge, so that the endometrium is clean and ready for implantation. In essence acupuncture and herbs are used like a curettage to ensure this process is complete. If this is not the case, problems later in the cycle could arise with implantation. When the bleeding is finishing, around day 4, Yin, blood and body fluids, become the main focus. This includes building the blood of the endometrium and the growth of the follicle. An even growth of the endometrium is important as the construction needs to be smooth. This will have an effect on implantation or on the next bleeding.
Phase two involves preparing for ovulation. Toward the end of this phase, this is the time where the Yin of the follicle will reach its maximum. The vaginal discharge will begin to change, bringing a stretchy, egg white consistency. Both Yin and Yang acupuncture points and herbs are also important in this phase. Yang energy is necessary here for the actual ovulation.
In this phase we will deal with ovulation. This is the phase where the Yin and the blood are at their fullest. The lining is smooth and full and the follicle has grown to its maximum, and is ready to release its egg. With a good amount of Yin, Yang will now preside over the ovulation. This part of the cycle is most crucial and requires an immense amount of energy to move from the Yin to the Yang phase.
In this phase the egg has been fertilized and has moved to the uterus. If all goes to plan we should have a healthy embryo. This embryo requires a ‘warm womb’, meaning Kidney Yang needs to remain high, which in western terms means an adequate progesterone level. Qi (being part of Yang) is also involved in this phase. The Qi regulates the flow of energy and blood toward the uterus. Kidney Yang also plays a role in holding the embryo in place as it borrows into the uterus lining.
These are the four phases of a woman’s cycle. When there are no pathologies existing, each phase will move smoothly into the next and pregnancy will occur. There can however be issues in any one or more of the four phases of the woman’s cycle and each issue would need to be treated accordingly.
Treating infertility in men and women may be complicated but is also very rewarding. I focus my treatment plan on combining herbs and acupuncture. I also believe one must take other factors into account such as vitamins, minerals, trace elements, life style and nutrition in order to ensure fertility.