Health In The Bay – AILMENTS – Women’s Health
The female reproductive system is a complex and sensitive system of the body that is governed by hormones. As it is quite a sensitive system, small imbalances can affect how effectively it functions. Apart from hormones, there can be a number of factors that can contribute such as stress, weight and lifestyle choices. Similarly, seemingly small gentle changes and adjustments to these factors are sufficient to improve the effectiveness of the reproductive system. At Health In The Bay we have a number of practitioners offering a range of treatments that can help, and have helped, many women with health and fertility issues.
There are many hormones (chemical messengers) in our body that have many different roles, including growth and development, reproduction, thyroid function, and metabolism.
Some of the most widely known hormone issues involve reproductive hormones. Imbalances in these can have many different effects including infertility, problems with puberty or urogenital disorders including Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis etc.
Seeing an Acupuncturist is a great place to start when wanting to improve your hormones. Sometimes, just a few treatments together with herbs, can be enough to see significant changes. A Nutritionist can also be beneficial as certain foods and lifestyle choices can impact on your hormones. Just small changes or improvements to your hormones are often enough to make a huge difference to health and wellbeing.
Menopause & HRT
Menopause is the state of an absence of a menstrual period for 12 months. It is the point of time where a woman’s period stops, and is determined by the ovaries ceasing to function. Symptoms can include irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats, sleep difficulties, and irritability. They may occur years before menopause, and may continue for years after menopause.
HRT (Hormone Replacement Treatment) is any form of hormone therapy whereby the patient, in the course of medical treatment, receives hormones to supplement the lack of naturally occurring hormones as a result of menopause. It is based on the idea that treatment may reduce the symptoms of decreased estrogen and progesterone in the body, and it may also protect against osteoporosis. For many years women were told that HRT was a good treatment for menopause symptoms, but then it became more apparent that HRT does have risks associated. These risks can include increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Different treatments have different levels of risk, and the risk to individuals varies depending on their overall health history. Due to these risks many women choose not to be on HRT, but luckily there are other options that may help reduce symptoms.
Acupuncture may help balance your body which can ease the transition to menopause. There are also a number of herbs and supplements that can help reduce the symptoms.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and is a common condition caused by a hormone imbalance, commonly an increase in testosterone (male hormone), which often involves the growth of small cysts on their ovaries. This imbalance can result in a number of symptoms such as period problems (irregular or a complete absence), reduced fertility, acne, excess hair growth, sleep problems, headaches, mood changes (including mood swings, depression or anxiety), thin hair on head, pelvic pain. Many women with PCOS are also overweight. If it isn’t treated, over time it can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.
A consult with a Nutritionist can be very helpful. Nutritionally they will look to balance hormones and control blood sugar, as well as provide an eating program for optimal health, weight and happy hormones.
Acupuncture can also be very effective in reducing symptoms by improving hormonal and endocrine balance, as well as improving insulin resistance.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
A woman’s menstrual cycle should come and go easily without too many signs or symptoms. Unfortunately many women do experience some negative symptoms around the time of menstruation, and this is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). These symptoms can include tender breasts, mood swings (including sadness, anger, anxiety or poor concentration), bloating, cramping, headaches, and sometimes food cravings, fatigue, back pain, constipation or diarrhea and low sex drive. These symptoms may vary month to month and may be worse in times of increased stress. For most, the symptoms are mild and not troublesome, but for some they become bad enough to disrupt normal functioning and quality of life, including work and relationships.
Often hormonal imbalances or nutritional deficiencies are the underlying cause behind PMS. There seem to be a number of factors that contribute to the cause of PMS. Also stress and depression, while they don’t cause PMS, certainly seem to exacerbate the symptoms. Acupuncture is very effective in helping with these symptoms, by assisting the body to smoothly move through the changes in the hormone levels. Acupuncture is also very effective in reducing your body’s response to stress.
If there is a specific cause to the stress, then seeing a Psychotherapist is important. They can help you determine triggers, as well as recognise past experiences that are contributing to present stress, then help you to reduce the reaction to these triggers. Seeing a Nutritionist can be very beneficial. By using simple pathology such as blood tests or hormone panels to determine any hormone and/or nutritional imbalances, they can devise the best plan to address these issues and move you towards healthier and happier hormones.
After a teen has been menstruating for a few years, her menstrual cycle typically becomes more regular. For most women, a normal menstrual cycle ranges from 21 to 35 days, however, up to 14% of women have irregular menstrual cycles or excessively heavy menstrual bleeding. Most abnormal uterine bleeding can be divided into anovulatory (absent, infrequent or irregular periods) and ovulatory (heavy or prolonged ) patterns. They include:
- Amenorrhea – Absent menstrual periods. When a woman does not get her period by age 16, or when she stops getting her period for at least 3 months and is not pregnant.
- Oligomenorrhea – Infrequent menstrual periods occurring more than 35 days apart.
- Polymenorrhea- Frequent menstrual periods occurring less than 21 days apart.
- Dysmenorrhea – Painful periods that may include severe menstrual cramps.
- Menorrhagia – Heavy menstrual periods (excessive bleeding).
- Spotting – episodes of bleeding that occur between periods.
- Prolonged menstrual bleeding of more than 8 days in duration on a regular basis.
- Shortened menstrual bleeding of less than 2 days in duration on a regular basis.
These irregularities can be caused by a variety of conditions. Causes of absent or irregular periods include: adolescence, uncontrolled diabetes, eating disorders, over-exercising, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, medications, such as antiepileptics or antipsychotics, perimenopause, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), pregnancy and stress.
Causes of heavy periods include: structural problems, such as uterine fibroids or polyps, bleeding disorders, such as leukemia, platelet disorders and hypothyroidism. Causes of menstrual pain include: heavy menstrual flow, smoking, depression, never having given birth, endometriosis and chronic uterine infection.
It can seem confusing and overwhelming as to know what you can do to help regulate your periods, as there are so many potential causes. If the cause seems to be due to medications, diabetes, a bleeding disorder, infection or tumour, you should see your relevant medical practitioner. If it seems to be related to hormonal imbalances or changes, then seeing an Acupuncturist can be very helpful. For issues such as heavy bleeding, PCOS, endometriosis or perimenopause, a gentle rebalance of your hormones, or helping your body deal with the changes occurring in your body using Acupuncture can make a significant difference to your symptoms.
A Nutritionist may also be a good person to see, as they can assess and advise you on whether your nutrient intake can be improved in any way to assist with stress/mood, hormones, PCOS and weight.
Seeing a Psychotherapist is also beneficial if stress/emotions are a factor, particularly if it is also affecting your weight, or you have an eating disorder (as these are commonly related to stress or emotions). A Psychotherapist can help you identify and recognise triggers to these emotions and give you tools to deal with them or work through them, so they no longer have such an impact on you and your health.
Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from your ovary, and is essential if you want to fall pregnant. The main issue of ovulation that people are familiar with is anovulation which means you don’t ovulate or you rarely ovulate. The timing of ovulation can also influence your chance of conceiving. If you ovulate particularly early, the follicle may not have developed enough to be fertilized, there may not be enough cervical mucous to move sperm to the fallopian tube to reach the egg, or the uterus may not have had enough time to develop a good rich lining to support the life of a fertilized egg. On the other hand, if ovulation is quite late it can mean there isn’t enough time for the egg to implant before the chemical messengers signal for a period to occur. Each of these result in a decreased chance of conceiving.
The cause of these issues are often an imbalance in hormones. Other causes may be: being under or overweight, high stress levels, thyroid or other hormonal disorders, drugs or alcohol abuse, or other health issues such as cysts, tumors, or other masses.
If it seems to be related to hormonal imbalances, then seeing an Acupuncturist can be very helpful. Acupuncture is a very gentle method of balancing the body and hormones, which can help improve and optimise the timing of ovulation. A Nutritionist may also be a good person to see, to help you rebalance your hormones, as well as assess and advise you on whether the nutrients you are getting can be improved in any way to help factors including stress/mood, hormones and weight.
Seeing a Psychotherapist is also beneficial if stress/emotions are a factor, particularly if it is also affecting your weight or you have an eating disorder (as these are commonly related to stress or emotions). A Psychotherapist can help you identify and recognise triggers to these emotions and give you tools to deal with them or work through them, so they no longer have such an impact on you and your health.
Once you are successful in conceiving, you now have the significant task of growing a healthy baby while staying fit and healthy yourself.
Firstly, it is important to have the right diet for yourself and your fetus. You need enough good quality nutrients to keep up your energy and give your baby what it needs to grow. A Nutritionist can help advise about your diet and any supplements recommendations, and if you are suffering morning sickness, certain remedies can also help.
Acupuncture can be very effective in helping with morning sickness and maintaining overall health.
As the pregnancy progresses, your body goes through many changes which might result in back, hip and even rib pain. Chiropractic and massage are both very effective and gentle methods of reducing these symptoms. Chiropractic is also helpful in preparing the body (particularly the pelvis) to be balanced and this can help with an easier birth.
Acupuncture throughout the pregnancy, especially towards the end, is also very effective in the preparation for the birth. If your baby is overdue, Acupuncture can also be effective in bringing on labour, by using specific points that affect the uterus and hence start contractions.
Birth signifies the end of pregnancy and is the delivery of 1 or more babies. The most common form of birth is vaginal, but it may also occur by Cesarian section. There are 3 stages, and in total can take anywhere from a few hours to more than 24 hrs. The body is quite amazing and is able to do this successfully and with relative ease most of the time. A few factors are pertinent for the birth to go smoothly, and hence can cause issues if they don’t. These factors are:
- Placenta position. If it is in the way of the cervix (opening to the uterus) then a Cesarian is required.
- The baby’s position. It needs to be head down, otherwise the birth could be very difficult. Also whether the baby is anterior or posterior. If it is posterior, labor can be more difficult and uncomfortable.
- Labor needs to start. If the pregnancy has reached 42 weeks gestation then labor will usually be induced.
- Labor needs to progress. IE the cervix needs to open and continue to do so until it is at least 10cm. This is stage 1, and it is important that this stage progresses otherwise the baby may become distressed.
- Stage 2 requires the baby to move out of the uterus and cervix and through the pelvis. Again it is important that this stage progresses otherwise the baby may become distressed.
- Another important factor is the mother’s and also father’s expectation or expectations. Births don’t always go to plan and it is good to have an idea of what you hope will happen, but also need to be open to the possibility that it may not go that way.
Many of these factors seem like they are out of our control, but in actual fact there are several things you can do to be in the best possible condition and mindset to have a good birth.
Stress/fear is a major factor that can impede an easy birth. It can possibly delay the onset and progression of labor, and it can create more tension and thereby more pain that the mother experiences. If you have specific fears, Psychotherapy can help you alleviate these fears and help you be mentally strong and prepared. Acupuncture can be a great tool in getting your nervous system calm and your body relaxed in preparation for the birth.
Acupuncture can help in a number of other ways also. It can be effective in turning a breech baby, as well as helping to bring on labor, by helping relax the nervous system. It also utilises specific points that affect the uterus and hence start contractions.
Structurally the pelvis needs to move freely to accommodate the baby passing through it, so a few Chiropractic treatments leading up to the due date can gently balance and free up any movement of the pelvis which will minimise any lower back discomfort and help the baby move smoothly through the birth canal.