Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)
How Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) Affect Fertility?
- Background: POF affects between 1 to 4% of women. POF is defined as the cessation of the menstrual cycle associated with low levels of estrogen and high levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) before the age of 40. FSH levels above 30mIU/ml are considered high. POF was initially believed to be an irreversible condition, but it is now known that ovarian failure is often intermittent, especially in chromosomally normal women.
- The most common causes are a past history of chemotherapy or radiation, genetic (10-20% of all cases), chromosomal abnormalities, damage to the pelvic organs from a surgery, Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian axis issues, or a history of autoimmune problems. Typically a patient will experience a cessation of menses (amenorrhea), hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, irritability, low libido, infertility, and vaginal dryness
How Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Treat POF?
- In Chinese medicine the condition of POF is due to: a decline in the kidney energy (hormonal production and reproductive organs), spleen dampness (autoimmune connection), heart disconnection (pituitary function and emotions), and a liver pathway disconnect (liver is responsible for an aspect of hormonal control and menstrual cycle regulation).
- A number of studies have confirmed that acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy can positively affect both the Pituitary and the Hypothalamus, thus restoring ovulation, reducing elevations in FSH, promoting estrogen production, and regulating the LH. Also, certain level of success in regulating and preventing the symptoms that are associated with POF, like night sweats, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and a deficient uterine lining, have been demonstrated. When all of these symptoms are improved, the overall fertility of the patient is improved due to a higher estrogen production. As estrogen levels increase, the menstrual cycle will become more regular and ovulation can resume.
- In a study of women with secondary ovarian failure published in 1999, the group receiving acupuncture and herbal treatments responded better and experienced longer-lasting results without side effects than those receiving the standard Western fertility drug clomiphene (Clomid). Both groups responded to treatment, with returning menstruation and normalizing of FSH and LH levels, but patients taking clomiphene (Clomid) complained of several undesirable side effects.
- Acupuncture increases blood flow to the pelvic cavity to nourish the ovaries, improve egg quality, and regulate the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian axis. Acupuncture can also relax the body and reduce stress levels. There are many studies that show the effectiveness of acupuncture in regulating ovulation, reducing elevated FSH, and restoring embryo quality.
- Chinese herbs are used to increase blood flow to the pelvic cavity, increase estrogen levels and decrease FSH levels, moderate stress, encourage proper ovulation, modulate the immune system, regulate the endocrine system, and stop hot flashes and irritability.