Womens health

Menopausal symptoms

The average age for the menopause is approximately 51, although the perimenopause (the time when alterations to the menstrual cycle begin) can sometimes start approximately ten years before the period stops completely.

Approximately 70% of women suffer from hot flushes and night sweats during the menopause, not to mention emotional changes and other symptoms such as irritability, reduced libido, anxiety and brain fog.

Treatment of hot flushes is the most common reason for taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, although HRT relieves menopausal symptoms in 80-90% of women, some women are reluctant to take it and others cannot take it because of their medical history.

Chinese medicine offers an alternative to HRT and can reduce the intensity and frequency of hot flushes and many of the other distressing symptoms which can accompany the menopause.

Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)

PMS (or PMT) is caused by hormonal changes and imbalances during the menstrual cycle and can last from one or two days to two weeks. Symptoms may include erratic behaviour, moodiness, irritability, anger, depression, tearfulness, breast distension and abdominal bloating.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, Qi (energy) builds up in the body just before the period begins (like pressure in a pressure cooker), and is released once the period arrives. However, when a woman suffers from PMS it is a sign that there is an excessive accumulation of Qi and acupuncture can be an effective way to regulate this build up of pressure and alleviate symptoms.

Painful periods

“I no longer suffer excruciating pain and am now able to function normally for 4 weeks of the month, instead of just 3!!” (A.G)

The medical term for painful periods is dysmenorrhoea and it is a condition which affects approximately 50% of women. Primary dysmenorrhoea refers to periods that are painful with no underlying cause, while secondary dysmenorrhoea is caused by some form of pelvic pathology, such as endometriosis, fibroids, tumours, cysts, or cervical stenosis.

The pain is thought to be caused by the release of prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) and leukotrienes (chemicals that promote an inflammatory response) in the menstrual fluid, which constrict the uterine vessels and cause contractions that produce pain. The release of prostaglandins may also be responsible for gastrointestinal disturbances which sometimes also occur with the onset of the period.

While some women are lucky enough to experience no pain with their menstrual cycle, others suffer such debilitating symptoms that life comes to a halt for a few days each month, seriously interfering with their quality of life.

The conventional treatment for dysmenorrhoea is generally non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which can take the edge of the pain, but do little to correct the underlying cause and in some women are simply ineffective.

According to Chinese Medicine, pain occurs when qi (energy) becomes blocked and leads to pain. Acupuncture for painful periods can be extremely effective and can help to reduce symptoms and reliance on analgesics. 


“I have always been afraid of needles but Olivia put me at ease and not only did the acupuncture help me mentally, I also found myself pregnant within weeks of beginning acupuncture treatment without having to undergo IUI.” (Berna)

Endometriosis is characterised by the growth of endometrial tissue (i.e. the lining of the womb) outside of the uterus, for example around the bowel, bladder and ovaries. The symptoms of endometriosis vary and include pelvic pain, painful periods, pre-menstrual spotting, painful sexual intercourse, infertility, diarrhoea, constipation and fatigue.

It is thought that 20-40% of women suffering from infertility have endometriosis and 25% of those undergoing IVF. It is not known exactly how endometriosis causes infertility, but in some cases the endometrial tissue distorts the position of the fallopian tubes or ovaries and endometriosis may also be associated with low progesterone levels and abnormalities in the endometrium that prevent implantation.

The conventional medical treatment options for endometriosis include surgery and hormonal treatments that induce a temporary menopause (along with menopausal symptoms) in the hope that the endometrial tissue will not re-grow in the absence of periods. However, many sufferers of endometriosis find the treatments unpleasant and symptoms are often only temporarily relieved.

Chinese medicine can be used to provide symptomatic relief for endometriosis, making life more bearable, and may improve the chances of conception. 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in the developed world. The diagnostic criteria for PCOS have changed over the years, but it is usually diagnosed when at least two of the following are present:

  • Polycystic ovaries (an ultrasound reveals at least 10 or more small cysts on the ovary)
  • Irregular periods
  • Signs of clinical or biochemical hyperandrogenism (an excess of androgen hormones which can cause excessive facial and body hair, acne, or thinning hair).

PCOS can also cause obesity and insulin resistance, although these symptoms are not present in all cases.

Many PCOS sufferers are prescribed the contraceptive pill, which masks the symptoms of PCOS and those who are trying to conceive and do not ovulate are often given Clomid (clomiphene citrate) to induce ovulation. If these strategies do not work then the patient may be referred for IVF treatment.

There is no doubt that PCOS is a challenging condition, but combining acupuncture for PCOS with lifestyle advice, can have an extremely important part to play in regulating cycles and assisting conception.

“Within two months of seeing Olivia I had my first natural period in over ten years and within four months I was pregnant!” (Sarah)

Chinese medicine and women’s health

Chinese Medicine has a long tradition of treating women’s health issues and there is a maxim in Chinese medicine that women are ten times harder to treat than men!

The main women’s health issues that I see in my clinic are: 

 “Following an in depth consultation with Olivia during which we discussed my medical history, my lifestyle and the complaint itself, she suggested and implemented a clear and easy to follow “prescription”….. I found her calm, knowledgeable and sympathetic approach gave me confidence in the treatments, and quickly, my periods returned to normal.” (Rebecca)