Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome (PCOS)

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

PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in the developed world. It is 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, insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance, although these symptoms are not present in all cases.

Many PCOS sufferers are prescribed the contraceptive pill, which merely masks the symptoms of PCOS and those who are trying to conceive are often given Clomid (clomiphene citrate) to induce ovulation. Alternatively they may be given Metformin, which is a diabetes medication, to promote weight loss and normalize ovulation, since evidence suggests that weight loss improves the frequency of ovulation in overweight PCOS sufferers. If these strategies do not work then the patient is usually referred for IVF treatment.

There is no doubt that PCOS is a challenging condition, but I have seen great results achieved by combining acupuncture for PCOS with herbal medicine and lifestyle advice, all of which have an extremely important part to play.

  • Acupuncture can stimulate the ovaries and encourage ovulation, particularly using electroacupuncture on the lower abdomen.
  • Chinese herbal medicine can be used to regulate hormone levels and assist weight loss, both of which can lead to more frequent and regular ovulation.
  • Lifestyle and dietary advice, including advice about exercise, can promote weight loss and normalize ovulation in some women.

The treatment of PCOS can require a lot of patience, particularly where a patient has not had a natural period for many years. However, because Chinese medicine restores fundamental imbalances in the body at a deep level, once significant changes have been achieved many women begin to ovulate on their own and go on to conceive naturally without having to resort to Clomid, IVF, ICSI or IUI.