Women’s Health (gynecology)

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I have many fertility patients who are using fertility predictor kits to track when they are likely ovulating. I find these kits, which require a woman to pee on a stick every day for many days, to be less accurate, more expensive and more inconvenient than good old fashioned BBT charts. A BBT chart tracks a woman’s Basal Body Temperature (the temperature upon first waking in the morning) and also the consistency of her cervical fluid. It allows for additional information, such as illness, insomnia, intercourse, whatever the woman wants to add. Using the chart instead of the kit, a woman learns to understand her own body, her potential fertile time, and gives her the power to determine when she is most likely to conceive. The kit, on the other hand, takes that power away from a woman’s own eyes and mind and provides information from outside of herself that is less accurate, and tells a woman nothing about her overall menstrual health.

As a TCM provider, I can also add the BBT chart to my diagnostic tools for a fertility patient.  For instance, a chart that shows a very slow-rising temperature in the luteal (post-ovulation) phase is possibly indicative of a yang or qi deficiency. Yang (which is warm) is needed for the act of ovulation and for the corpus luteum (the follicle from which the egg was released) to provide enough progesterone for conception and implantation to occur. I do not use the BBT as a sole means of diagnosis, but I do add it to my assessment.

Taking the BBT is simple, but there are some key factors to be aware of. Using a regular thermometer, a woman should take her oral (by mouth) temperature first thing upon waking from at least 5 hours of sleep. If the woman gets up, or even spends time awake in bed before taking her temperature, it will not be accurate as our temperatures do rise with activity. To be most accurate the temp should be taken after 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, so if a woman goes to sleep at midnight, and wakes at 5am to pee, she should take her temp at 5am before getting out of bed, and not wait until she has gone back to sleep and gotten up at 7am. The number can be recorded on a piece of paper kept by the bed and then transferred to a paper BBT chart at a later time.

Even easier for some, online software can be used in which the number is simply recorded into the application, and the software creates the BBT chart based on the data provided. A nice example of this kind of software is Kindara. I prefer this one to others, as it is easy to use, is pleasing to the eye, and it does NOT try and “predict” when a woman is ovulating. Instead, it helps a woman see for herself just by looking at the chart when she is most likely ovulating. This software can be used on a computer, or on an Iphone and can also be shared online with a fertility doctor or TCM fertility specialist (or a partner!) if the woman chooses.

Cervical fluid is possibly an even more important predictor of fertility than temperature. When a woman is about to ovulate, the fluid changes in structure from a mass of crystals aimed in every which way, to straight tubes that provide a sort of “highway” for the sperm to move up through the cervix and into the uterus, hopefully to the uterine tubes where conception is most likely to occur. When the fluid is structurally tube-like, it takes on a stretchy quality that can be easily pulled/stretched between a woman’s fingers. Learning to assess when a woman’s fluid is most stretchy gives her the knowledge that she is now about to ovulate, even before the temperature rises. The 48 hours BEFORE ovulation are the best days to have sex if a woman is trying to conceive. BBT charts, including the software on Kindara, provide a place to indicate what the cervical fluid is like each day of a woman’s cycle.

My patients that have made the switch from the “pee sticks” to BBT charting all have a renewed sense of control over their fertility potential. They are more confident and feel a sense of pride about their bodies. In my experience, this is the BEST possible way to enter pregnancy and allows a woman to feel that she understand her body and later, she is generally more comfortable making decisions for her body, such as how she wants to deliver her baby.

Understanding our fertility is our right as women, and I honestly believe that charting our cycles during our fertile years is empowering.

There are many new books being published about fertility and Chinese Medicine. I have read most of them and find that most offer fairly accurate advice and expectations when using Chinese Medicine for fertility. I certainly think it’s helpful for women to have a basic understanding about how the medicine works, how we diagnose, basic nutritional advice. However, I think it is risky to follow advice about taking herbs or supplements from a book without seeing a professional trained in herbal or Naturopathic medicine. The author of a book has no way of knowing your particular set of circumstances and health make-up.

Here’s an example: In the book The Tao of Fertility, the author, Daoshing Ni gives a group of supplements that he recommends for women trying to get pregnant. These include high quality fish oil, B12, B6, Folic Acid and the amino acids L-carnitine and L-arginine. Now, it may be the author’s experience that most women respond well to these supplements, and I would agree that fish oil and B vitamins are essential for every woman. However, supplementing L-carnitine and L-arginine can have detrimental effects in some women including: low blood pressure, bleeding disorders, nausea and low blood sugar. These amino acids can be found in foods, and eating a well-balanced diet full of vegetables, fruit, legumes and lean meats will provide adequate quantities of both without the unnecessary risks of side effects from supplementation.

When considering any supplementation outside of a basic multi-vitamin, fish oil, and probiotics, supplements and herbs are best taken with the guidance of a Naturopath or herbalist who knows your personal health history and knows any pharmaceuticals that you are taking.  This ensures that what you are taking is tailored to what YOUR body needs, not general advice that doesn’t take your set of circumstances into account.

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Sanyinjiao translates to Three Yin Intersection. This point is unique in that the three yin channels of the leg intersect here. The Spleen, Liver and Kidney channels can all be accessed through this point making it very powerful, and very useful.

Locate sanyinjiao 3 cun (approximately 3 inches) up from the medial malleolus (the inner ankle bone) just behind the crest of the tibia, or leg bone. The point is often tender and might feel like a slight depression in the muscle tissue.

I use this point often, especially on women, as it is a lovely point for tonifying the qi of the Spleen and Stomach, thereby aiding in building blood. This has broad use, from menstrual irregularities to digestive discomfort. It resolves damp conditions and invigorates the blood, making it useful for regulating menstruation and also for inducing labor. It is therefore, contraindicated in pregnancy unless labor is desired. It is usefully for calming the spirit and rules the lower of the 3 jiao, meaning the intestines, bladder, uterus/tubes/ovaries, and the sexual organs.

Sanyinjiao is useful for any gynecological, urinary, sexual, digestive and emotional issues. Few points have so many, and such broad application, making Spleen 6 one of the most widely used acupuncture points.

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About 12 years ago I took a trip to Belize. While there, I took an excursion out to the western part of the country to the herbal sanctuary of Dr. Rosita Arvigo who apprenticed with and then took over the Mayan herbal practice of a Shaman in the area. Dr. Arvigo was also trained in an ancient form of massage practiced by the Mayans in the region of Belize, Costa Rica and Mexico coined Maya Abdominal Massage, or MAM. The technique involves deep work that focuses on the abdomen and the lower back. I was first introduced to this treatment in Belize and am excited to find that it is now available in the states. Abdominal organs are gently lifted and shifted and circulation is improved. This particular type of massage is ideal for women suffering from any kind of gynecological or digestive complaint including: unexplained infertility, cramps, spotting, irregular cycles, frequent UTI’s or yeast infections, fibroids, endometriosis, PCOS, IBS, constipation and many more. In addition to massage, the tradition utilizes several techniques to increase blood, lymph and nerve flow in the abdomen including herbal sitz baths, castor oil packs, and self massage. I think this type of treatment is a wonderful adjunct to acupuncture for all of the previously mentioned ailments.

I am excited to introduce everyone to a practitioner IN MY BUILDING who has personally trained with Dr. Rosita Arvigo and will soon be certified in MAM. She is a lovely person and all the patients I have sent her way have been extremely satisfied with her treatments and their outcomes.

If you are interested in this technique I encourage you to contact Ishell Neville through her website: www.ishellneville.com.

To learn more about Maya Abdominal Massage and Dr. Rosita Arvigo, visit  https://arvigotherapy.com/

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