This is the first in a series of posts to offer some guidance about what to do if you are struggling to conceive, or what to pay attention to if you are planning to start to try to conceive in the near future.
Let's start with the basics - the menstrual cycle. There is a wide consensus about what constitutes a healthy menstrual cycle:
between 28-32 days long
period bleed starting cleanly, not creeping in with a brown discharge
minimal spotting before the period - slight spotting in the 24hrs before the flow starts is not such a concern, but longer than that is something to address.
period flow that is a fresh, healthy looking red colour with minimal clots (not thin and pink, not brown, not dark and clotty)
minimal pain symptoms - some slight discomfort is not a big problem, but pain that is in any way debilitating, activity limiting or requires medicating is not OK
no spotting after the period, no spotting or bleeding intermittently through the cycle
a noticeable amount of fertile mucus in the 3-5 days before ovulation
minimal pain around ovulation is OK, anything more than that needs addressing
minimal symptoms associated with hormone regulation issues (cycle related sugar craving, bloating, constipation, headaches, migraines, hot flushes, breast pain etc)
It is amazing how many clients come to us having been trying to conceive for a number of years with horrendous menstrual cycle, and yet they don't realise how easy it is to change it with some simple holistic support. I see a lousy cycle as a problem when it comes to fertility. If your cycle is not like that, that is the first thing to tackle. It is the first thing we set about changing.
From a medical perspective, there is very little that can be done to improve a menstrual cycle if the end goal is to improve fertility:
There is no medication that will slow down ovulation to add days to a short cycle.
There is no medication that will take a few days off a long cycle.
There is no help to stabilise an irregular cycle that would also support fertility and improve hormone regulation.
There is no medication that can change a dark, thick, clotty bleed into a fresh, red healthy bleed.
Subtle signs of hormone regulation issues such as bloating, constipation, breast pain etc are rarely addressed medically.
Other than strong pain relief medication, there is nothing your doctor can prescribe that will reduce your period pain.
But holistic support can bring about incredible changes. We see it all the time.
It’s not just the big features of a cycle that we look at. There are a host of other ‘minor’ menstrual cycle symptoms that we pay attention to: spotting, breast tenderness, PMT, bloating that worsens around ovulation or in the last few days of the cycle, hot flushes, night sweats, cervical mucus changes – the list is almost endless. The whole system of Chinese acupuncture is rooted in patterns and cycles, and the impact acupuncture can have on cycle symptoms often seems like magic. With any combination of fertility acupuncture, visceral osteopathy and diet, lifestyle and nutrition advice, we gently bring a cycle into a healthier state.
I have had people in tears when their first cycle comes after full month of treatment and the difference from their usual hellish few days can be like day and night.
If you are struggling with unexplained infertility with a rotten menstrual cycle, I recommend fixing it and giving your body a chance to conceive naturally rather than heading straight into IVF. It is usually easy to improve a poor menstrual cycle, and a rotten cycle will have an impact on your egg quality and ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy. We work with many endometriosis sufferers, adenomyosis, PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhea, irregular cycles, long cycles, short cycles - we take it all on.
It isn’t impossible to conceive with an awful cycle, but we know from experience that sometimes sorting out the cycle is all it takes to lift someone’s fertility to the point where conception happens naturally and easily.
So this is where we start.
Here is a list of books that can help you to make a start on improving your menstrual cycle:
I'm a Fertility Support Trained Acupuncturist. Yes, we do the acupuncture magic stuff - but we also know a lot about the science of fertility and how to investigate it properly.
Stay tuned for the rest of my 12 Days, 12 Posts - and if you think someone needs to be following this series, please share.