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Stress & your period: what acupuncture can do

The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that controls the hormones that impact your period. It responds to factors like exercise, sleep, and of course, stress.

When under stress, your body produces cortisol, and excess cortisol can lead to delayed cycles, skipped, painful or light periods .

Thankfully acupuncture & herbs are wonderful at relieving the root (stress) and the branch (imbalanced periods).

Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis)

The HPA axis is the body's central stress response system, and directly affects reproductive hormones, interfering with normal follicle (egg) development, menstruation, and fertility.

The stress hormones

The main stress hormones are Cortisol and Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). With stress, the HPA axis releases CRH and cortisol, which can dysregulate the normal release of reproductive hormones such as progesterone.

CRH has been found in most female reproductive tissues including the uterus, the placenta, and the ovaries. It is responsible for :

  • amenorrhea (not getting your period)

  • anovulation (not ovulating)

  • irregular ovulation

This means chronic stress can have long term negative effects on the reproductive system and fertility.

Stress, period pain & Fertility

To conceive, you need to ovulate, and women with irregular cycles do not have normal ovulation, or sometimes don’t ovulate at all.

Stress during follicular phase (before ovulation)

Higher stress during the follicular phase strongly correlates with changes in normal reproductive function. Stress may also cause our bodies to delay or entirely stop ovulation.

One recent study showed women with stress during the follicular phase were less likely to become pregnant compared to those with no stress during the same time.

Stress affects your period over multiple months

It's not just the current cycle that is affected, but up to 2-3 months following a stressful event.

Stress causes period pain

Dysmenorrhea (period pain) is twice as common in women who report high levels of stress in the preceding menstrual cycle -- 44% of the women with high stress developed dysmenorrhea compared to 22% of women with low stress.

Acupuncture for regular peaceful periods

Acupuncture as efficient as the pill to treat period pain

A research paper published in 2015, comparing the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill (COC) to acupuncture for treating dysmenorrhea came to this conclusion:

“Acupuncture is an alternative option for relieving dysmenorrhea, especially when [the pill] is not a favorable choice.”

A Meta-analysis of recent research came to this conclusion in 2017: “The available evidence suggests that acupuncture may be effective for Primary Dysmenorrhea and justifies future high-quality studies.”

Acupuncture regulates the menstrual cycle in 3 main ways

  • Regulating the feedback loop between the brain and the ovaries

  • Improving blood flow to the ovaries and uterus.

  • Promoting ovulation by improving the LH (Lutenising Hormone) surge which triggers the egg to be released.

Typical treatment plan

As with many gynecological conditions, a 3-month course of treatment minimum is required to see long lasting effects. Many of my patients experience benefits right away !

No matter where you are in your women's health, fertility, pregnancy & mothering journey,

if you need support, we can help.

In addition to our own team of fertility & women's health acupuncturists, we are well-connected within the Los Angeles- Pasadena area community to help you find the right integrative and holistic care for you.

On our website, you can learn more about our services, and book an appointment.

If you have more questions please call our front desk, at 626-841-2991, or email us.


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