Menstrual Cycle: Your practitioner will more than likely be the first person to ever thoroughly question you about menstruation. In Chinese Medicine, the color, consistency and timing of your cycle is very important diagnostic information and is a reflection of your health as a woman. You can think of it as a snapshot of the state of your health every month. Most of us would prefer to avoid getting our periods because of the interruption to our daily lives and the symptoms that often accompany our monthly “roommate” but this doesn’t have to be the case. Menstruation is not the “curse” it has been made out to be, it’s a great way to check in and make adjustments to your self-care program that can dramatically affect your reproductive health and overall well-being.
Length of cycle: It’s important to track your period to determine how many days are in between each cycle. In Chinese Medicine, we like to see your cycle coming monthly, no longer than 30 days in between cycles. The timing of the cycle is a reflection of how smoothly the chi (qi) and blood of the body are flowing. When everything is flowing smoothly, you will experience regularly timed cycles from month to month. This is not to say that occasionally you will not have an odd cycle that is out of your natural rhythm. Many things can affect the timing of menstruation and ovulation, such as travel, change of season, illness, stress, sleep disturbances and alcohol consumption. This is why it is better to monitor your body monthly, rather than predict timing based on past history. Life changes daily, and so do our bodies in response to external stimuli.
Color, quantity, consistency and symptoms: How often have you really thought about the color of your menstrual blood? Not frequently, unless you have been to an Acupuncturist. We’re very interested in the color of the menstruate; it lets us know how things are flowing. Is the door opening easily to release the shedding endometrial lining or is there sluggishness in the system? Does your period start out with a day or so of spotting before full flow begins? Is it brown to begin and then changes to a rich red? Is it bright red, deep, dark maroon or brown all the way through? Do you have cramps, clots or “bits” commingled with your menstrual blood? Do you suffer from cramps, which require medication to ease the pain? Does having your period interrupt your ability to go to work, exercise or enjoy life? The answers to these questions can provide your practitioner with valuable diagnostic information essential to your care.
PMS: Premenstrual symptoms usually arrive a few days before your period begins, but it is not unusual for a woman to complain of symptoms as early as a few days post-ovulation. The presence of symptoms may indicate a problem with the body shifting from the first half of the cycle (follicular phase) to the second half of the cycle (luteal phase) pointing to specific functional problems in the meridian system. The primary goal of treatment is to restore the unfettered flow of energy in the reproductive system. This allows the proper chemical messages to be sent telling the body what to prepare for in the upcoming days. The more detailed you are in describing your PMS symptoms, the better armed your practitioner will be when treating you.
Ovulation prediction: When trying naturally or with minimal medical intervention, it’s important to know when your “window of opportunity” is open. I find that women who have been trying to conceive for months without success, may have been missing their most fertile days. Predicting ovulation based on past history is a common mistake many women make. There are many factors that can affect the timing of ovulation and it is essential that you are tracking your fertile signals every month, instead of basing your efforts on the assumptions of past cycles. When you are ready to begin, be sure to pick an ovulation prediction method that works for you and your lifestyle, or else you are wasting time, money and sanity. There are many methods you can use to track your monthly fertile signals. These choices range from low to high tech methods, such as basal body temperature charting, LH surge kits, ovulation prediction machines, blood testing and ultrasound.
Monthly fertile discharge has probably caused the most distress for women trying to predict fertility naturally. Confused and discouraged, women say “I can feel it, but I can’t see it”, I can see it, but I’m not sure what I’m seeing,” “I never see or feel it,” or “I have discharge all month long.” Understanding the subtle shifts of this fertility signal can help pinpoint your most fertile time each month.
What is this mysterious fluid anyway? Cervical mucous is the female version of seminal fluid, a transfer medium that both helps to lubricate the vaginal canal and directs the sperm upward toward the waiting egg after it has been released at ovulation. The quality and quantity of your mucous can be affected by diet, medications, season and age. It can appear as a white, creamy lotion-like discharge, days after your period has ended, you may feel it before you see it when it is in the “egg white” state and when you are most fertile, or you may notice that it is clear, resembling sticky glue as your body’s fertile time is beginning to wane. Once your period has ended, you may have a few days of dryness when there isn’t anything going on, no bleeding, no discharge. A good rule of thumb is to begin watching for discharge as soon as your period ends. This way you will not miss its arrival because you were expecting it later in the month. It’s important to make note when it occurs, its consistency, and when it disappears. I suggest that my clients begin “trying” at the first sign of cervical mucous and continue until it disappears. This is effective for two reasons; first, sex becomes less mechanical and more natural. Pressure to perform for both partners becomes a less volatile subject, and secondly, trying more frequently can increase your chances of taking advantage of your window of opportunity each month.