What to Know about Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), Fertility and Chinese Medicine
Premature ovarian failure – also known as premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) – is a condition associated with a decline in hormone production and certain reproductive organs. It is estimated that around 1% of women under the age of 40, and less than 0.1% of women under the age of 30 are impacted by premature ovarian failure.
Premature ovarian failure (POF) can result in hormone imbalance or lack of regularity of egg release, missing or irregular periods, often resulting in infertility. Dealing with POF is never easy, but there are several Chinese Medicine treatments and practices that have been proven to help.
What are the symptoms of Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)?
Symptoms of POF may include any of the following:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Difficulties getting pregnant
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased sex drive
Other symptoms of premature ovarian failure may include dry eyes, pain during intercourse, insomnia, an absence of periods, mood swings, and more. While not exactly common, POF can also increase a woman’s risk to osteoporosis. This may come as a result of the low levels of estrogen that weaken bone strength. Thyroid issues are also common in women who suffer from premature ovarian failure, and may be a result of autoimmune complications.
How does POF affect fertility?
POF can affect fertility by disrupting the normal menstrual cycle. Women with POF may experience irregular periods or stop menstruating altogether. This is because the ovaries are not producing enough estrogen, which is necessary for the development and release of eggs. Without ovulation, pregnancy cannot occur naturally.
FSH plays a key role in regulating the menstrual cycle and fertility. In women with POF, the ovaries are not responding to FSH stimulation, leading to high levels of FSH in the blood. High levels of FSH can indicate that the ovaries are not functioning properly and can be a sign of reduced fertility.
According to TCM theory, POF is caused by a deficiency in the kidney and liver systems. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers an alternative approach to the treatment of POF.
Chinese Medicine and Premature Ovarian Failure
Many of those suffering from POF choose to supplement HRT with Chinese medicine practices, as they have been proven time and time again to provide optimal results. At it’s core, POF is caused by kidney deficiency and is formulated by the disturbance of menstrual blood.
The kidney serves as the foundation that stores congenital essence. Kidneys control the growth, development, and reproduction, while the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the body. The essence produces blood which supplies the uterus and uterine collaterals with menstrual blood. To tie this back to POF – premature ovarian failure is often associated with either an absence or excess of menstrual blood.
The three main types of premature ovarian failure are as follows:
- Deficiency of essence and blood as a result of deficient liver and kidney : Symptoms often include delayed menstrual cycles, dysphoria, feverish sensations, irritability, and more.
- Deficiency of essence and blood as a result of deficient spleen and stomach : Symptoms include thin menstrual flow, dizziness, lumbar soreness, aversion to the cold, decreased sex drive, loose stool and more.
- Deficiency of essence and blood as a result of deficient kidney and stagnation of the liver-qi : Symptoms can include pain in chest, irritability, frequent urination, lumbar soreness, and decreased sex drive. Many patients also experience heavy mental disturbances and psychological pressures.
What are the causes of premature ovarian failure?
While the root causes for premature ovarian failure can be understood through TCMs acknowledgment of deficiencies in the liver and kidney, there are a few other commonly accepting causes.
- Autoimmune disorders
- Genetic defects
- Misuse or discontinued use of certain contraceptives
- Complications from surgery, abortion, pregnancy, or miscarriage
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Thyroid disfunction
- Certain viral infections
- Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression
- Eating disorders
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency Treatments
The treatment of POF using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) typically involves a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary changes, and lifestyle modifications to improve overall health and balance the body’s energy.
The kidneys are believed to control growth, development, and reproduction, while the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the body. Therefore, treatment for POF in TCM aims to nourish and support these systems.
Acupuncture for Premature Ovarian Failure
As opposed to western medicine practices, acupuncture can be focused on the root problem of POF – blood flow in the ovaries, liver, and kidneys. Most importantly, acupuncture has proven to be an effective treatment in replenishing these organs with vital blood, which in turn improves egg quality and production.
Recent studies have shown that acupuncture not only reduces some of the more discomforting symptoms associated with POF, but also may improve the reproductive outcomes for women undergoing IVF. The same studies also showed that acupuncture is effective at improving overall ovarian function. Acupuncture has also shown to relieve stress and even improve sleep for women who are dealing with POF.
Premature Ovarian Failure Diet
Another common premature ovarian failure treatment can include a simple change in diet. Women experiencing POF may want to consider prioritizing the following foods and supplements:
- Calcium: Milk, cheese, and other dairy products are great sources of calcium and make for effective supplements in terms of bone support.
- Vitamin K: Green, leafy vegetables are high in vitamin K – such as kale, spinach, rhubarb, and arugula. These are great for improving bone health and autoimmune issues.
- Vitamin A: Carrots, kale, eggs, sweet potatoes, and spinach are all high in vitamin A. These foods can significantly help improve egg production in women suffering from ovarian complications.
Experts in TCM will often utilize natural herbs in combination with acupuncture to treat POF. Such herbs may include Dong Gui, Dan Shen – Red Sage. Medical practitioners may use a concoction of a wide variety of herbs to treat patients. Herbal treatments have been known to be equally important in providing sustained relief to women dealing with premature ovarian failure.
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Premature ovarian failure can be a complex and frustrating diagnosis to deal with. The symptoms and causes for POF are broad, which makes them especially difficult to treat. While western medicine and HRT treatments do a good job at treating part of the issues related to POF, they still have their limitations.
To ensure the most effective possible treatment, it is advised that patients speak with their care provider about combining practices from both eastern and western medicine. In utilizing the best practices available, women dealing with premature ovarian failure may be able to find the relief they are looking for.
For more information about how Chinese Medicine can help you with premature ovarian failure, book your free consultation with our Chinese Medicine experts today
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our clinics website: GinSen where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.