Many women who are trying to become pregnant assume that if they’re having regular periods, they’re good to go. However, while having a regular period is a good thing, the quality of your period also has some something to say about your fertility—specifically implantation, which is when an embryo nestles deep into the lining of your uterus where it can start to grow.
If you’re trying to conceive, you want to have a thick and healthy endometrial (uterine) lining, because it acts as a hospitable environment in which an embryo can grow. Fertility experts suggest that a lining thickness of 8mm is ideal, and most won’t perform IVF implantation at less than 6mm. For some women developing a healthy uterine lining is easier said than done. There are a couple of issues that have to do with menstruation that can actually affect your ability to get pregnant.
Very Light Periods
Each month, hormonal changes promote the thickening of your uterine lining in preparation for implantation of an embryo. However, if no implantation occurs during a given month, the lining sheds, which is the beginning of your menstrual cycle. A cycle that lasts from 3 to 7 days with moderate to heavy flow is normal. However, if your period is short in duration or light in flow, this may be a sign that your uterine lining is thin, perhaps too thin to support implantation or a healthy pregnancy. How do you know if your period is light? If your period is just spotting for several days, if you only need panty liners for the flow or if the duration is moderate but lasts only 1 to 3 days, you can consider your period to be light. Some women use a menstrual cup and measure the volume of their flow.
There are a number of reasons that your period may be light, the most common include:
- Stress, which can upset the balance of hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle
- A thyroid imbalance
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, PCOS, in which your eggs stop maturing
- Your age, which can be an issue in your early reproductive years or as you approach menopause
- Overexercise, which can also upset the balance of reproductive hormones
- Long term birth control use
- Poor circulation to your uterus
Light periods may not be an issue unless you’re trying to become pregnant. And you may not become aware that your uterine lining is thin unless you’ve seen a fertility doctor. They can assess and monitor your uterine lining to be sure it’s thick enough for a successful embryo implantation.
Another issue that can impact the lining of your uterus, and ultimately your ability to become pregnant is having menstrual flow with a lot of clotting. While clotting is your body’s normal reaction to bleeding, during your period your body releases anticoagulants to help your uterus shed its lining easily by keeping the blood thin and flowing. However, in some instances the anticoagulants can’t keep up with the blood being shed, causing it to clot. These clots are usually dark red and are made of coagulated blood, endometrial tissue and a kind of connective tissue called fibrin. The issue is that clots are older tissue that have been a part of the endometrium for a while. If clotting during your period is a regular thing, it can negatively impact your fertility because it indicates that your uterine lining is stagnant and sluggish, which isn’t an ideal environment for implantation.
There are a couple of reasons for clotty periods. One is a very heavy flow, which overwhelms the anticoagulant effect. A high volume of blood just doesn’t give the anticoagulants enough time to do their job and create a free-flowing menstrual period.
Another reason for clotting is being chronically cold. If you’re one of those people who need a sweater even during the warm summer weather, it’s because your body runs cold. While this may seem like an odd relationship to clotting menstrual blood, think of your menstrual cycle as a river. When it’s very cold, the river begins to freeze up and flow much slower, if at all. However, during the warm weather, the water in the river flows freely. In addition, sometimes chronic coldness is related to a thyroid imbalance.
Stress may also be at the source of excessive clotting. Scientists have actually found that high levels of stress can impact coagulation of your blood. Not only that, but stress can also upset the balance of reproductive hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone that regulates ovulation, how your uterine lining thickens and the amount of menstrual flow.
How Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Can Help
The good news is that acupuncture has beneficial effects on your reproductive health. Some of the ways that researchers have found acupuncture beneficial in promoting a healthier uterine lining and a regular menstrual cycle include:
- Acupuncture increases circulation of blood and nutrients to your ovaries and uterus.
- It promotes movement, which translates into flow. A foundation of Chinese medicine is that to be healthy you need to have adequate energy, and that energy needs to flow smoothly. This is true for your digestion, your lymphatic system, the blood in your vessels, and the flow of your menstrual period—and every other system in your body. Acupuncture helps to keep your menstrual blood moving and decreases the occurrence of clotting.
- On the flip side, there are acupuncture points and herbs that can slow down or decrease heavy cycles and clotting.
- Acupuncture can help regulate the balance of your reproductive hormones.
- It’s well-documented that acupuncture can reduce stress by increasing the circulation of feel-good neurotransmitters that produce a sense of well-being and calm.
- Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and heat therapy can help in cases where cold is causing excessive clotting or other health issues.
In addition to acupuncture, Chinese herbs can be useful in treating the underlying cause of your health condition. Herbs are combined into formulas with specific actions, such as boosting the nourishing quality of your blood, promoting movement/flow, warming, calming and balancing to name a few. In addition to acupuncture, herbal medicine is an important healing tool in treating patients with fertility issues.
The bottom line is that becoming pregnant is a complicated dance between your hormones, ovulation, your cycles and implantation. Sometimes seemingly unrelated events, such as a light or clotty period can be a factor in your fertility status. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have a lot to offer patients who are seeking fertility help through natural health solutions or support for assisted reproductive techniques. If you’d like to know more about how we can help, don’t hesitate to call or book a FREE Consult.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.