Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common reproductive disorder and affects 5-10% of women. PCOS is currently the leading cause of infertility in the United States. PCOS is a condition that causes menstrual irregularity, weight gain, and adrenal imbalance leading to hirsutism, or facial hair. With the onset of PCOS, there is an early excess of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), which causes early growth of axillary hair, acne, and body odor. Anovulation or dysfunction with ovulation is a common symptom leading to infertility, as well as an adrenal imbalance. PCOS is usually diagnosed in puberty and becomes worse throughout time. Although the cause of PCOS is currently unknown, it is suspected that it is familial. Diagnostic criteria for PCOS require 2 out the following symptoms be present: 12 or more follies on one ovary or increased ovary size, hyperandrogenism (high levels of male hormones), or menstrual dysfunction. Although a diagnosis of PCOS does not mean that cysts are present on the ovaries, the condition gets its name due to many women having enlarged ovaries that appear to have small cysts on the outer edge.

Biomedical treatment of PCOS includes oral contraceptives and hormonal therapies. Progesterone therapy or oral contraceptives are usually the first things prescribed to regulate the menses and to help with hormonal abnormalities leading to hirsutism or acne. Metformin is also usually prescribed to reduce free testosterone levels. Metformin can also correct glycemic and metabolic irregularities, leading to a more regular menstrual cycle.

Can acupuncture and Chinese medicine treat PCOS?

Yes, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can treat the symptoms of PCOS, while also regulating the menstrual cycle. PCOS is a condition that affects hormones, insulin resistance, and increases inflammation. Chinese medicine helps to address any underlying imbalances within the body and helps to reduce systemic inflammation. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are commonly used to regulate the endocrine system, helping to stabilize hormonal imbalances caused by PCOS. Acupuncture can also help to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs. Increased circulation to the reproductive organs can lead to increases egg quality, By helping to increase circulation and regulating the endocrine system, acupuncture can help to regulate the menstrual cycle and increase the likelihood of ovulation. For many women, this means an increased likelihood of conceiving naturally. In addition to treating PCOS, acupuncture has many other benefits that may increase natural fertility. Acupuncture can also help to help to decrease stress and anxiety. Research suggests that acupuncture releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones, that can aid in stress reduction. Acupuncture can help regulate the nervous system, bringing the body out of the sympathetic “fight or flight” response and instead stimulate the body’s parasympathetic “rest and digest” response.

Chinese herbs can also be very effective in the treatment of PCOS. Chinese herbs can help to regulate progesterone and estrogen levels and help to resume healthy ovulation and menstrual cycles. Lifestyle and dietary modifications are also important in treating PCOS holistically. For example, foods rich in carbohydrates are not ideal for some PCOS patients as they may contribute to insulin resistance.

How effective is acupuncture at treating PCOS?

The research supports acupuncture in the treatment of PCOS. In a study from Goteborg University in Sweden, it was revealed that acupuncture may help some women with PCOS ovulate. In the study, a group of women with PCOS received acupuncture regularly for 4 months. The second group of women was given instructions to exercise at least 3 times a week with a heart monitor. A control group was also used that was just informed about the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. The study showed that the women who received acupuncture had lower levels of testosterone and more normalized periods in comparison with the two other groups. 38% of women in the acupuncture group also experienced normal ovulation.

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