Short luteal phase with infertility and miscarriage? acupuncture can help
The menstrual cycle of women can be divided into two phases: the follicular phase and the luteal phase. During the follicular phase, the follicles in the ovaries develop and mature. The time it takes for the eggs to mature and be released can vary from woman to woman, and even for the same woman during different menstrual cycles. This is why period cycles can vary greatly.
When one of the eggs reaches maturity, it is released from the ovary. This marks the start of the luteal phase. Researchers Dwon KA and Gibson M studied body basal temperature (BBT) charts and the luteal phase defect in three menstrual cycles of 20 normal women and 20 women with luteal phase defects. They found that the luteal phase length in normal women was 13.4 days, while the luteal phase length in women with luteal phase defects was 11.8 days. Thirty percent of the women with luteal phase defects had luteal phases lasting less than 11 days, and five of these women had severe endometrial problems. None of the normal women had luteal phases lasting less than 11 days.
The length of the luteal phase does not vary much with the length of the menstrual cycle and is typically between 12-14 days. After ovulation, the remaining part of the follicle develops into the corpus luteum, which continues to grow and produce a hormone called progesterone. Progesterone is essential for making the inner lining of the uterus suitable for the fertilized egg to implant and for supporting early pregnancy. The inner lining of the uterus is like a comfortable bed for the egg. If the luteal phase is shorter than 12 days, the bed may not be ready. This can occur if the corpus luteum dies earlier than 12 days, or if the body does not produce enough progesterone to make a suitable bed for the embryo.
Luteal phase defect affects around 10% of women with infertility and over 60% of women with miscarriage. Symptoms of luteal phase defect can include a short menstrual cycle, spotting, low progesterone, disrupted BBT after ovulation, and other nonspecific symptoms such as low back pain and vaginal dryness.
Luteal phase defect is a condition that can lead to difficulties in achieving pregnancy. There are three possible causes of this condition. The first is poor follicle production, which occurs when the remaining follicle after ovulation becomes corpus luteum but is of poor quality. This results in insufficient production of progesterone and poor development of the uterine inner lining. The second cause is premature failure of the corpus luteum, which can happen even if the initial quality of the follicle was good. This also leads to inadequate development of the uterine inner lining. The third cause is failed response from the uterine lining, where it does not respond well to normal progesterone levels, resulting in poor implantation.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory proposes that luteal phase defect is caused by kidney or spleen qi deficiency, or by liver qi stagnation. This is due to qi deficiency and stagnation causing blood stagnation and blockage of channels, which results in the corpus luteum dying earlier than normal. Recent research supports this theory, showing that during corpus luteum formation, it becomes one of the most highly vascularized organs in the body. Blood flow in the corpus luteum is critical for its development and maintenance of luteal function, including progesterone synthesis and release. Women with luteal phase defect have significantly lower corpus luteum blood flow than those with normal luteal function. Increasing corpus luteum blood flow can improve its function.
Therefore, it is crucial to address the root cause of luteal phase defect, whether it is due to poor follicle production, premature failure of the corpus luteum, or failed response from the uterine lining.
Luteal phase defect is a condition that can cause difficulties in achieving pregnancy. There are various causes of this condition, including poor follicle production, premature failure of the corpus luteum, and failed response from the uterine lining. It is possible to improve the function of the corpus luteum and increase the chances of achieving a successful pregnancy.
Acupuncture has been found to improve blood flow to the ovaries and corpus luteum, which can effectively regulate menstrual cycles and restore normal luteal phase. A study published in Chinese journals demonstrated the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating luteal phase defect, which can lead to infertility.
Fifty patients diagnosed with luteal phase defect, with an age range of 26 to 42 and an average age of 32, and a history of difficulty conceiving for 6 months to 4 years, received acupuncture treatment. Pregnancy rates were calculated, and the effectiveness of acupuncture was measured by testing estrogen and progesterone levels in the blood, checking for egg development, ovulation, and the inner lining of the womb.
The results showed that 40% of women achieved pregnancy within 3-6 months of treatment. In the remaining 53% of women, the size of the dominant matured egg increased, the inner lining of the womb was thicker, and blood estrogen and progesterone levels increased compared to before treatment. Follow-up studies with those who became pregnant showed that there were no miscarriages.
Another report from China focused on the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating patients with recurrent miscarriage. There were 558 cases of recurrent miscarriage, with 211 cases treated with acupuncture between 1973 and 1976, with a success rate of 86%, and 347 cases treated with acupuncture between 1982 and 1984, with a success rate of 93.4%.
These studies suggest that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for luteal phase defect and recurrent miscarriage. By improving blood flow and regulating hormone levels, acupuncture may help to promote pregnancy and reduce the risk of miscarriage.
Takasaki A et al J Ovarian Res. (2009) 14:2:1
Hongwei Yang and Xueyan Huang Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion (2010) 10:626-628
Downs KA and Gibson M Fertil (1983) 40:466-8