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Amenorrhea (Missed Periods) in Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), menstrual problems are a matter of serious concern. This is partly because in ancient China, childbearing was the most important role that a woman had, and normal regulated menses signified that she could give birth to healthy babies.

Menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and lactation are unique to women. Blood is the elementary basis of these physiological functions hence there is the saying that "for women, blood is paramount." Women's diseases have been seen as a unique specialty far back in history with the first gynecological monograph Jingxiao Chanbao (Tested Treasure in Obstetrics) being published in AD 847-859 by Zan Yin. Among these literary works, menstrual problems such as heavy menses, scanty menses, early or delayed periods, prolonged periods, missed periods and menstrual cramping and so on, are categorized in detail.
Classic illustration showing different kinds of women's conditions such as infertility, irregular menses and weakness after delivery.

Records about missed periods can be tracked back 2000 years to the Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic), in which there was a prescription with cuttlefish bone as the main ingredient for amenorrhea due to "withered blood." Ancient physicians believed that amenorrhea resulted from various disturbances in the interactions between the kidneys, tian gui, extra meridians (Thoroughfare and Conception Vessels) and the Uterus. Dysfunction in the spleen and liver also play a major role during the development of amenorrhea. The disharmonies interfere with menses formation in the uterus and lead to missed periods.

Click to see the Women's Physiology from a TCM perspective.

In modern TCM, physicians first differentiate missed periods from physiological causes such as pregnancy, breastfeeding or menopause. They also take advantage of modern techniques to exclude structural defects and identify whether it is applicable for TCM treatment.

TCM treatments for missed periods are generally indicated for conditions that are mostly due to dysfunction in the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, the ovaries or the uterus. Structural deformities such as birth defects are not applicable.