Lately, there's been a growing buzz around the topic of "menstrual pain and fertility," sparking heated discussions and debates. Menstrual pain, often referred to as the cyclic abdominal discomfort experienced by women during or around their menstrual periods, is a subject of concern. This discomfort can range from mild to severe, with some women experiencing excruciating pain that interferes with their daily lives. Many people speculate about a connection between menstrual pain and fertility, assuming that the pain will naturally subside after childbirth.
But can menstrual pain actually lead to infertility? It's a possibility, and the key player here is often endometriosis.
From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, menstrual pain has two primary pathological mechanisms: "pain due to obstruction" and "pain due to deficiency." Pain due to obstruction is typically associated with stagnant Qi and poor blood circulation, sometimes triggered by emotional distress or the consumption of cold foods that disrupt Qi and blood circulation.
Pain due to deficiency, on the other hand, is linked to insufficient Qi and blood, as well as compromised liver and kidney functions. This type of pain may follow illnesses or excessive physical strain, resulting in depleted Qi, blood, liver, and kidney functions, ultimately leading to inadequate nourishment and menstrual pain.
Endometriosis, whether in the form of endometriotic cysts or adenomyosis, can contribute to menstrual pain and potentially affect ovulation and embryo implantation, leading to infertility. Additionally, endometriosis can lead to blocked or obstructed fallopian tubes, further increasing the risk of infertility.
However, it's important to note that not all women with menstrual pain will experience infertility. The likelihood of this happening is relatively low, so there's no need for excessive worry.
Does Menstrual Pain Improve After Childbirth? Primary Dysmenorrhea May Not Improve
It's a common belief that menstrual pain diminishes or disappears after giving birth. But is this statement accurate? Indeed, many women do experience relief from menstrual pain or its complete cessation following childbirth. The rationale behind this lies in the fact that, if menstrual pain is caused by endometriosis, the ectopic endometrial tissue undergoes necrosis during pregnancy and childbirth, as there are at least ten months or more without menstruation. Without regular menstrual cycles, the ectopic endometrial tissue ceases to grow. With diminished vitality, it no longer causes abnormal bleeding in its displaced location, thus alleviating the pain.
However, this isn't a universal rule, and experiencing relief from menstrual pain after childbirth shouldn't necessarily be seen as a positive sign. Instead, it should prompt you to seek prompt medical examination, such as an ultrasound (B-mode) scan. This is because secondary dysmenorrhea could be caused by conditions like endometriosis, adenomyosis, or pelvic inflammatory diseases, all of which can potentially lead to infertility.
Moreover, not all women experience an improvement in menstrual pain after childbirth. Primary dysmenorrhea, in particular, tends not to improve significantly due to childbirth. Additionally, some women who initially didn't experience menstrual pain may develop it post-childbirth due to adhesions in the cervix or uterine cavity.
So, the statement that menstrual pain improves after childbirth isn't an absolute rule.
How to Alleviate Menstrual Pain? Avoid Cold Foods and Direct Cooling After Sweating
Beyond well-known methods like applying a warm water bag externally or consuming ginger and brown sugar water, there are several traditional Chinese medicine approaches to alleviate menstrual pain. These include moxibustion, foot baths with Chinese herbal decoctions, acupoint patches, and the internal consumption of Chinese herbal remedies. These methods, along with lifestyle adjustments, have proven highly effective in alleviating menstrual pain.
In addition to these approaches, over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin can help ease menstrual pain. For women experiencing severe menstrual pain, it's advisable to avoid consuming cold foods and beverages, refrain from immediate exposure to air conditioning or taking cold baths right after sweating, and consider warm foot soaks before bedtime. These practices are effective in nurturing women's yang energy.
Traditional Chinese medicine treatments like Fuyan Pill can also be an option for those suffering from menstrual pain due to endometriosis.