Menopause is the permanent ending of your period. Perimenopause is the span of time that comes before this end. Both are natural phases of every woman’s reproductive cycle. As you approach menopause, your ovaries produce less estrogen. Your periods grow irregular before stopping completely. The change in the hormones in your body causes symptoms like hot flashes and night flashes. These symptoms occur as your body adjusts to not having periods anymore. More than 80% of women experience these symptoms.

There are several methods of treatment and home remedies that claim to make these symptoms less disruptive to your life. One of the treatments that researchers have been studying is acupuncture. There is conflicting evidence about what acupuncture can do for your body during menopause. But there seems to be some agreement that acupuncture works better than no treatment at all.

Acupuncture cannot stop or slow the onset of menopause. But evidence suggests that it can address certain symptoms connected to menopause, for example:

  • Acupuncture can limit the severity and occurrence of hot flashes.
  • Acupuncture may also help combat the side effects of a slowing metabolism.
  • Some studies have shown that acupuncture combined with better nutrition can help manage obesity.
  • While acupuncture has not been studied directly to manage vaginal dryness, one study suggests that acupuncture could lead to an increased libido and a healthier hormone balance.

The connection between depression, anxiety, and menopause is complex. However, we do know that a loss of estrogen relates to a loss of another hormone, serotonin. Serotonin is a natural mood booster and emotion regulator, and having less of it means that some women in perimenopause are at a greater risk for mental health conditions like depression. If you’re experiencing mental health side effects of menopause, such as depression and anxiety, acupuncture may help relieve symptoms of both.

Acupuncture may not work for everyone who tries it. It’s important to begin treatment with an open mind. Acupuncture does carry some risks. You may have some soreness after an acupuncture treatment. Some people report that their symptoms of fatigue or pain worsened after getting acupuncture. There’s also the possibility of organ injury or infection after a treatment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, acupuncture is a generally low-risk procedure as long as you visit a licensed and reputable acupuncture clinic. If you have a pacemaker or a bleeding disorder, speak with your doctor before you try acupuncture for menopause symptoms.

Tips for acupuncture include:

  • Before your first acupuncture appointment, do some research and ask people you know about the clinic you’re going to.
  • Make sure you’re visiting a licensed practitioner.
  • If at any point the facility appears to be dirty, if you’re uncomfortable, or if the practitioner appears to be using needles that aren’t brand new out of the package, leave the office and do not go forward with the treatment.
  • Most acupuncture treatments begin with a discussion of your symptoms and the results you would like to see from the treatment.
  • Your practitioner may recommend treatments once or twice a week to start, with treatments spaced out every two weeks once symptoms improve.
  • Since most insurance carriers consider acupuncture to be an elective treatment, you may have to pay for it out of pocket. Make sure to communicate with the billing department about the costs that are associated with your acupuncture.

Acupuncture is an alternative treatment for symptoms like hot flashes and anxiety, but it can’t replace advice from your doctor. Make sure that you’re communicating with your OB/GYN or general practitioner about the severity of your perimenopause and menopause symptoms. If you have vaginal bleeding more than a year after your period has stopped, if you’re experiencing chronic pain or symptoms of depression, or if you’re having severe mood swings that are interfering with your life, it could be time to consider other forms of treatment.

Menopause is a natural part of aging, but you don’t have to ignore your pain or suffer in silence. Speak with your doctor about synthetic hormones, low-dose antidepressants, and other options that could improve your symptoms.