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Neonatal needles

Area moms say acupuncture helped them to conceive

Area moms say acupuncture helped them to conceive

May 11, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

Kelly Morton, 37, of Hagerstown says she and husband Jason wanted to give their daughter Meredith, 6, a sibling.

But after nearly three years of trying to get pregnant and suffering through several miscarriages, Morton says she turned to two intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedures as well as an in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure.

All three were unsuccessful, leaving Morton physically and emotionally spent, and she and her husband still without another child.

"It was devastating," she says.

That's when Morton says she read an article about how, for some women, acupuncture could help with fertility. She found Susan L. West of Acupuncture Associates in Hagerstown in the phone book. She says she saw that she was board certified and was listed under fertility. A friend who had acupuncture for her back also recommended her.

Today, Kelly and her husband are the parents of 8-week-old Sadie. The little girl's picture has been added to the bulletin board of other acupuncture babies West has hanging in her practice's waiting area.

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Eastern approach to health

West has been practicing acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine since 1995. She has used this approach to treat infertility. But she says during the last seven or eight years that she's spent even more time concentrating on what Chinese medicine can do for women who are having a lot of problems maintaining a pregnancy to full term.

A study that was released this year by BMJ, an international, peer-reviewed, medical journal and online publication, reported that preliminary findings suggest acupuncture given with an embryo transfer improves rates of pregnancy and live birth among women under going IVF.

West says for some women, acupuncture can help even without IVF or IUI. "They're more invasive and a woman can only do so many cycles," she says.

She says when a woman becomes a patient, she fills out a five-page questionnaire. West then does a physical exam that includes feeling her pulse.

West says in Chinese medicine taking the pulse is important and can lead to other findings. She uses three fingers and feels the pulse on the patient's left and right wrist. For instance, the first finger on the left wrist tells about the heart and small intestines.

"It's a real art in Chinese medicine, it take years to master taking a pulse," she says.

She can usually tell a woman if she's pregnant, just by taking her pulse from the left wrist. She says a pregnant woman's pulse has a "slippery quality."

"They call it the 'Pulse of Life,'" she says.

In fact, she correctly told Morton she was pregnant even before she took a pregnancy test.

Holistic approach to health

The biggest barrier to a woman conceiving, West says, is how she's taking care of herself.

"They're (sometimes) just very stressed out," she says.

West says each treatment is geared specifically to the patient. The treatment includes acupuncture needles as well as a specific herbal protocol. If the patient is undergoing IVF, there is a different herbal protocol. Some opt not to do the herbs. West said acupuncture can increase the success of IVF by 35 percent. Using acupuncture and herbs together can increase the success rate by 60 percent.

Morton says she didn't mind the needles as all, which are stainless steel solid rods and extremely fine.

"I think I fell asleep during every single treatment," she says with a laugh.

West says she jokingly calls those treatments her "margarita needles" because it puts her patient into a sleepy, relaxed state. "We say those needles calm the spirit," she said.

Stuck with needles, but painlessly

Bethany Geiman, 42, and her husband Todd spent years trying to have a baby. She says that was until she had heard about the connection to acupuncture and fertility.

"Only thing I knew about acupuncture was that it was needles," Geiman says. "... but even if it was needles, it was our last hope."

Through IVF and acupuncture, Geiman and her husband had a son, Samuel, 4, who was born two months premature.

But the couple wanted just one more child. This time, before Geiman would even start the IVF procedure, she returned to West. Geiman, who's due Friday with a girl, says she was worried about getting to full term for the second pregnancy.

And when Geiman entered her second trimester and experienced bleeding, acupuncture helped to relieve the symptoms. Most importantly, Geiman says, acupuncture has prevented her from having a premature birth.

Some insurance companies will not cover acupuncture for fertility. However, West suggests patients check with their insurance company.

For those who are hesitate about trying the holistic approach of acupuncture, West says it's a different culture.

"Chinese medicine is the main medicine in the East," she says. "Western medicine is the alternative."

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