- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 24, 2009

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) | Kelly Morton, 37, of Hagerstown, said 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, Mrs. Morton said she turned to two intrauterine insemination procedures as well as an in vitro fertilization procedure.

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

That’s when, Mrs. Morton said, 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 said she saw that she was board certified and was listed under fertility. A friend who had acupuncture for her back recommended her.

Now Mrs. Morton 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 Ms. West has hanging in her practice’s waiting area.

Ms. West, who’s practiced acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine since 1995, has used this approach to treat infertility.

But she said during the last seven or eight years that she’s spent even more time concentrating on what Chinese medicine can do for women with problems maintaining a pregnancy.

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.

Ms. West said that 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 said.

She said that when a woman becomes a patient, she fills out a five-page questionnaire. Ms. West then does a physical exam that includes feeling her pulse. She said that in Chinese medicine taking the pulse is important and can lead to other findings.

“It’s a real art in Chinese medicine; it take years to master taking a pulse,” she said.

She can usually tell a woman if she’s pregnant just by taking her pulse from the left wrist. She said a pregnant woman’s pulse has a “slippery quality. They call it the ‘Pulse of Life,’ ” she said.

She correctly told Mrs. Morton she was pregnant even before she took a pregnancy test.

The biggest barrier to a woman conceiving, Ms. West said, is how she’s taking care of herself.

She said 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. Ms. West said acupuncture can increase the success of IVF by 35 percent. Using acupuncture and herbs together, she said, can increase the success rate by 60 percent.

Mrs. Morton said 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 said with a laugh.

Ms. West said 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.

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

“Only thing I knew about acupuncture was that it was needles,” Mrs. Geiman said. “But even if it was needles, it was our last hope.”

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

But the couple wanted one more child. This time, before Mrs. Geiman would even start the IVF procedure, she returned to Ms. West.

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

For those who are hesitant about trying the holistic approach of acupuncture, Ms. West said it’s a different culture.

“Chinese medicine is the main medicine in the East,” she said. “Western medicine is the alternative.”

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