Bridge to birth

Acupuncture brings balance needed by mothers-to-be

Heidi Mudry never dreamed acupuncture would play a part in having kids. In fact, she never thought much about acupuncture at all.

That was then. Now, she has two beautiful children — Ella, almost 3, and Ezra, born Feb. 16 — and she gives much of the credit for her sleep-deprived but joy-filled life as a mother to that centuries-old staple of Chinese medicine.

“Acupuncture helped me get pregnant, and it helped me through labor,” Mudry says. “I just want people to know about it — to know that it’s an option that’s out there.”

Mudry, who teaches Spanish at Hood River Valley High School, came by Eastern medicine somewhat reluctantly. She was raised in Colorado with a surgeon father in a family that “made fun of chiropractors,” she says. Topics as non-mainstream as acupuncture or Chinese herbs weren’t even worthy of discussion in her household.

About five years ago Mudry and her husband, Jim, decided to start a family. She went off the birth control pill, never suspecting she’d have any trouble getting pregnant. But more than a year later, she still wasn’t pregnant and was getting frustrated.

Her menstrual periods were irregular and infrequent, so doctors put her on clomid, a fertility drug that stimulates ovulation. But Mudry suffered terrible side-effects from it.

“I reacted really poorly to it,” she says. Women often have to do several “rounds” of the drug — and even then it doesn’t have a high success rate. Mudry knew she couldn’t handle taking clomid even for one more round.

“I knew that I didn’t want to go that route,” she says. A friend suggested she try acupuncture and, though skeptical, Mudry figured she didn’t have anything to lose.

She began seeing Rose Szapszewicz, a licensed acupuncturist in Hood River who has gained a quiet reputation over the past few years treating women with fertility problems.

“She immediately tried to just get to know me,” Mudry says. “I felt like she was interested in figuring out who I was, where I was coming from and what might be going on beyond just the medical issues.” Szapszewicz began doing acupuncture on Mudry weekly and prescribed Chinese herbs to be taken daily — with the goal being to return her menstrual cycle to normal and get her ovulating regularly.

“Heidi had been on the pill for a long time,” Szapszewicz says. “Her body had forgotten what it was supposed to do.” She also told Mudry she had energy “blocked” in her stomach.

“Acupuncture moves energy that’s stuck,” Szapszewicz explains. The practice of inserting needles into acupuncture points on the body to stimulate and restore the body’s “balance” has been done in China for millennia. Acupuncture has been gaining more acceptance in the U.S. over the past couple of decades for treatment of many ailments — particularly autoimmune dysfunctions and pain.

In recent years, it’s also been used successfully for some women with fertility problems — particularly those with menstrual irregularities. Szapszewicz has been an acupuncturist for 17 years — the last 10 in Hood River — and has been treating women with fertility issues the entire time.

“I have people who come to me for all kinds of things,” she says. “But it seems like I do a lot of fertility. It’s the most difficult and the most rewarding.” In addition to treating women like Mudry who opted out of fertility drugs, she works with others who seek acupuncture in addition to their Western medicine fertility treatments.

“I work with a lot of people who do both,” she says. “That’s great, too. I love that.”

In Mudry’s case, she never had to go back to fertility drugs. With the help of acupuncture and herbs, her menstrual cycle returned to normal within three months. Two months later she was pregnant with Ella.

Mudry had such a good experience with Szapszewicz that she asked her if she would attend the birth, and do acupuncture on her during labor.

During Mudry’s labor, Szapszewicz worked acupuncture points to help with the pain and also to move the labor along.

“It was so intense how it just kept going and kept going,” Mudry recalls, adding that she was never “stuck.”

“I think that’s when women in labor get discouraged, when they’re not making progress,” Mudry says. Mudry calls her entire birthing team — including nurse midwife Susan Jacoby and the nurses at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital — her “A Team.”

“It was an incredible group,” she says. But it’s Szapszewicz and acupuncture that she believes helped her give birth to Ella in a mere three hours.

“I’ll never say it was a pain-free delivery,” Mudry says. “But what Rose did helped me to stay on the ground and be able to deal with it.”

Mudry’s cycle remained normal after Ella’s birth and she had no problem getting pregnant with Ezra. Szapszewicz was there for his birth, too, working her needles. Mudry’s second labor lasted two hours.

Szapszewicz calls it “ironic” that she’s never been a mother, and never wanted to be.

“And here I am doing this,” she says. “I see myself as kind of a bridge. It has been a source of growth for me and great satisfaction.”

As for Mudry’s father? He was “really cool about not being judgmental,” she says. Now he’s too happy being a grandfather to care.

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