A woman’s fertility is a sacred thing- something about the ability to create and grow another human being makes us feel empowered, and is often viewed as the height of femininity. But many women often end up facing struggles with their own fertility, making them feel like less of a woman, though in actuality it does not mean any such thing. It can be devastating, regardless. There are many reasons why a woman might not be able to conceive. Sometimes it is the husband, but often it is an underlying health problem within the woman’s own body.
In 1978, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was introduced in Europe as the newest way of achieving pregnancy, reaching the US by 1981, and since then has grown to be a popular form of achieving pregnancy for infertile couples. The problem with IVF is that it bypasses any searching out of underlying causes. Up until 1978, much of the science related to fertility care was directed at researching and addressing underlying causes that correlated to infertility. But IVF created a shift in the focus of infertility and the approach that was once based on diagnosis and treatment became one based on the quickest possible fix.
Because IVF is such a popular choice in the world of infertility, it can be a daunting experience when a woman finds herself desiring a different route. My sister, Kate, is one such person. With the loss of one baby and one ovary, and with one successful natural pregnancy, problems with endometriosis and several surgeries under her belt, she faced a long six years of infertility after her son was born. Faced with the disappointment month after month, year after year of not becoming pregnant as she desperately wanted to, she began to doubt she would ever have another child. Unaware of the specific reasons behind her inability to become pregnant, she and her husband became hopeless. More than wanting to achieve pregnancy, they wanted to know the cause of her inability to do so, but found their options in finding a doctor with an open mind to be few.
Like Kate, many women- when approaching the fragile topic of infertility with their doctors- are often met with indifference to their emotional struggle and are made to feel as though they are just another number; another consumer paying money for a product. The fact that IVF is so popular plays a huge factor in the confusion and lack of understanding on the part of the doctor when a woman does not want to choose that route. But women have good reason to feel insecure with the process of IVF as it has many pitfalls to it. Not only does it not address underlying health issues that could be the cause of their infertility, it also presents many risks to the woman, it’s very costly (average cost per cycle is around $12,000 or more), the success rate is mostly less than 40%, it does not respect the marital relationship nor does it respect the life of the baby or babies produced when doctors join the eggs and sperm in a laboratory. Added to all of that, many couples admit to a decrease in the quality of both their sex life and their relationship when choosing IVF as an option to conceive.
Many couples are completely unaware of a fast-growing technology for achieving pregnancy called NaPro Technology. This innovative technology is an approach to fertility that adheres to the guidelines provided by a woman’s natural cycles. The Creighton Model of fertility care is the foundation for this approach, monitoring the bio-markers which showcase hormonal changes in a woman’s cycle. Coupled with natural supplements, and sometimes laparoscopic surgery, NaPro Technology has a very high success rate when used to achieve pregnancy. Because NaPro is a fertility-care based approach and not just a fertility-control approach, many women who achieve pregnancy through this method may find it to be less stressful, more inclusive and a better option overall in catering to the needs of their entire person- mind, body and soul.
The Science behind NaPro has been developing since the Creighton Model was first being studied, over 30 years ago. Because a woman’s body has specific tendencies and symptoms at each stage of her cycle which can be monitored by following this model, it is often easy to detect and diagnose an underlying problem by noticing a variance in the patterns of these symptoms. If nothing seems out of the ordinary, there are several other steps to take to help a woman determine the cause of her infertility. Kate, whom I mentioned above, spent an entire summer learning how to read her body’s signs and symptoms based on Creighton, and began recording her findings on charts. Her doctor read her charts and was able to determine that her body was actually doing what it should, suggesting they next test the actual levels of her hormones. Kate, filled with anxiety and still not pregnant, wanted to find out if her hormonal levels were the culprit so she went every other day to get blood drawn. When test results came back “normal” again and as she discussed pain and other symptoms she was experiencing in each cycle, her doctor suggested surgery as the next step, offering that many women became pregnant within six months of surgery.
Kate underwent surgery, finding out afterward that not only did she have endometriosis and scar tissue but that her tubes had blockages in them. Early one morning about two months later, Kate woke up and took a pregnancy test. She had taken them many, many times before over the previous six years. This one, however, did not read negative as all the others had. This one was different. Over the next few days, several more tests including a blood test reconfirmed what those double lines told her that morning, and Kate was thrilled to announce to our family that she was finally expecting! Thanks to the attention to her whole body through her doctors and NaPro Technology, she achieved her heart’s desire to have another baby.
It remains to be said that not all women will achieve pregnancy through NaPro, or any other means of aid. I’d like to reiterate that this is NOT to say that any woman who cannot conceive is any less of a woman. A woman is not just a woman because of the abilities of her reproductive parts, and not all women are called to be mothers to their own biological children. It is the innate care and nurturing with which women are created that define their femininity. The very idea that we wish to conceive a child, nurturing one throughout every moment of their existence, is just a small aspect of that. If you are struggling with infertility or know someone who is, I recommend researching NaPro as an option. You may just find the answers you are looking for.
To read the story of Kate’s infertility journey, click here.
This past year I traveled to different middle schools and high schools speaking about human dignity, healthy relationships, and sexual integrity. Naturally, when I had a room with only girls the topic of periods would come up. I was blown away by how many young girls knew nothing about their