|Interview With Dr. Thomas Hilgers of
the Pope Paul VI Institute
OMAHA, Nebraska, 16 JULY 2004 (ZENIT)
Many Catholic couples who experience
infertility can achieve pregnancy without resorting to immoral medical
treatments, says an expert in natural procreative technology.
Dr. Thomas Hilgers, director of Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of
Human Reproduction [http://www.popepaulvi.com], explained to ZENIT some of
the fertility methods he has developed that are in accord with Church
Q: What are the main causes of infertility?
Hilgers: Infertility is due to many causes. It is often called
multifactorial, but unfortunately the medical profession only usually
focuses on one issue at a time.
The main causes of infertility include endometriosis, polycystic ovarian
disease and pelvic adhesive disease, along with a variety of underlying
hormonal dysfunctions and ovulation-related abnormalities. Tubal disease
and obstruction is also a cause of infertility, but not as common as the
Q: Among the causes, how important is the role of sexual diseases
contracted through premarital relations; past use of certain kinds of
contraception; and the decision to delay having children?
Hilgers: It is difficult to say exactly how often these are linked.
Certainly, sexually transmitted diseases can cause pelvic adhesive disease
and tubal obstruction.
My own concern is with the incompleteness and unsatisfactory nature of
premarital relationships when sexual intercourse is involved. I think
that, in many cases, women who have premarital sex use contraception so
that they do not become pregnant; later, when it is difficult for them to
become pregnant, they can experience resentment and anger.
This makes it very complex, and the chronic stress that develops from this
may be another underlying factor to infertility.
Q: What is the institute's success rate in overcoming infertility?
Hilgers: Our approach to the evaluation and treatment of infertility is
one that looks at the underlying problems
that cause infertility and then treats those diseases successfully.
This is the primary approach that we use in "NaProTechnology," or natural
NaProTechnology is a new women's health science that has been described in
the new medical textbook, "The Medical and Surgical Practice of
NaProTechnology" [Pope Paul VI Institute Press].
In this situation, our success rates are statistically much better than
the artificial reproductive technologies. In fact, they average about two
to three times more effective. Generally speaking, we will see
effectiveness rates in the 50% to 80% range, depending upon the problem
and the extent of the abnormality.
Q: Briefly, what fertility methods are in accord with the teachings of the
Catholic Church? Which are not?
Hilgers: Those approaches that do not separate love from life are the
methods that are in accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
These do not include such approaches as artificial insemination and in
Those that are acceptable are the approaches that are used in
NaProTechnology. This scientific method looks for the basic underlying
medical problems that are associated with infertility and then corrects
Q: Why is it so important for Catholics to use fertility methods that do
not contradict what the Church teaches?
Hilgers: The Church has been extremely wise in its teaching relative to
It teaches, first of all, that marriage is a sacred relationship and that
children are the supreme gift of marriage. It does not treat children as
commodities. The Church's approach makes good psychological and spiritual
sense, as well as good medical sense.
Unfortunately, over the years, only artificial reproductive technologies
have been available. Because of the breakthrough research that has been
ongoing at the Pope Paul VI Institute, methods are now available that are
very effective, medically authentic and completely consistent with the
teachings of the Church. In many ways, it proves the validity of what the
Church has been teaching all of these years.
Q: How can Catholics find doctors in their area who can help treat their
infertility but not compromise their beliefs?
Hilgers: I would personally refer them to a Web site where one can find a
teacher of the Creighton Model FertilityCareTM System
the system that has been developed at the Pope Paul VI Institute. The
teachers trained in that system are allied health professionals who can
guide them toward physicians who have training in these areas.
Q: The desire to have children is very strong. What do you say to couples
who cannot conceive using those methods approved by the Church?
Hilgers: No program of infertility treatment is universally or 100%
successful. In fact, there is no program for the treatment of infertility
that even comes close.
If one watches the news or morning television programs, one gets the
mistaken impression that the artificial reproductive technologies are
almost the only alternative available to women with infertility problems.
What they do not tell you is that they are extremely expensive, the
dropout rate in their use is extraordinarily high, and that, overall, they
help less than 1% of women with fertility problems in any given year.
Physicians who are involved in the provision of Catholic reproductive
health care do not have to apologize for the services they have to offer.
In fact, they can be extremely proud of the good record they have and the
ability to help women and married couples in a way which is morally
At the same time, adoption is a very fulfilling way of family building for
In our program at the Pope Paul VI Institute, 90% of the couples who come
to us either have a biological child of their own or have an adopted
family. This is an incredible success rate and we are very proud of it.