Celebrate Life May-June 1995, p. 34
ANSWERS FOR INFERTILITY
By Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, DIP, ABOG, ABLS, SRS
copyright 1995 Thomas W. Hilgers
FROM LISTENING to all the news reports, you would think that the only
options available to couples with infertility are the artificial
reproductive technologies. These technologies, such as in vitro
fertilization, often carry with them a highly abortive potential.
With IVF, for example, many embryos are created and many are discarded,
sometimes by simply flushing them down a drain.
I have been treating patients with infertility now for almost 20
years, and during this period the artificial reproductive technologies
have taken hold. Also during this time, I have seen a profession
become almost numb to the question of "What is wrong with me?"
In our research work with natural family planning, which began in 1976,
we discovered early on that patients with reproductive problems had
abnormalities in their mucus cycles. These problems show up in the
framework of a very limited mucus cycle or completely dry cycle (based
upon external vulvar observations of the cervical mucus discharge).
Use of this method, the Ovulation Method (Creighton Model), has helped
us gain new insight into the many problems that face couples with
At first, we thought that the woman's infertility had to do with the
absence or reduction in the amount of cervical mucus. However, it
wasn't to prove so simple. What it was telling us, actually, was that
this was the tip of a physiologic iceberg.
Now, over the last 15 years, we have thoroughly evaluated these
patients and have discovered five new ovulation disorders that are
frequently seen in women who have infertility problems (or for that
matter, other types of reproductive loss, such as miscarriage). In
addition, these same cycles are hormonally very abnormal.
In a woman who is infertile and has regular cycles, and whose husband
has a normal sperm count, she will have endometriosis about 70 to 80
percent of the time. Another rather large group will have pelvic
adhesive disease secondary to some type of sexually transmitted
disease. In our own population of patients, only seven percent will
have a normal pelvis (the assessment is based upon laparoscopic
So, we have been looking at the causes of infertility. In fact,
infertility is only a symptom of underlying organic and hormonal
dysfunction (or disease). The artificial reproductive technologies
avoid looking for the causes and jump right into artificial
procreative techniques. These artificial techniques separate the
action of love from the action of creating life. Whenever love and
life are separated, it creates a very significant fracture of truth.
The separation of love and life reaches to the core of the human
person and creates problems and difficulties with relationships, self-
confidence and self-esteem.
There is even now great hope for the couple experiencing infertility
and even greater hope for them in the future as we begin to understand
these disease processes even more. If a couple undergoes a good
medical evaluation with sound assessment of trying to answer the
question "What is wrong?" then the disease processes will be found,
and then they can be treated and fertility will be restored.
This is the type of approach that we take at the National Center for
Women's Health here at the Pope Paul VI Institute. With this, we have
gained significant success in treating patients with infertility by
treatment of the underlying disease process.
I cannot tell you how often I see patients who are so frustrated
because their physicians have not found out what's wrong with them.
They come in and tell us they have "unexplained infertility." And yet,
with a simple evaluation process, including their charting of the
mucus symptom (using the Creighton Model Natural Family Planning
System), a thorough hormonal profile of the menstrual cycle, an
ultrasound series to evaluate the anatomy of the ovary during the
menstrual cycle, and a diagnostic laparoscopy, most of the problems
can be identified and found. Then, when these disease processes are
subsequently treated, there is a natural restoration of fertility, and
subsequent pregnancy occurs in 50 to 75 percent of cases (on average--
some situations carry with them success rates as high as a 90 percent,
whereas other situations may be only 10 percent). Over these last 15
years, we have developed a new reproductive science called
NaProTechnology, which is defined as the use of one's medical,
surgical and allied health energies in a way that is cooperative with
the natural procreative systems. It finds the disease and treats it.
By treating the disease, fertility is restored. For more information
on NaProTechnology you can call or write me: Pope Paul VI Institute
6901 Mercy Road, Omaha, NE 68106; (402) 390-9175.
Dr. Thomas Hilgers is the director of the Pope Paul VI Institute for
the Study of Human Reproduction, dedicated to research, education and
service in the areas of human reproduction within the context of the
teachings of the Catholic Church. He serves as the institute's
senior medical consultant in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive
medicine, and as director of the institute's National Center for the
Treatment of Reproductive Disorders. He is board-certified in
obstetrics and gynecology and gynecologic laser surgery, and is a
member of the Society of Reproductive Surgeons.
He served on the faculty at St. Louis University School of Medicine,
and at Creighton University School of Medicine, where he founded and
directed the Creighton University Natural Family Planning Education
and Research Center.
With his colleagues he developed the Creighton Model Natural Family
Planning System; his continuing medical research and application of
this method led to the development of NaProTechnology.
He is the author of nearly 100 books, book chapters, and articles. He
has received four research awards; in 1993, Pope John Paul II named
Dr. Hilgers and his wife, Susan, to the Pontifical Council for the
Family; in 1994, he was named to the Pontifical Academy for Life.
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