Answers for Infertility
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 infertility. 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 evaluation). 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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