“The cross of infertility is often a silent, heavy cross. The pain that we felt was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” Brenda True told Catholic Digest. Couples facing infertility suffer a deep pain that isn’t often talked about in public or at the pulpit. But there is hope, better health, and answers for women suffering from infertility.
Inspired by Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Letter, Humane Vitae, Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers developed NaProTECHNOLOGY (Natural Procreative Technology), a science to treat infertility and other female problems that work cooperatively with a woman’s body rather than suppressing it.
NaProTECHNOLOGY treats the underlying causes of infertility by incorporating the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System (CrMS), a method of charting the fertility cycle, with medical and surgical protocol to help women to conceive.
Catholic Digest talked to Brenda True, Kelly Smith, and Annie Surine about how NaPro brought healing to them.
SILENT, HEAVY CROSS
In 2006, Brenda True, from Burlington, Vermont, was diagnosed with having an ovarian cyst, and the OB-GYN (not trained in NaProTechnology) suggested she have it surgically removed. During the surgery, the doctor discovered that she had endometriosis, which he also removed.
In 2010, Brenda, 26, married Christopher, 25. The couple hoped to have children right away, but the months passed and there was no swelling of the belly with life—only the growing fear that they would remain childless.
Brenda felt broken because her body could not do what God had designed it to do. “I felt like a failure as a wife, as a woman. The sight of a pregnant woman or a large family was extremely painful to me—a reminder of what I could not have.”
She would spend her nights crying, but her pain was hidden, and people within their Catholic community were often insensitive. Asking question such as, “Aren’t you open to life? Why would you choose to wait so long to have children?”
“I realized how uninformed many people are on the subject of infertility. Most people don’t realize how many couples struggle with this or how to handle it.”
By chance, Brenda met a NaPro doctor who was in town giving a talk. Brenda was using another fertility charting method, and the doctor encouraged her to switch to charting with Creighton [CrMS].
Examining only a few cycles of charting, her FertilityCare™ practitioner was able to confirm Brenda’s fear that something was wrong and she could be facing reproductive difficulties. Her doctor referred Brenda to NaPro doctor Paul Carpentier, in Gardner, Massachusetts, and the couple met with him for the first time in November 2011.
“The care we received from Dr. Carpentier was unbelievable. I received treatment from him for several months before he referred me for surgery. Dr. Carpentier felt that everything in my charting was consistent with women who had endometriosis.”
On May 2012, NaPro surgeon Dr. Kyle Beiter of New Jersey removed an extensive amount of stage III endometriosis. “Dr. Beiter shared with us that it would have been shocking to have conceived—or to have carried a baby to term—with that amount of disease and scarring in my body.”
After the surgery, Brenda saw her cycles begin to “normalize,” and she and Christopher were able to conceive their son, Joseph John, approximately five months later—almost two years to the date when they had first begun our treatment with NaProTECHNOLOGY.
“Going through the process of NaPro was so very healing, both physically and emotionally. In the process of healing my body, I knew the Lord was close to me on the cross, and I felt that emotional healing. Consequently, I was able to grew closer to my husband and closer to Our Lord.”
FACING SECONDARY INFERTILITY
Kelly and Theo Smith of Virginia were delighted when they discovered Kelly was pregnant just a month after getting married in 2008. Kelly had been previously diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), so the couple was aware that she might not be able to conceive. Kelly told Catholic Digest, “We thought, ‘Now we’re really going to be able to have the big Catholic family we’ve always wanted.’”
However, four years after Francis was born, they were still trying for another baby. Kelly noticed the symptoms of PCOS getting worse, and this began impacting her health. Desperately wanting to get pregnant, she saw multiple OB-GYNs, but none of them were able to help her or tell her why she couldn’t get pregnant.
The cross of infertility was a heavy one. “Our four-year-old son kept asking us to go to the store and buy him a brother.” Often people would make insensitive remarks about why Kelly and Theo weren’t having more children. “Other mothers would make comments like: ‘You wouldn’t understand—you just have one child’ or ‘What’s wrong with you? Are you guys practicing NFP? Don’t you want any more children?’”
All these comments, though seemingly innocent, were cutting to the couple.
“Whether you like it or not, there is a type of judgment in certain Catholic circles,” she says.
Looking for answers
Kelly and Theo felt like they weren’t getting the help and answers they needed. “I said to myself, ‘There has to be something out there for people like us. I know there’s something wrong.’”
She recalled that, when she was in nursing school, a doctor had given a one-day lecture on NaProTECHNOLOGY. She started researching the science and discovered there was a doctor trained as a NaProTECHNOLOGY medical consultant, named Dr. Karen Poehailos, who was located an hour-and-a-half away in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Her meeting with Dr. Poehailos was eye-opening for Kelly. “She asked me if I had been charting my cycles, about my blood work, and about when I ovulated. She was very nice about everything, but I felt stupid because here I was—a nurse practitioner—and I really didn’t know my body.”
Kelly wasn’t discouraged, though; she was excited because she finally had something to work on to help the situation. She began charting her fertility using the Creighton Model Fertility Care System—with the help of a Certified FertilityCare™ practitioner. “I walked out of her office thinking, “Okay, Lord, we prayed, and I asked you to be proactive and, boy, did I just get a huge laundry list of things I need to do.”
After her doctor looked over six months of Kelly’s fertility charting, she discerned that Kelly would be a candidate for NaPro surgery with Napro surgeon Dr. Christine Hemphill in Richmond, Virginia. Kelly’s surgery was expected to take two hours, but it ended up taking eight hours. When Dr. Hemphill went in surgically, she found a tear in Kelly’s uterus and myriad other problems. “None of this had shown up on the ultrasounds done by other OBGYNs.”
Once the couple had the go-ahead to try to conceive, Dr. Hemphill gave them a Novena to St. Anne to pray. Exactly three months after the surgery—and praying the Novena three times—Kelly conceived their daughter Lucy.
“As soon as we got pregnant with Lucy, that’s when the questions started coming. Out of the woodwork people started contacting me, asking, ‘Did you have a hard time getting pregnant?’ We referred seven couples to the doctor. So far, six out of seven have conceived.”
There’s still hope
In 2008, Annie Surine, from Northern Virginia, suspected she would have trouble conceiving. Six weeks before the 29-year-old was to be married, she ended up in the emergency room. Doctors removed huge grapefruit-sized cysts from both of her ovaries as well as stage IV endometriosis.
Annie told Catholic Digest, “We felt lucky because Andy and I knew going into marriage we would have problems, and it brought up that conversation.”
Familiar with NaPro
They hoped the surgery had fixed the problem and they would be able to conceive. Annie was already aware of NaProTECHNOLOGY because they were friends with a couple who had struggled with infertility for five years. “They had seen numerous doctors and had done everything they could until they finally heard about NaPro. My friend saw a NaPro doctor and the next month got pregnant.”
Approximately five months into their marriage, Annie and Andy called to get on a waiting list to see Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska.
Less than a year after her first surgery, Dr. Hilgers performed laparoscopic surgery and discovered that Annie still had stage IV endometriosis. “He said it was one of his worst cases.” NaProTECHNOLOGY’s technique for removing endometriosis is different than standard surgery. “I could tell physically in my general health—and the level of pain that comes along with the endometriosis—how much better of a job Dr. Hilgers did than the first doctor.”
Dr. Hilgers also discovered a secondary problem with Annie’s reproductive system. Consequently, a year after getting married the couple started looking into adoption. “I knew how grim both of my diagnoses were. We’re a little bit older, and we knew we wanted to have a big family, so we began the adoption process.”
Annie and Andy adopted three-year-old Luke in 2011 and six-month-old Marianna Clare in 2014. “Adoption eased the cross; I feel like I finally became a mom,” Annie says.
However, the couple hasn’t given up hope that they will someday conceive a baby. She says that even though she hasn’t been able to get pregnant, through NaProTECHNOLOGY, she has gained a healthier body because it treats the underlying causes of infertility.
Q & A with Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, MD
In 1985, Dr. Hilgers founded the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction (PopePaulVI.com) and the National Center for Women’s Health in Omaha, Nebraska. He talked with Catholic Digest about the Science of NaProTECHNOLOGY.
What Is the success rate of NaProTECHNOLOGY?
A lot of people have looked at NaProTECHNOLOGY as a new treatment for infertility, but people need to know that it’s much more. It’s a new women’s health science that also treats PMS, postpartum depression, abnormal bleeding, and hormonal issues.
Our treatment programs for post-partum depression are 90 to 95 percent successful.
With infertility, the success rate depends on your disease state. NaProTECHNOLOGY looks for the underlying causes of infertility. If you have polycystic ovaries, for example, the success rate in our program is at about 80 percent. With endometriosis, which is a commonly related cause to infertility and miscarriage, the success rate is 60 to 75 percent, depending on other factors. If you’re older, your success rate is going to be lower because fertility naturally decreases.
With tubal issues, obstruction, and adhesions, the success rate of NaProtechnology is higher than IVF. Nobody has a cure for infertility; there are only evaluations and treatments.
Is it difficult to find a doctor trained in NaProTECHNOLOGY?
We have trained doctors on six continents. There are 300 FertilityCare Centers around the United States which offer the Creighton Model and they’re usually connected with a doctor who understands NaProTECHNOLOGY.
Why isn’t NaProTECHNOLOGY mainstream?
I think what a lot of people don’t realize—even people who have heard of NaProTECHNOLOGY—is that this is a huge paradigm shift. For the medical professional and the culture as a whole to even know about it takes time. The powers that be are all sort of skeptical about NaProTECHNOLOGY. They’re pretty negative, so they don’t study it. I have never met a doctor who didn’t have an opinion about this, but I’ve met a lot of doctors who don’t know anything about it.