I have had a naturopathic family practice for 11 years supporting natural women’s health, including fertility and pre- and post-natal issues. Over time in my practice, I’ve seen an increasing number of patients with fertility concerns that are not well served by conventional medicine. I’ve also heard many stories about both the side effects and ethical dilemmas involved in Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) that is practiced at local fertility clinics.
As a doctor who has pledged to “first, do no harm,” I worry about the impact of powerful artificial hormones used in fertility medicines on children born using ART. I also worry about the emotional and spiritual effects of people being told that they cannot conceive without extensive technological intervention; where implantation in a medical outpatient clinic replaces conception in the loving environment of the home.
Fortunately, I have many tools besides medications for promoting fertility. In my practice, I have used Natural Family Planning (NFP) with cycle charting for many years to promote fertility literacy, and have used charting successfully with botanical and nutrient medicines to achieve pregnancy for many couples. Recently, I have also noticed increasing interest from patients in natural fertility methods, and patients often come in with their own cycle charting done on paper or with digital apps.
As a diagnostic tool, cycle charting also gives me useful information about when to test hormone levels so that the information acquired is clinically relevant. In the past, patients were often told that their levels of estrogen, progesterone, or other hormones were “fine” for fertility when they were not. With cycle charting, I have a much better idea when to send patients into the lab for blood testing to establish if there are specific problems with ovarian or uterine functioning or we are dealing with healthy cycle variations. Knowing when to test also helps if pregnancy is successful to monitor progesterone and other hormones to help prevent miscarriage or pre-term birth.
Earlier this year, I was accepted to the Pope Paul VI Institute at Creighton University for their post-graduate medical consultant program. This certification involves two eight-day sessions of intensive classroom instruction and a year of supervised practicum training (with long-distance faculty support) to help implement the Creighton protocols in a variety of clinical situations. What convinced me to follow Creighton was the fact that I will have more experienced medical professionals supporting me while I’m learning to put their protocols into practice.
Choosing to use fertility awareness forms of family planning has become profoundly counter-cultural in our secular society. However, almost 50 years since Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, warned about divorcing the “unitive” and “procreative” aspects of marital intimacy, we are discovering that medicalizing fertility has in fact profoundly disempowered many couples. Instead, what has resulted from the “ease” of contraceptive culture is many people are now struggling with sub- and infertility, as well as increasing levels of miscarriage and premature birth. Natural fertility methods, using cycle charting and supportive natural or prescriptive medicines, help to heal this cultural wound in so many of our families, and provide medicine in support of life.