September is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month. Around 1 in 10 women of childbearing age (15-44 years old according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) will experience PCOS, a hormonal and reproductive disorder causing enlarged ovaries that have many cysts. 70-80 percent of those women will experience infertility because of their PCOS due to abnormal ovulation patterns or no ovulation at all. In fact, PCOS is the leading cause of female infertility. Many times, these women are referred for in vitro fertilization, which is expensive and comes with its own set of physical risks for the mother. IVF also raises ethical questions like what to do with the “leftover” embryos who are created as well as concerns about the commodification of children.
Fortunately, there is another option for women having difficulty conceiving because of PCOS. Natural Procreative Technology (NaPro) is a reproductive health science with a foundation in the CREIGHTON Model FertilityCare System (CrMS) of natural family planning. Women learn to chart their menstrual cycles through the Creighton Model System, and NaPro doctors can follow up on irregularities they see in the charting with blood tests, ultrasounds, surgical options, and more to treat and even cure reproductive issues. NaPro’s approach to infertility is to first determine the underlying cause, and then target the treatment to that specific issue.
Shirelle Edghill with Infinity Fertility is a certified FertilityCare practitioner based in Texas. She teaches the Creighton Model System and refers patients as needed to NaPro doctors. In an email to Live Action News, she shared a recent experience working with a client who used NaPro to conceive after infertility because of PCOS.
Jenny contacted Shirelle after seeing an ad for NaPro in her church bulletin. Jenny told Shirelle, “I heard about NaPro once, a long time ago, but I didn’t know where to find someone who did it.” Shirelle learned not only that Jenny had been diagnosed with PCOS, but that Jenny’s husband had been diagnosed with low sperm motility. In five years of marriage, Shirelle wrote, the couple had never been able to conceive naturally. Jenny’s local OB had tried three rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) along with prescribing the medications Clomid and Metformin. Jenny was even put on birth control for six months in an attempt to “regulate her cycles.” In the end, the OB referred Jenny to a reproductive endocrinologist for in vitro fertilization. In the year before they met Shirelle, Jenny and her husband had conceived twin babies through IVF, but devastatingly lost their son and daughter at 21 and 22 weeks gestation.
“We’ve spent most of our savings,” Jenny told Shirelle in their initial conversation. “We’re just done. We never, ever want to do IVF again.” Shirelle learned that Jenny, a church-going Catholic, had never been taught Catholic teachings on human sexuality and married love, including why IVF and other artificial reproductive technologies are against Catholic teaching. “I found out after we’d done the IVF already,” Jenny told Shirelle. The couple felt stuck because they still had one frozen embryo remaining. Jenny and her husband decided to have the final embryo implanted as soon as they could after losing their twins, but sadly they lost that baby as well.
Shirelle taught the couple to chart Jenny’s cycles, and referred them to a NaPro physician, Dr. Jeremy Kalamarides, based out of Austin, Texas. Jenny was counseled on dietary changes, and was prescribed several medications and supplements to help her cycle normally. She also received hormonal support with Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HcG) injections timed to a specific part of her cycle, which she identified through her charting. Kalamarides then performed a surgical procedure called Ovarian Wedge Resection in June of 2018 to correct Jenny’s polycystic ovaries.
Shirelle shared a conversation that she had with Jenny in December of 2018: “One day around Christmas, I contacted Jenny to see how she was doing. ‘Well actually, Shirelle, I don’t know what to think this morning. I just took a pregnancy test and it was positive. So I took four more. They are all positive too.'” It was a long-sought-after happy ending.
“Thanks to divine providence, Creighton Model, and NaPro Technology, Jenny and Joseph’s healthy baby boy was born just 2 months ago,” Shirelle told Live Action News.
Shirelle’s partner, Tawny Crawford, is also a Creighton Model Fertility Care Practitioner, and she shared an abbreviated version of her own personal story of infertility due to PCOS with Live Action News. Tawny wrote that, “From my first cycle, my periods were irregular and I experienced cycle pain and migraines.” Despite being prescribed “the Pill” for symptom relief, Crawford’s symptoms”continued to worsen.” Shockingly, doctor after doctor told her that “nothing was wrong, that my pain was normal, nothing to worry about.” Not surprisingly, Crawford and her husband were unable to get pregnant when they tried to conceive. She said, “It seemed there was nothing to do, other than getting a referral to an IVF doctor.”
But Crawford and her husband wanted other options. They first met with a Creighton Model FertilityCare practitioner who taught Crawford to chart her cycles. After three months of charting, she met with a NaPro doctor. She said, “I instantly realized that this was going to be different. For the first time, I felt like a whole woman with a whole husband and a whole marriage – not just a uterus! We were never pushed into anything. Every procedure was ethical. It was determined that I had PCOS and endometriosis and I underwent surgery. My cycles were textbook normal following surgery. I felt better. I had almost no pain!” After the surgery, the couple ended up using her charting to temporarily avoid pregnancy due to the adoption of their oldest daughter.
When they were ready to conceive, Crawford reported that, “We were shocked to find how quickly we became Pregnant! 7 years of Infertility, 5 Years of actively trying without a Pregnancy. And, in just 3 short months trying with NaPro we were Pregnant! I had planned how I would tell my husband, but I couldn’t contain my excitement! I screamed, “Come LOOK AT THIS!!” Through squinted eyes he looked at the test and said, “I see two lines.” He started to walk back to bed, then stopped. “Two Lines?” he asked. I replied, “We are pregnant!” Their NaPro miracle is now a three-year-old little girl.
These women are just a few examples of NaPro success stories. There is real hope for couples experiencing infertility because of PCOS. NaPro works cooperatively with a woman’s body, rather than “overriding the system” as IVF does. It furthermore respects the dignity of every human child. Valuing the life of both mother and child is at the heart of a truly pro-life approach to women’s healthcare.
Editor’s Note, 9/23/19: Correction made to properly name Infinity Fertility.
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