This post is a part of the Catholic Wife, Catholic Life’s NFP-week series. It was originally published March 5, 2015 here.
Endometriosis is a painful, chronic disease that affects more than 6 million women in the U.S., and more than 176 million women worldwide… That’s about 1 in 10.
And I may be one of those women.
It’s hard to tell, because endometriosis can only be officially diagnosed by having a laparoscopy — a minor surgical procedure done under anesthesia, and I haven’t had that procedure — yet.
There are a few different ideas of what causes endometriosis, but there isn’t one theory that everyone agrees on, so many people say the cause is unknown.
You can read more about the symptoms of endometriosis here. They include painful periods — several days before and several days into your cycle, tail end brown bleeding (brown bleeding at the end of your period), pain going to the bathroom, excessive bleeding, infertility, fatigue, other gastrointestinal problems, nausea, and fatigue.
The reason I want to talk about endometriosis right now is because March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and I want women — and their husbands — to know that there are more options for them; to heal, to try to conceive, and to live with this difficult diagnosis.
Too many women — whether they suffer from endometriosis or unexplained infertility or another gynecological problem — don’t know that there are options aside from IVF and IUI’s to try to conceive, and that there are options aside from dangerous drug treatments to try to heal and recover from debilitating pain. Many also don’t know the Church’s teachings in regards to couples struggling with infertility…
To begin with, there is a misconception that all women who have endometriosis will also struggle with infertility. There aren’t any reliable statistics that indicate what percentage of women with endometriosis have no problems having children, but it’s believed that a little more than half of the women who have endometriosis will be able to get pregnant. Unfortunately, that number is still staggeringly low, especially as the number of women who discover they have endometriosis continues to grow.
I think the reason why this misconception is so strong is that many women don’t discover they have the disease until they try to have children, and don’t succeed. To put it another way, many women who suffer with infertility discover they have endometriosis, but only some women who have endometriosis suffer with infertility.
Endometriosis is a sort of invisible disease. You probably know someone in your circle who has it (I know a couple of women who have it in my close circle of friends & family), but it’s not something you’ll usually be able to tell just by looking at someone.
But as I’ve learned more about the disease, and its symptoms, I’ve also learned that many young women go undiagnosed for years while they suffer from it — myself included.
I know many doctors who have said that my extremely painful periods were “normal,” and that they would go away with time — neither of which are true.
Severely painful periods are not normal. They are a sign that something is out of whack.
And in many instances, they will not go away with time.
I was prescribed, like a lot of other women I know, typical over-the-counter pain meds (NSAIDS, in particular) to alleviate some of the pain that I was experiencing.
Those actually worked for a while… until they completely destroyed my intestines and made me sicker than ever.
Research doesn’t only suggest, but continues to prove that long-term NSAID usage is extremely damaging. Yet this is the class of drugs that is most often prescribed to treat menstrual cramps. Unfortunately, in many cases, little else is done to help women who are experiencing severe pain during their cycles — aside from prescribing the contraceptive pill, which is also way more damaging than helpful in treating cramps.
+ “The biggest risk with NSAIDS is severe and sometimes fatal gastrointestinal bleeding. NSAIDS can trigger an increase in stomach acid and, at the same time, reduce the stomach’s normal protective mucus layer.”
+ “Increased mucosal permeability and mucosal inflammation are often silent but occur with most tNSAIDs. Other findings include anemia, occult blood loss, malabsorption and protein loss. Video capsule endoscopy studies have shown that more than 50% of patients on NSAIDs or low-dose aspirin may have mucosal lesions or mucosal breaks in the small bowel.”
+ “Aspirin and NSAID usage has been associated with gastrointestinal toxicity including bleeding ulcer. Certain NSAIDs have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular events, in particular heart attack.”
The risks of this class of drugs, especially used chronically over a long period of time — as they are prescribed for many women with cramps and endometriosis, is not worth it, and they can — and do — cause more damage in the long run.
More than that, though, pain relievers like NSAIDS are just a Band-Aid to the bigger problem — not a solution. And we need to bring more awareness to this particular notion: when there’s a problem, we have to find the underlying cause instead of just treating its symptoms.
This is the backbone of NaProTECHNOLOGY.
NaProTECHNOLOGY is a relatively new women’s health science. It’s a system that works with a woman’s natural reproductive system — not against it, like many other destructive drug treatments that suppress a woman’s reproductive system, to heal and treat gynecological abnormalities.
Dr. Christine L. Cimo Hemphill, an OB/GYN at Bon Secours Commonwealth Fertility & Women’s Health near Richmond, Virginia says NaProTECHNOLOGY can be used to diagnose and treat many gynecologic, hormonal and even emotional problems — however, she says, it seems to be best known for its treatment of infertility.
“The approach that a Medical Consultant (…trained in NaPro) takes is that infertility is not the diagnosis but a symptom of other underlying disease processes,” she says. “By identifying the underlying cause or causes (as it is often multi-factorial), NaPro is able to treat the source of the problem instead of using a Band-Aid solution.”
NaProTECHNOLOGY uses the Creighton Model FertilityCare System (a Fertility Awareness Method of family planning) to monitor and track the various hormonal events during the menstrual cycle. This system uses biomarkers (mainly cervical mucus) to identify days of fertility and days of infertility throughout the cycle.
If there is an abnormality, NaProTECHNOLOGY identifies the problem and cooperates with the woman’s cycle to correct the condition — all the while maintaining the human ecology and sustaining the procreative potential. It does not destroy, suppress or alter a woman’s body to do anything that it is not meant to do.
In other words, NaPro’s approach is to bring the woman’s body, hormones, etc. back into balance. It does not seek to trick the body into doing anything it shouldn’t be doing — like how the contraceptive pill tricks a woman’s body into thinking she is pregnant.
This way, women are empowered and able to understand their cycles, and understand what causes the debilitating symptoms they may suffer from — whether it’s cramps, irregular cycles, problems ovulating, or multiple miscarriages.
NaProTECHNOLOGY can be used by couples trying to conceive as well as by couples who are trying to avoid getting pregnant.
It’s actually as effective — if not more effective — than most contraceptives. Additionally, it’s also a system that is completely in alignment with the Church’s teachings — unlike IVF and IUI treatments.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clearly states that, “Human embryos obtained in vitro are human beings and subjects with rights: their dignity and right to life must be respected from the first moment of their existence. It is immoral to produce human embryos destined to be exploited as disposable “biological material.“
Procedures like IVF always have been and always will be immoral.
Pope Piux XII taught in 1949 that, “Artificial insemination outside of marriage [i.e., with single persons] must be condemned as immoral purely and simply. Artificial insemination within marriage, but by means of . . . a third person, is equally immoral.” (Votreprésence)
IVF and IUI’s separates the unitive and procreative aspects of intercourse, as the children being created through its process are created in a lab and then frozen. This process violates the dignity of those babies. Thawing and discarding them kills them.
Jim Graves from Catholic World Report writes that there are other issues involved with procedures like IVF:
“IVF makes the child a commodity produced in a laboratory, and makes doctors, technicians, and even business people part of the conception process. The sperm used is usually obtained by masturbation, which the Church teaches is immoral. The sperm or eggs used may not come from the couple desiring the child; because one of the spouses may be infertile, it may be necessary to use the sperm or eggs from an outsider. Most of the embryos conceived—which the Church holds should be respected as new human lives—die, are frozen indefinitely for later implantation, are used for research, or are discarded. (And) Children conceived through IVF also have a greater incidence of birth defects.”
I can understand how couples turn to IVF to have children; it’s natural to desire starting a family and growing a family. And infertility is an extremely heavy cross — one that can be cripplingly hard to carry for individuals and married couples alike — especially as we know that children are the supreme fruit of marriage.
But the Church does not want women and families to suffer — no, that’s not why she condemns IVF. No, the Church does not look away from couples suffering from infertility.
Rather, “The Church pays great attention to the suffering of couples with infertility,” Pope Benedict XVI has said. “She cares for them and, precisely because of this, encourages medical research.”
This is where NaProTECHNOLOGY comes in.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a rule of thumb to help determine whether a fertility treatment is morally right and accepted by the Church.
“The rule of thumb is: Any procedure which assists marital intercourse in reaching its procreative potential is moral. Procedures which add a “third party” into the act of conception, or which substitute a laboratory procedure for intercourse, are not acceptable.”
NaProTECHNOLOGY respects God’s design for married love; it honors marital integrity and upholds the dignity of human life.
“In an age of advances in reproductive medicine… some solutions offer real hope for restoring a couple’s natural, healthy ability to have children… (while) others pose serious moral problems by failing to respect the dignity of the couple’s marital relationship, of their sexuality, or of the child.” (Life Giving Love in an Age of Technology).
NaProTECHNOLOGY is different than IVF and IUI treatments because its approach is to heal the body so that conception can occur from a natural act of intercourse between a husband and wife. It is also used to help treat PCOS, Endometriosis, and other gynecological problems — safely, and in an effort to find permanent corrections.
NaProTECHNOLOGY can be much cheaper than IVF, it has higher success rates than IVF, and it’s better for a woman’s health — even, for a couple’s health.
If you or someone you know is struggling with infertility, or suffers with debilitating symptoms because of PCOS or endometriosis, I urge you to look into NaProTECHNOLOGY .
Our bodies were wonderfully created by God, and the physicians who are trained in NaProTECHNOLOGY work to understand our bodies in this way, and to restore its health — to help our bodies function the way God intended.
If you have any questions about NaProTECHNOLOGY or the Creighton Model, I’d be happy to answer your questions — leave a comment below or shoot me an email! You can find my contact info here.
photo credit: -56