Infertility is not a Disease
Infertility is heartbreaking and effects the relational, emotional and physical health of couples suffering from it. Because I had several strange cycles in high school and college, I mentally prepared Austin and myself for not being able to conceive. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to assume you can easily get pregnant, then suffer months and years without positive results.
When I went to an Ob-Gyn in college for my wonky cycles, she told me that I needed to gain weight and if that didn't work she would put me on the birth control pill. I knew I didn't want put on the birth control pill, so I gained weight, felt worse, then gave up and ate like I used to. When preparing for marriage, I started charting Creighton to use for Natural Family Planning, not knowing that it would give me the answers I didn't know I was still looking for: the effects of stress and low progesterone on my cycles.
Stress plays a HUGE factor in fertility for people like me. For some women, stress has little effect on their fertility. For me, well, there is a reason we call Alexis our Hawaii baby. We began trying to conceive halfway through my second year of teaching. Before we started trying, some changes were made to the grading system and for the next several months, I was a mess! My indicators of low progesterone, which were identified a year earlier, looked way worse, and I had to leave school and church over the next couple of months because my cycles gave me digestive issues and I would have fainted if I didn't lay down. When the school year ended and the stress was gone, my cycles regulated. We also took our dream vacation and ta-da, a miracle named Alexis happened! I had my annual Ob-Gyn appointment before taking the pregnancy test. During my appointment, Dr. Stroud talked about all the ways we should start investigating causes of infertility since 98% of couples achieve pregnancy with Creighton by 6 months of trying. I told him I was hopeful I could be pregnant that cycle and he said "wouldn't that be incredible." Yes, Alexis is indeed incredible.
I am grateful that my "low fertility" is easily manageable with relaxation and progesterone supplements. You see, infertility is a symptom, not a disease. Just like a runny nose could come from a cold, flu, allergies, coming inside from the cold or eating something spicy, infertility could indicate any number of underlying causes. IVF has such depressingly low success rates because it tries to work around the cause of the problem instead of fixing the problem. I say depressingly low because lack of success causes depression and anxiety in many women undergoing IVF treatment.
As a Creighton Model Practitioner Intern, I journey with many couples struggling with infertility. My greatest joy is when we can identify potential causes of infertility and get treatment before the couple is even ready to start trying to have children (or even before marriage!). My greatest sorrow is when couples desperately want a baby and go in for one treatment, then find out there are additional concerns. Many times these women are relieved to be finding answers while simultaneously anxious and impatient because they've desired a child for so long. Know that I pray for you often. I also pray that I may guide you in accepting God's will for your life. Unfortunately, not every cause of infertility is treatable and not every person's body responds to treatment like it should.
Causes of Infertility
Low mucus cycle scores is the most common cause of infertility that I identify. Thankfully, sometimes all the women needs is to drink more water and take vitamins. Other times, a NaPro doctor can recommend over the counter or prescription medication. I regularly refer clients to see a doctor for potential endometriosis, which cannot be easily identified based on the women's chart and usually requires diagnostic laparoscopy. I am surprised by how many women live with the pain of endometriosis each month. View Dr. Stroud's wonderfully informative video about endometriosis here. Male factor infertility is also common and requires a physician for diagnosis and treatment. Other common factors that we check symptoms for at each session include low progesterone, thyroid deficiency, short luteal phase, polycystic ovarian disease, infection or inflammation of the cervix and polyps or fibroids. I cannot diagnose any medical issue, but it so eye-opening to see the simple symptoms of these diseases that appear while charting so I can help women get the help they need! Finally, I want to encourage you to never ever let the results of a pregnancy test define who you as a person or your relationship with your spouse.
9 Facts About NaPro for Those Struggling with Infertility is a wonderful free booklet written by NaPro Medical Consultants, FertilityCare Practitioners and Creighton Model Users.
On Monday, May 6 at 10 am Pacific/1pm Eastern, a Functional Medicine NaPro doctor who I received my Creighton training with, is offering a free LIVE webinar on Secrets to Maximizing Fertility. You can register here.
With Infertility, Don't Overlook the Obvious, Infinity Fertility emphasizes the importance of having intercourse during fertile days when trying to conceive. Creighton has found that couples with previously diagnosed infertility have a 20-40% chance of conceiving by simply using their fertile days. Dr. Stroud also has a great video about fertility-focused intercourse. For me, the most important aspect of helping couples with fertility focused intercourse is to remind them to maintain love for each other and not allow their desire for a baby to allow them to become mechanical, scheduled and unloving. I know this is much easier said than done, but couples seem to appreciate these gentle reminders each session.
The Warrior Life Wellness Project is an entire blog dedicated to NaPro Technology and Infertility written by a Registered Nurse who is also a military wife. She has also recently started a podcast called Restoring Fertility Naturally.
Finally, you can check out my resources page for books and support groups. My heart goes out to all of you, my dear readers and clients, who struggle with infertility. Know that I do not take your situation lightly and that you are continuously in my prayers.
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Stephanie started her Creighton Model journey in early 2014 and entered the program to instruct others in 2017. She enjoys equally adventuring in the great outdoors with family and friends and reading a good book with a cup of tea. For more details, visit her About Me page.