Women's health care - A new era

John B. Shea
© Copyright 1997-2006 Catholic Insight
Updated: Dec 3rd, 2006
Reproduced with Permission

In 1968, Pope Paul VI taught that a husband and wife, in full recognition of their own duties toward God, themselves, the family and society, should respect the fact that in the task of the transmission of life, they must conform their activity to the creative intention of God, expressed in the very nature of marriage and of its acts, and manifested by the constant teaching of the Church.1 This teaching precluded every action that renders procreation impossible, either as an end or a means, through the acts of contraception or sterilization.

Pope Pius XII taught that if there are serious motives to space out births, which are derived from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms in the generative functions, for the use of marriage in the infertile periods only, and in this way to regulate birth without offending moral principles.2 Pope Paul VI said that responsible parenthood is exercised, either by the deliberate and generous decision to raise a numerous family, or by the decision, made for grave motives and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for the time being, or even for an indeterminate period, a new birth.3

The FertilityCare System

Pope Paul VI also asked scientists to study the woman's natural cycle of fertility in order to find ways to make it easier for couples to abide by the Church's prohibition on artificial birth control. In direct response to the Pope's appeal, Dr. Thomas Hilgers, an obstetrician/gynecologist, decided to found the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, on the day the Pope died in 1978. Over three decades of research he developed the Creighton Model System (CrMS) of Natural Procreative Technology (NaProTechnology). Dr. Hilgers has been appointed by Pope John Paul II to membership in The Pontifical Academy For Life.

This technology, a new science, is used in the provision of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, which allows, for the first time, the opportunity to network family planning with reproductive and gynecologic health maintenance. It does this in harmony with nature. It respects "the language of the woman's body" by having the woman - or married couple - keep a daily record of her fertility signs. The record provides objective monitoring and also irreplaceable information to the doctor about where exactly a woman is in her cycle, reveals the presence or absence of reproductive and gynecological abnormalities, and indicates what treatment is appropriate.

It also allows for precisely targeted hormone therapy. Often nowadays obstetricians do not encourage their patients to observe and chart their fertility signs and therefore cannot tell precisely when ovulation occurs and when to provide progesterone treatment for a patient with a fertility problem or a gynecological disorder. Progesterone administered before ovulation causes further problems for the patient. The FertilityCare System has been extensively evaluated over the past 22 years through research first at St. Louis University and Creighton University Schools of Medicine, and recently at the Pope Paul Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Nebraska.

The method and use effectiveness rates for avoiding pregnancy have been shown to be 99.5 and 96.8 at the twelfth month of use.4 These compare favourably to the pill, of which Planned Parenthood's website states: "Of 100 women who use the Pill, only eight will become pregnant during the first year of typical use."

Dr. Hilgers has studied the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the blood associated with all the known disorders of ovulation as demonstrated and classified by ultrasound assessment. This assessment provides the clinician with an objective means to evaluate, classify and diagnose disorders of human ovulation. Depending on the disorder found, the patient will experience absolute or relative infertility, or abnormal pregnancies.

Contemporary medicine has missed the fact that progesterone or estrogen can be used to manage women's health problems and enhance fertility without causing harm to the embryo. In order to accomplish this, however, these hormones must be provided only after ovulation. One must, therefore, have a simple but reliable means of determining when a woman is in the post-ovulatory phase. This is determined by observation of cervical mucus that reaches a characteristic description on the Peak Day, the precise time when ovulation occurs.

Study of the mucus cycle has also led to improvement in the treatment of stress, and the correct use of progesterone treatment of pre-menstrual syndrome, postpartum depression, recurrent ovarian cysts, and polycystic ovarian disease. Currently, most physicians appear to be unaware of these scientific facts in regard to the pathophysiology of gynecologic disease. One wonders if this is due to commitment to an ideology that seeks to morally justify in vitro fertilization. Women should question their caregivers about this.

The FertilityCare is medically safe, respects the dignity of women and the integrity of marriage, and can be used either to achieve pregnancy or avoid it. It co-operates with, and does not suppress, the reproductive system and is morally acceptable. It is far more effective than the current professional approach to a woman's concerns, which often offers inadequate diagnosis of the underlying causes of her condition, or suppresses or destroys the natural process of procreation (through contraception, sterilization, abortion, in vitro fertilization).

The system accurately monitors reproductive and gynecological health and can be used to assess chronic vaginal discharges, to perform targeted hormone evaluation and treatment, to identify ovarian cysts (and to treat them non-surgically), to evaluate the effects of stress and treat pre-menstrual syndrome, and also to evaluate, treat, or prevent reproductive abnormalities such as infertility, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, and prematurity. Furthermore, it can be used to evaluate and treat unusual bleeding, decreasing the need for hysterectomy. This is the best system for establishing marital bonding.

In Vitro Fertilization

Many infertile couples today resort to in vitro fertilization, but many do not realize how few of the children conceived in this way come to birth. In each reproductive cycle, six to eight in vitro embryos are conceived. At most, two are implanted. The rest are disposed of immediately or are frozen and ultimately die. Only 25% of conceived embryos are implanted. Of these, only one-fifth are born alive. This means that only 5% of in vitro embryos are born alive; and hence, 95% die before birth.

In vitro fertilized babies are subject to an increased incidence of low birth weight and premature birth that are associated with an increased rate of brain damage. They also have double the risk of a major birth defect.

Benefits of NaProTechnology

It is two to three times more successful than in vitro fertilization at helping infertile couples to have children - at a fraction of the cost - and is morally acceptable. A scientific study was made of 95 infertile couples who had tried all available medical treatments including in vitro fertilization, without success, and then resorted to NaProTechnology. The success rate was 32.6%. There was also evidence to support the facts that artificial reproductive technologies, including in vitro fertilization, may adversely affect the couple's fertility potential and that artificial reproductive technology is used without adequately investigating underlying pathophysiological causes.5


Currently used artificial reproductive technologies involve the use of artificial insemination. They also include in vitro fertilization in which very high doses of hormones are given to women to make them produce more ova, and may involve the use of women as egg donors and as providers of surrogate wombs. These procedures are morally unacceptable.

In contrast, NaProTechnology simply involves keeping a record of the menstrual cycle. Fertility is sometimes achieved by love-making on the fertile days. In other cases, records of the cycle help the physician to diagnose and treat the cause of the infertility, e.g., endometriosis, ovulation irregularities, stress, and anxiety. NaProTechnology is both morally good and medically effective.

For a full account of the FertilityCare System and of NaProTechnology, consult the textbook titled The Surgical and Medical Practice of NaProTechnology, by Thomas W. Hilgers, M D., Pope Paul VI Institute Press (Omaha, Nebraska). The NaProTechnology FertilityCare System is suitable to every woman throughout her entire reproductive life. In short, Dr. Hilger's work is at the cutting edge of today's obstetrics and gynecology. This program is available in Toronto at the Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Centre Fertility Care Programme, 688 Coxwell Ave. Toronto, Ontario. M4C 3B7. Phone 416 465 2868, email: fertilitycare@sympatico.ca, website: http://www.mbfc.ca.


1 Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae, no. 10. [Back]

2 Pope Pius XII. AAS XLIII, (1951), p. 846. [Back]

3 See reference 1. [Back]

4 Thomas W. Hilgers, M.D. and Joseph B. Stanford, M.D., M.S.P.H. "Creighton Model NaProTechnology for Avoiding Pregnancy: Use Effectiveness" (J Reprod Med, 1998; 43:495 - 502). [Back]

5 Thomas W. Hilgers, M.D., The Medical and Surgical Practice of NaProTechnology, Pope Paul VI Institute Press, Omaha, Nebraska, pp.653-666. [Back]