Dr. Susan Caldwell
Infertility… Is it a Diagnosis or a Symptom?
In the clinic I encounter many women who spend years fearfully trying to avoid pregnancy by using various types of birth control only to find that when they stop birth control and start trying to become pregnant, it seems impossible to do so. I can relate because I was one of those women. As a culture, we’ve come to believe that we can “turn off” our fertility until we decide that we want to be fertile then expect our reproductive system to conform with our desires and start to function properly. Sometimes this works but too often it doesn’t. Many times, this leads to the diagnosis of infertility, along with enormous feelings of frustration and disappointment.
But what is “infertility”? Infertility is usually defined as the inability to conceive despite trying to conceive (without birth control) for at least one year. I invite you to reconsider infertility by using this definition:
Infertility = a symptom of an underlying disease process that interferes with the normal function of the reproductive system(s) of a couple with infertility.
By using this definition, we can recognize fertility as a state of being healthy and infertility as a state of disease. Unfortunately, this is not the way that health care professionals are taught to define infertility.
Most doctors are trained to see infertility as a diagnosis that should be treated so that a pregnancy can occur, rather than as a symptom that should be investigated in order to restore health. When this is the viewpoint from which infertility is seen, then we can understand why the most recommended treatment offered is some form of artificial reproductive technology such as intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization. Not only are these treatments expensive and sometimes dangerous, they are so very often not necessary in order to restore fertility.
Women and couples struggling to conceive usually have a very good question: “Why?”. They want to know what is wrong and want to be well. I see many couples who visit my clinic after they have gone down the path of traditional infertility treatment. Often, they are exhausted and feel abandoned when the “procedure” did not result in a pregnancy. The women especially feel abandoned because the other treatments did not offer any healing or help for their other symptoms.
Considering another option for infertility…
These days people love DIY projects where they can be in charge and fix their own problems without hiring an expert. Pregnancy should also work this way. If you asked any couple, they would probably say that they would prefer to conceive a child without outside help from a professional. Men and women are designed to procreate in private, within the context of the loving embrace of spouses. As natural as the conception of a child should be, many couples have trouble and do need to be educated and evaluated so that natural conception can occur inside of the mother’s body.
In order to embrace this ideal, we need to consider a major cause of female infertility. The vast majority of women choose to use various forms of hormonal birth control during their prime reproductive years in order to prevent pregnancy without understanding the following fact:
When a woman spends years using a pill/shot/ring/rod/device
to force her body to be infertile, she should not be surprised
when her body remains infertile long after she stops birth control.
Of course, this is not true for all women. Fortunately, many women do return to healthy cycles after using birth control. But many do not and feel that they must resort to expensive infertility treatment in order to become mothers.
A Better Way...Fertility Appreciation
As time goes on, more women are choosing to abandon birth control for health-related reasons. They recognize that when they use artificial birth control, they do not feel well. Women are learning about their cycle and are beginning to see the dangers in taking their fertility for granted in their most fertile years. They are learning that the act of sex is meant to result in pregnancy (even when they attempt to prevent it by using birth control). However, science tells us that women ovulate only once every month and that each egg is able to become fertilized during only 12 to 24 hours each month. With this in mind, why would we accept the side effects of a 24/7 birth control method to continually suppress ovulation if it only happens once every 30 days??? Surely a woman would prefer to learn how to determine when she is fertile each month and then let that information inform her decision to have sex RATHER THAN allowing her fertility to be suppressed by a chemical that can cause long term side effects and even infertility.
There are many wonderful and effective methods of fertility awareness that help women become attuned to their own body, health and fertility. Women using these methods can often identify early warning signs of conditions that can lead to infertility. The good news is that there are very well-researched methods, such as the Creighton Model System, that can help lead to proper diagnosis and treatment of these conditions by a doctor trained in a science such as NaproTechnology. Proper treatment of the underlying conditions can lead not only to a desired pregnancy, but also to ongoing health and healing of so many other symptoms that accompany infertility.