Infertility: 2 Treatment Stories (Otherwise Entitled: Yes, You have More Options than IVF-Part 2)
In part 2 of Andi’s story, we’ll learn about her journey to healing through NaPro TECHNOLOGY. If you haven’t read part 1, you can catch up on Part 1 Here.
When Andi’s midwife first tracked her down to tell her about NaPro TECHNOLOGY, she almost didn’t want to hear it. At this point, she and her husband were just so tired of the world of infertility. Tentatively, she decided to find out more information. Her first step was to contact a Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner. FCP’s work with women to teach them how to chart their fertility cycles to access NaPro TECHNOLOGY. This step is crucial in the diagnosis and treatment of the woman, as it is the primary tool that the NaPro doctor uses.
Andi began reading and learning all she could about NaPro. She learned that NaPro TECHNOLOGY is a different way of approaching the treatment of women struggling with reproductive health problems, including infertility. Infertility is seen as a symptom of underlying disease, and as we saw with Andi, it is very often accompanied by other symptoms which may affect the woman’s quality of life. She learned that NaPro doctors use medical and surgical approaches to correct abnormalities. In the NaPro world, a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” just means that they just haven’t looked hard enough.
Andi began working with Creighton Model practitioner Holly Baril to learn to chart her fertility cycles. She would work with Holly through her medical treatments, timing tests and medications to her specific cycles. Holly would also teach Andi and her husband the best possible days in her cycle to try to achieve pregnancy, something that was never taught when her traditional reproductive endocrinologist was treating her. For her medical care, she turned to to Dr. Kalamarides of the Vitae Clinic in Austin, Texas. Her first appointment with him was on the third anniversary of her ruptured ectopic pregnancy, a date she would never forget.
“What was your first appointment like?” I asked her.
“He was so compassionate. I realized that through all of my previous treatments none of the doctors had ever even told me they were sorry for what I had gone through. Dr. K. was so caring and concerned about us as people. He spent an hour with us, going over everything.”
According to Andi, Dr. K’s first concern was that her three cycles of charting showed a problem with the amount of progesterone that her body was producing. Progesterone is essential in the development of a newly conceived baby, and not having enough of it can mean that a baby may not be able to implant and survive in the uterus. Dr. K. used her specific chart to properly time the progesterone level testing to her post ovulation phase. He would test her progesterone at several points during this phase of her cycle, when it should be high.
“Days 3 and 5, post-ovulation were normal, and then they plummeted below the scale,” she said.
She felt that this could have contributed to her ectopic pregnancy. This was also contributing to the PMS symptoms she was experiencing each cycle. Dr. K. chose to treat this with injections of HCG, which works on the brain to tell the ovaries to produce more estrogen and progesterone.
Related post: What PMS & Miscarriage Have in Common.
“Had any of your other doctors checked your progesterone?” I asked.
“The infertility doctor never checked it at all,” she responded.
In addition to the progesterone problem, Dr. K. believed that Andi’s problems were probably organic in nature, that is, that there was something happening with her reproductive organs that was causing her pain and affecting her fertility, and it could not be seen with an ultrasound. He scheduled her for a diagnostic laparoscopy for the next month, where he planned to look inside her pelvic cavity to see what was going on, at which time he would also correct the problem if he could.
“How did you feel knowing he was recommending surgery? Especially after your surgical history?” I asked her.
“I actually felt really at peace with it. I trusted him. What sold me is NaPro’s near adhesion free protocol.”
One of the risks of any pelvic surgery is the risk of adhesions, that is, inflammation and scar tissue, which can further impact the woman’s fertility. NaPro’s precise surgical techniques seek to eliminate the risk of adhesions. The typical gynecologist is not trained in minimizing adhesions, and may cause further damage to the woman’s fertility while attempting to surgically correct a problem.
The first week of December 2015, Andi would finally have the answers she sought for her infertility. After waking from a 3 hour surgery, Dr. Kalamarides told her what he found and what he had corrected.
“He described it like slime and cobwebs in my pelvis,” she said. “It was like a bomb had gone off from my ectopic pregnancy. Pelvic adhesions from the previous surgery to remove the ectopic pregnancy covered everything. My uterus was basically fused to my colon, which explained all the rectal pressure I would have during my cycle. My right remaining (fallopian) tube was twisted and covered with adhesions. The tube wasn’t anywhere near my ovary, where it should have been. There is no way an egg could have ever gotten through all of that to get to the tube.”
I could hear tears in her voice as she told me, “Being validated was the most unbelievable feeling.”
Andi was about four months post-surgery when I spoke with her.
“How are you doing now?” I asked.
“I’m doing so well,” she said, emphatically. “I feel so much better. By this last cycle, I had no pain at all. I used to be able to pinpoint ovulation exactly, but only because I was in such excruciating pain on that day. Now I really have to rely only my chart to know when I ovulate, because I don’t feel it at all! It’s been so cool to see my cycles change for the better. The brown bleeding I used to have for days after my period is going away. I used to have 7 days of emotional misery with PMS symptoms before I started my period. That’s all gone now.”
“What did Dr. K. say he expected as far as you being able to achieve pregnancy now?” I asked.
He said, “Okay! You’re good! Call me when you’re pregnant.”
For a brief moment, I hesitated to write this post now, because it is so soon after Andi’s surgery and she hasn’t gotten pregnant yet. I hope very soon to do a follow up piece to share the happy news that she is. But I felt like there was another story to tell here, and that was about Andi’s healing. So often I think we tend to see a woman’s fertility as nothing more than having babies when we want to or not having babies when we don’t. It’s nothing more than a switch to turn on or off. What we sometimes fail to see is the whole woman, who’s health and well-being can become secondary to her body’s ability to produce a baby. Andi is a prime example of why women’s healthcare in America needs a revolution. She was in pain. She was struggling with the effects of PMS. She was grieving the loss of an unborn baby and struggling with the trauma of two past medical emergencies. She was grieving the loss of the children she had hoped to have. She was desperate for answers as to WHY she could not conceive and why she was in pain. These issues were not being addressed until she found help through Creighton and NaPro TECHNOLOGY.
“With Creighton there is such a network of support. There is a feeling of collaboration with the medical consultant, practitioners, and network of other women going through this. I want to know what real people are doing and what success they are having. I didn’t have that going the IVF route,” she said.
“I feel so bad for women going through IVF. Maybe they will have a baby. Maybe they won’t. But so many of them will walk away with the same problems that made it impossible for them to have a baby in the first place.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, she added, “I can’t even describe in words what I feel for Dr. K. The whole experience was wonderful, so healing.”
Finances are often a huge factor when dealing with infertility. In an effort to help other couples understand the financial side of IVF vs. NaPro treatments, Andi shared with me how much the treatments cost. IVF was not covered under her medical insurance. The estimated cost of IVF with ICSI was $15,000, not including the $2,000 they had already spent. NaPro is not considered ‘infertility treatment’ under most medical insurance plans, so her NaPro treatments were covered as necessary for her health. Her out of pocket cost for NaPro treatment was $2,400.
“I don’t understand why this isn’t more mainstream,” she said. “If there is a better way to treat women, why isn’t everyone doing it?”
Why, indeed. Perhaps it’s because the idea of ‘women’s reproductive healthcare’ in America has become synonymous with two things: birth control pills and abortions. But that is a post for another day.
If you would like to learn more about charting your own cycle using the Creighton Model, I would love to chat with you. I can be reached at Shirelle@InfinityFertilityCare.com
Dr. Andi is an audiologist who provides hearing screenings for babies born out of hospital in the DFW area. I used her services after I had my own baby, and highly recommend her. She makes house calls so you can stay in your PJ’s! She can be reached at www.littleearsaudiology.com or on Facebook.