Following the sexual revolution, many in the women’s healthcare community in the United States adopted a paradigm of care which has undermined women’s dignity through a few key hypocrisies. In the 1960s, an ever-growing plethora of artificial contraceptive options was promised to stabilize marriages and reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies, yet we continue to watch the opposite outcome extend each year. The 1970s ushered in the first clinical applications of what has become a bustling industry of assisted reproductive technologies, promising women a safe solution to infertility, though infertility rates instead continue to rise and pregnancies achieved by ART remain associated with a slew of negative maternal and newborn outcomes. Meanwhile, our culture continues to advocate this array of innovations as a comprehensive strategy for all, while instead more and more women encounter increasing difficulty in finding providers who share their health priorities.
Fortunately, a growing awareness of natural family planning offers true promise to women. Medical providers are in a position to help women restore the dignity that comes from an integrated approach to women’s health. Providing NFP-compatible medical care is one of the best ways to do this.
I am beginning residency training in obstetrics and gynecology, and one of my major career goals is to promote availability of NFP to women. I place great value in its emphases on menstrual charting, ovulation monitoring, and partner communication. Not only have these methods been demonstrated to effectively aid in delaying pregnancy and to stabilize relationships, but they can also help in diagnosing gynecologic disorders whose cause would otherwise be left unidentified and treated reflexively with hormonal contraceptives. In managing subfertile patients who would ordinarily be referred for in vitro fertilization, I would feel confident that with NFP models such as the Creighton fertility care system, a large portion of them could naturally achieve pregnancy without the increased risk of morbidity and mortality associated with ART. Finally, I see NFP as an essential option to women who seek a dignity-affirming approach to health, as its methods always seek to cooperate with, rather than to disrupt or bypass, the woman’s own reproductive system (as artificial contraception and ART do).
Being counter-cultural in the women’s healthcare community can be challenging for providers; I have found the Catholic Medical Association very helpful in navigating that difficult path. I am proud to work with the local guild of the CMA, which provides an opportunity to discuss ethically sound standards of care in a forum that is not typically available to providers in most secular healthcare systems. Likewise, I enjoy working with the CMA to see that the Church’s teachings are appropriately applied to the ever-
changing technological landscape that is modern medicine. Indeed, to do so is necessary for providers of NFP-compatible care, as an appropriate integration of novel technology is part of the holistic approach to health that is embodied by natural family planning.
Unfortunately, many of the advances in women’s health of the last few decades have been twisted to produce what is now a prevalent paradigm which devalues feminine dignity: that the reproductive system is to be disrupted when pregnancy is undesired, bypassed when pregnancy is to be achieved, and subjected to artificial hormonal treatment when other gynecologic symptoms are encountered. Fortunately, however, NFP has brought a new hope by which women may receive medical care that cooperates with rather than controls their bodies, and I am proud to join a growing number of physicians eager to provide that care.
Scrafford is a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Minnesota and a member of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Maplewood.
Category: The Lesson Plan