Workshop to help couples struggling with infertility

BRIGHTON —  In an effort to assist married couples facing the challenge of infertility, the Family Life Office of the Archdiocese of Boston will host an informative event about infertility options and resources on May 21 from 2-5 p.m.

The event will provide participants with information about reproductive technology and Catholic Church teachings so that attendees will understand the morality of available technologies.

“It’s an afternoon of information and hope,” said Mary Finnigan, coordinator for Natural Family Planning Services for the archdiocese.

The afternoon will feature two guests — a physician speaking on the topic of “Natural Procreative Technology: A Cause for Hope” and a bioethics expert talking on “Church Teaching: A Mantle of Protection.”

Participants will have time to ask questions and will receive a packet full of resources on options and support groups. The packet will include spiritual resources as well, including information about the redemptive value of suffering, according to Finnigan.

“We’ve been aware for several years now that infertility is a challenge for couples,” she said. “We knew there was a need out there.”

Finnigan and others in the Family Life Office were also aware that other resources, such as support groups, were already available.

“I was clear that we didn’t want to duplicate things that already existed,” she said.

Instead, the session will fill in missing links and provide information on existing services. The outcome will hopefully be that couples living with infertility will be better able to evaluate and take advantage of options, she said.

Finnigan added that Natural Procreative Technology or “Napro Technology” has helped many couples to understand why they were unable to conceive and address the problem directly.

“They’ve had some very reasonable success with infertility,” she said.

Paul Carpentier, a doctor at In His Image Family Medicine with a certificate in NaproTechnology, will speak at the event on May 21 about where medical science meets Catholic teaching.

“It’s a Catholic approach to infertility,” said Carpentier who has been involved with Napro for 19 years. “NaproTechnology is a trademark given to this new science where we investigate what’s wrong and use our science in a way that cooperates with the body.”

Many couples who encounter infertility are pushed toward using in vitro fertilization (IVF), he said. This option goes against good medical care, which seeks to restore natural function the body, and Church teaching, which calls for the respect of every human being.

Rather than finding the problem and fixing it, IVF bypasses the system. It also manipulates the woman’s body by forcing her to hyperovulate, retrieve her eggs with needles and use drugs to shut her ovaries off and then turn them back on. In the end, conception occurs outside of the woman’s body in a petri dish, he said.

“You’re just bypassing the system. Instead, good medical science and Catholic Church teaching would say, ‘Find out why this couple can’t achieve pregnancy,’” he said.

In addition, IVF procedures create more embryos than are actually implanted in the woman’s body. This leads to the problematic choice of discarding, freezing or using embryos for experimentation, Carpentier said.

“When we feel like we can use people like we can use a microwave oven or use a car, then you’re not respecting the dignity of that person,” he said.

Carpentier said that, in some cases, the solution to infertility is simple and does not require couples to go through difficult and expensive procedures.

“I found very simple explanations for many people,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just as simple as a $20 prescription for progesterone or taking her off something that decreases her cervical mucus such as antihistamines and large doses of vitamin C.”

NaproTechnology stemmed from the study of women’s cycles with natural family planning. Doctors studying NFP began to discover that women who had difficulty getting pregnant usually had less cervical mucus, which was also associated with low progesterone and estrogen levels.

When they started applying treatments, couples began to get pregnant, even those couples with low sperm counts, he said.

Even couples who have attempted IVF multiple times can end up achieving pregnancy using NaproTechnology, he added.

The technology seeks to understand how the body works and how to make it work better and is used to treat more conditions than infertility, he said.

“It branched out into not only infertility but also ovarian cysts, premenstrual syndrome, miscarriages and post-partum depression. We can treat all of those very, very well,” Carpentier said.

“Our success rates are so good and it’s a testimony to the teachings of the Church,” he added. “When we respect those teachings, we stumble into very good science.”

Finnigan said she hopes an informative afternoon about infertility will be given each year in both the fall and the spring. Pre-registration for the first event on May 21 is required. To register or for more information, call 617-746-5803.