My patient Sara, age 38, came to my family practice to get established as she and her family were new to the area. What was remarkable was that she hardly ever had menstrual periods. Even more remarkable was that only one doctor had ever investigated as to why.
Sara’s story is all too common. During her teen years, she developed acne and hair loss. She also started gaining weight especially around her waist. Her menstrual cycles were fairly regular initially but with time became less frequent or with spotting and bleeding at random times. To add to this frustrating set of symptoms, Sara experienced large emotional swings, water retention, and breast tenderness in the week before her menstruation. All her medical providers ever offered were the birth control pill, which are composed of artificial hormones that reduce ovarian function and create artificial cycles.
The pills stabilized her menstruation and reduced her acne but she felt even more depressed all the time rather than just prior to her period. What bothered Sara more was that she still didn’t know why her cycles were off and why she felt so poorly. It wasn’t until she was in her early 30’s that a physician started to investigate and made the diagnosis of PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome. The treatment offered, though was still the same–birth control pills.
Sara’s suffering ran deep. Having cystic acne, weight gain, and hair loss to the point of baldness is hard enough especially as a teenager. But to be largely ignored and dismissed was more problematic. Her sense was that there was something wrong but she seemed to run into dead ends and eventually gave up trying. Sara was ecstatic when she learned that there was a way to accurately diagnose and treat menstrual/fertility disorders through NaproTechnology.
By learning to chart biological markers of fertility in a medically meaningful way, Sara soon saw how she was really not ovulating or even producing signs associated with estrogen (See Creighton model chart 1). With the implementation of proper treatment that is ordered to restore normal health though NaproTechnology, Sara experienced a strong estrogen hormone rise (as revealed by her fertility chart during August 8-10), which brought on a range of emotions from elation to anger. She was elated because for the first time in her memory she felt “normal”. At the same time she was angry at every medical provider who never took her symptoms seriously. She had spent 20 plus years confused, hurting, and suffering, as she stated “things could have been so different.”
Again Sara’s situation is all too common. Women sense that they are to have regular menstrual periods and when they are not regular, something is wrong. And they are correct. They are correct from a medical aspect not just in order to become pregnant but in order to be healthy. For example, PCOS is very common and carries with it elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, diabetes, elevated uterine cancer, and breast cancer. The birth control pill carries the same risks. Medically it doesn’t make sense to treat a disease with something that potentiates the risks already there.
Additionally, it doesn’t make sense to treat based just on symptoms without a thorough medical investigation. I see this time and time again in my practice where women give a history of cycle dysfunction and were promptly put on the pill. This makes as much sense as prescribing ibuprofen for a 50 year old overweight male with chest pain without any diagnostic workup. It is substandard medical care.
Sara is not alone. The other day, a 33 year old woman exhibited the same emotions of elation and anger as she showed me her previous ultrasounds and lab work. “It was right there and they didn’t say anything! All this time I have been hurting and feeling so bad….” Happily she has finally taken my suggestion to get charting and allow me to use Napro protocols to diagnose and treat. She is elated that someone understands, let alone who wants to find some answers even though there may not be complete healing.
This silent suffering occurs in men as well. Men are often times dismissed without much medical diagnosis and therefore given inappropriate treatment. So many of my male patients have been given testosterone replacement without clear indication, which then suppresses their fertility. There are many underlying causes for their fatigue and insomnia of which low testosterone is a symptom, not a cause. In fact there is a male equivalent of PCOS which improves with similar treatment as given to women.
All people benefit from fertility awareness based methods and the scientific advances made through Naprotechnology: young teenaged girls and women with cycle disorders, normal fertility couples with serious reasons to avoid pregnancy, couples struggling to achieve a healthy normal pregnancy, and men with general health issues affecting fertility. Medical personnel can prevent a lot of suffering by remembering the principle that infertility is a sign of underlying disease, not a diagnosis in and by itself.
By applying that principle, Sara’s health improved tremendously. In her second 6 months of charting (see chart 2), she is now having regular menstrual cycles and largely feels much better. Her blood pressure has normalized, weight loss comes more easily, and her mood swings have reduced. This all took time but she is happy that someone took the time. As she said “things could have been so different.” But gratefully, things are different now.
Linked below are Sara’s Creighton Fertility Model Charts.
Originally published: May 2017
Author: Dr. Gretchen Marsh, Family Practice Physician and Fertility Provider with MyCatholicDoctor
Editor: Samantha Wright, Marketing Director with MyCatholicDoctor
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