In this post, Caroline answers the questions: How do I talk to my provider about misgivings I hold about treatment or continuing treatment? Or how do I know when it’s time to stop treatment or trying to conceive?

These are great and brave questions.  Many times, during my first meeting with a patient and her spouse, I tell them, “I do not want to dictate a treatment plan for you. I want your care to be in the context of a relationship in which you are free to tell me what you want to do and not do.” The truth is, sometimes I forget this important point, or further along in the treatment process, I fail to come back to it.

I’m sure you have heard from your Natural Procreative Technology (NaPro) provider or elsewhere that “infertility is a symptom of an underlying disease.” In our pursuit to find this root cause of infertility, we usually find many possible contributors and because of that, there are often a lot of different treatments to pursue. Let’s be honest, none of these treatments are fun or easy. It’s not fun or easy to need a pill box so you can remember to take all your many pills. It’s not fun or easy to eat gluten-free and/or dairy-free. It’s not fun or easy to meticulously keep track of your fertile signs and time your intercourse just right. However, many patients pursue these paths because they have such a strong, beautiful, innate desire to bring forth physical life into the world and to become parents.

If you have not become pregnant (because no treatment for infertility is 100% successful), after a while you may wonder, “When is enough, enough? I do not want to give up hope, but I cannot swallow any more pills or look at cervical mucus any longer.” First, you are not “giving up hope” by questioning your current treatments, or by wanting to take a small step back from treatment, or in your desire to take a break altogether. Second, as your medical provider, I am not only here to help you become pregnant; I am here to assist you in healing your body, mind, and heart so you can better love the people that God places in front of you. If, at some point, you and your spouse start to notice that a specific part of treatment or the treatment process itself is not healing but is becoming a stress on your body, mind, heart, or relationship, take a pause. Talk about it with each other and pray.

Asking your provider if a specific treatment is necessary, discontinuing some medications or supplements, or taking a 3-month break is not “giving up hope”. It is advocating for yourself and deciding that your mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual health is more important than aggressively trying to conceive at this moment in time – this moment in time. In the words of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, all we ever have is the present moment and we ought to live it well. Caring for the body and soul that God gave you, and bringing forth new life into the world – these are both goods. Choosing to pursue one good over the other is called good discernment.

If you’ve made the difficult decision to step back in some way from treatment, you may be wondering, “How do I talk to my provider about this?” Here are some practical questions and conversation starters:

  • What do you see as the next steps in my treatment and what is the timeline for them?
  • I’m struggling with the number of pills I’m currently taking. Are there any I could stop at this time?
  • This diet is very restrictive, and I find that I no longer enjoy food. What items could I add back in?
  • Why am I taking this or that medication or supplement?
  • Treatment is causing me a lot of anxiety, affecting my relationship with my spouse, etc. What would it look like for me to take a break from treatment?

It can be scary to bring up these questions to your provider, and it’s ok to feel that way! Please never fear that I, as your medical provider, will be disappointed in you if you don’t do something I suggest or if you take a break from treatment. Quite the opposite – I will admire you for your bravery and honesty and being an advocate for you, your spouse, and your greatest good at this moment in time.

Please know that I am praying for you and rooting for you on this crazy journey to Heaven.

Caroline Gindhart is a nurse practitioner at Divine Mercy Womens Health in Camp Hill/Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She received her nursing degrees from Penn State University. In her professional work, she diagnoses the root causes of infertility and treats in a way that cooperates with the woman’s cycle using her training in the Creighton Model and NaPro Technology.