Get the Catholic New World eNewsletter

Advertisements ad

The InterVIEW

Respecting life, women’s health go hand-in-hand

DR. THOMAS HILGERS, pictured with the infant son of a patient he treated for infertility

A regular feature of The Catholic New World, The InterVIEW is an in-depth conversation with a person whose words, actions or ideas affect today's Catholic. It may be affirming of faith or confrontational. But it will always be stimulating.

When members of parish respectlife groups, medical professionals and others involved in life issues gathered March 28 at a conference on “Dignitas Personae,” the new Vatican instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on bioethics (to read document visit, one of the keynote presentations came from Dr. Thomas Hilgers, director of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction.

Hilgers and his institute pioneered the study of fertility regulation in light of Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae,” and it has become well-known for its success in treating the causes of infertility as well as in training couples who want to plan their pregnancies without using artificial contraception.

He participated in an e-mail interview with assistant editor Michelle Martin before coming to Chicago for the conference, which was sponsored by the archdiocesan Respect Life Office, the Office for Evangelization and Relevant Radio.

Catholic New World: What does the Pope Paul VI Institute do?

Dr. Thomas Hilgers: The Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction is in its 24th year of operation. It was founded as a living memorial to Pope Paul VI and his call to “men of science” and to “physicians and health care professionals” to do research and develop competent services in the field of natural fertility regulation. This was spelled out in his encyclical letter Humanae Vitae. Our research has been wide ranging relative to the approaches to natural fertility regulation and in developing morally and ethically sensitive approaches to the management of reproductive health issues.

CNW: Why is the Pope Paul VI Institute necessary?

Hilgers: The main reason that the Pope Paul VI Institute is so necessary is because research in human reproduction in today’s world is responding to questions being asked by investigators that are ethically and morally insensitive. We live in a highly abortive culture and the profession of obstetrics and gynecology has become monolithic (of one mind) when it comes to contraception, sterilization, abortion and in-vitro fertilization. At the Pope Paul VI Institute, we conduct research that asks questions that are different from the mainstream.

It might be of some help to you to know that research actually is the asking of questions and the looking for certain answers. These questions are always motivated by the values that the research investigator holds. Right now, the values that are being promoted are abortion and contraception. These approaches are contrary to Catholic teaching and are not healthy for the human person. Thus, when we begin to ask questions, we ask them from the point of view, “What can we do to assist women and married couples in ways that are consistent with their faith?”

CNW: Why are the technologies/systems developed and used at the center better for women? What other benefits do they have?

Hilgers: We have developed at the Pope Paul VI Institute the Creighton Model FertilityCare ™ System. This program now has over 215 FertilityCare Centers throughout the United States. We have also developed the new women’s health science of NaProTechnology (Natural Procreative Technology). They are better for women and for married couples in a multitude of different ways. First of all, they tend to be more effective than the current abortion-driven methodologies. Secondly, they are safe to use. And, thirdly, they tend to get to the root cause of the problems or difficulties.

With women who have irregular cycles, premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, painful menstrual periods, recurrent ovarian cysts, abnormal bleeding, etc., etc., they are prescribed birth control pills. But the birth control pill only suppresses and camouflages the underlying problems. It never reaches to the root cause. In NaProTechnology, we find the underlying causes and treat them effectively.

There are, of course, many other benefits associated with this. In our infertility program, for example, our success rates are higher than the IVF (in-vitro fertilization) clinics. Furthermore, we do not freeze embryos; we do not foster embryonic stemcell research; we do not conduct or leave open the possibility of fetal research; we are not involved in cloning or creating an environment where cloning would be suggested.

CNW: How does NaProTechnology differ from standard reproductive technology?

Hilgers: NaProTechnology (Natural Procreative Technology) cooperates with the menstrual and the fertility cycle. It does not suppress or destroy it. It moves towards trying to find the root cause of the difficulty or problem and curing it or treating it effectively. In the artificial reproductive technologies, the diseases are “skipped over” and replaced by conception in a test tube. These programs are associated with very high multiple pregnancy rates in the range of 35 percent to 45 percent. In NaProTechnology, our multiple pregnancy rate is only 3.2 percent.

Furthermore, the prematurity rate in the United States has climbed to 12.7 percent on a national scale. Our prematurity rate has been decreased to 7 percent. Prematucommentary rity is the leading cause of both mental and motor retardation in the United States. And, the list could go on and on and on.

CNW: Do you see more patients who want help having children or patients who want to avoid having children? Why do you think that is?

Hilgers: In our own program, at the present time, because my medical practice is designed to assist couples with infertility, we see more patients who are wanting to have children. However, on a national scale, we see all types of patients who are coming to us with a whole host of different problems. Certainly, a significant percentage of them are wanting to use the Creighton Model System as a natural means of avoiding pregnancy.

The Creighton Model System is really the first family planning system that has completely networked itself to a woman’s procreative health. It is a system that allows reproductive health maintenance to occur and ongoing monitoring of that health. For physicians who are trained in NaProTechnology, they can be of assistance to these patients in a whole variety of ways.

CNW: Do you see the movement toward ethical treatment of reproductive/fertility issues expanding and gaining acceptance, or are you a “voice in the wilderness?”

Hilgers: Indeed, there is a definite and palpable increase in individuals wanting to approach evaluation and treatment of these difficult issues in ways that are ethically and morally sensitive. While it is still true that this is a new women’s health science (our textbook was only published in 2004), and we have a long way to go to see to it that everybody knows about NaProTechnology in the years ahead as this continues to grow and expand, I do expect an even faster shift towards NaProTechnology approaches to evaluation and treatment.

For more information about the Pope Paul VI Institute visit or call (402) 390-6600.