By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Dr. Monica Minjeur says she is the only physician in east central Iowa who utilizes Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods in a medical setting. While mainstream medical practices tout the birth control pill as a cure-all for a myriad of female ailments, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based family practitioner chooses to use her knowledge of NFP to help women make positive choices about their family planning and receive more ailment-specific treatments.
Initially fearful that her decision not to prescribe “the pill” would make it difficult for her to find a job or gain patients, the 30-something doctor is busier than she could have ever imagined. “I need help!” she said, noting that some of her clients drive two hours each way to see her. She’s hoping that other medical professionals will follow her lead so that NFP-educated doctors become more accessible to patients.
Promoting NFP methods in the medical field was a major topic of discussion at the Culture of Life dinner May 2 at St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City. For the past few years, St. Wenceslaus Knights of Columbus Council No. 14385 has offered scholarships to persons wanting to learn the Creighton Model FertilityCare system. This model, based at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Neb., utilizes NaPro technology to identify and treat hormonal and gynecological problems without use of birth control pills. Its symptom-based fertility tracking method can be used to avoid and achieve pregnancy.
This year, the Knights honored four scholarship recipients at the dinner with a $1,500 check. None are medical professionals, but through their training they will be able to coach couples in avoiding and achieving pregnancy through tracking fertility symptoms. They can help women chart their cycles and look for patterns to determine possible causes for irregularities. In cases where more assistance or testing is needed, they can refer the client to a local NFP-trained doctor, if available, or the Pope Paul VI Institute.
Two of the scholarship recipients, Kadja Downs of Orange City, Iowa, and Meredith Simon of La Porte City, Iowa, were on hand to offer testimony. Downs endured a pre-term birth and a miscarriage before discovering that her progesterone levels were low. She said traditionally trained doctors don’t always check progesterone levels, even though progesterone supplements can often help prevent miscarriages and pre-term births. She has since given birth to two healthy babies. She wanted to become trained in Creighton Model FertilityCare techniques so she can help other mothers who have gone through similar heartache.
Simon, a Protestant, wants to promote NFP techniques to non-Catholics. She said few people outside of the Catholic Church know much about it. She heard about NFP through practitioner Jamie Rathjen, with whom she ran track at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Cassandra White, a Drake University senior, and Anne Olek of New York, were unable to attend. Olek is receiving extended training to become a Creighton Model educator. In a slideshow she submitted for the event, she expressed that NFP is not well-known in New York and she hopes to spread the word by being able to teach the method to would-be practitioners.
Dr. Minjeur offered the keynote address, observing that little information is given about NFP in medical schools and doctors who wish to learn about it must pay out of pocket. As a previous recipient of the St. Wenceslaus scholarship, she said she probably wouldn’t have been able to afford the roughly $6,000 tuition without their help.
The KCs, with the help of former St. Wenceslaus parishioner Dr. Stephen Pallone of Sioux City, Iowa, and his wife, Melinda, have distributed a total of $22,000 in scholarships over the past few years. The St. Wenceslaus scholarship is the sole scholarship listed on the FertilityCare training website.
None of this year’s recipients live in the Diocese of Davenport. A couple from St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville expressed interest in applying for the scholarship.
Despite the challenges of getting NPF training into the mainstream medical community, Dr. Minjeur told guests at the dinner that they can help make NFP-trained medical professionals more accessible simply by starting a conversation with their doctors. “Ask if they’ve ever considered learning about NFP.”