This article is written by a guest author, Catie Vandamme. It was first published at The Federalist and is republished here with permission. In our efforts at the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, we are focused on educating people on the facts around Assisted Reproductive Technologies. Stories like Catie’s are rarely talked about in the popular press or on Capitol Hill. In fact, many people are woefully unaware of restorative reproductive medicine which aims to correct the underlying fertility issue.  Quite honestly, this is because BigFertility doesn’t make huge profits from treating infertility.  How many more people might benefit from stories like Catie’s?  Stay tuned as we report many more like hers.

Earlier this month, Gov. Kay Ivey, R-Ala., signed the medical protection of in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures and treatments into Alabama law.

Ivey commended this legislation, saying it reinforces the state’s commitment to the pro-life cause. “Alabama works to foster a culture of life, and that certainly includes IVF,” she said in a statement that day. “I am pleased to sign this important, short-term measure into law so that couples in Alabama hoping and praying to be parents can grow their families through IVF,” she added.

But to what extent is providing IVF treatment to families the best option? To what extent does it truly protect the life of the mother and the unborn?

When I was in my early twenties, I was diagnosed with a condition called endometriosis. This condition exposed me to the often challenging and disheartening world of reproductive health care. Because of my condition, I knew there was a possibility I would struggle to conceive naturally on my own, but I was never told by any doctor that I would not be able to conceive. I knew to approach the topic of infertility with a general level of healthy consideration of what might be required to get pregnant. After being married for a couple of years, I sought out a health care provider to get a clearer picture of my reproductive health.

There was no way I could have anticipated the can of worms I’d opened.

Trying to choose between the hundreds of fertility specialists in Dallas was dizzying. I decided to pick one at a reputable hospital and see what happened. This doctor ran a relatively normal blood panel and had me come back in to go over the results. Within less than five minutes of my arrival, this doctor began giving me information about IVF. He mumbled something about my AMH levels (hormone levels that assess ovarian reserve count) being “somewhat low for my age,” and this was why he suggested such drastic measures. I was only 29. My husband and I hadn’t even tried to conceive naturally yet.

Without pause, he started informing me of the need to artificially stimulate my ovaries to make more eggs and to consider embryo adoption or surrogacy. He also brought up the topic of creating, freezing, and storing human embryos before ominously fumbling through my questions and concerns around his comments on “discarding human embryos.” I left his office reeling — and with a packet of information on our financial responsibilities.

I simply wanted to ask some questions about my reproductive health. Instead, I was thrown onto a fertility conveyor belt — the picture painted that this was the absolute only way.

We decided to seek a second opinion from two other doctors. They were even worse than the first. The first was so inundated with patients that he called me another patient’s name and tried to start me on another patient’s procedure. I had to stop him mid-sentence to help him realize his error. Our appointment was rushed and lacked detail. He said we could try conceiving on our own for a while but that I shouldn’t wait too long. IVF was standard.

The third doctor took one look at my bloodwork results and started talking about himself. He said he was “one of the most renowned specialists in the world,” and that “people come from all over and spend millions of dollars” desperately wanting him to make them a baby. He told me of the failure rates with IVF and the babies he had seen born prematurely. He described in detail their deformities and tragic deaths. I sat there in shock. He began to ask me if I truly wanted to go through the process of IVF. He asked if I even wanted to have children — after all, they are a lot of work and can be spoiled. He mentioned something about his niece and how terrible she is. He told me I should be happy without a baby and travel.

I sat there stunned, and my eyes started to water. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Why are you crying?”

These doctors rushed through my questions. I wanted to know if there were other things I could do before IVF. Could we figure out why my hormone levels were low and treat that instead? If I had a low egg count, why did they want to pump me full of synthetic hormones to get my body to mass-produce eggs if I was already producing them on some level? Don’t you only need one egg to get pregnant?

I reminded myself that my egg count numbers were somewhat low for my age, but they were not nonexistent. After realizing there was no way I could come up with the $40,000 this treatment would cost me, and losing all respect for the fertility world in Dallas, I gave up for the time being.

Six months later, I was scrolling on Instagram. I came across an account that seemed holistic and practiced restorative reproductive treatment. I discovered that this type of treatment could help me understand my own body’s functioning and why my hormones were off. This would allow doctors to use my information to help my fertility and allow my husband and me to conceive naturally.

I found one doctor in the Dallas area at the time who practiced this treatment method. He ran follicle scans and discovered a hormone imbalance that was negatively affecting my ovulation. He advised me to go on an anti-inflammation diet and put me on a dose of progesterone, the cost of which was only $4 and covered by my insurance. I also learned how to chart my fertility cycles.

I became pregnant naturally, two months later.

I told this doctor about my quick brush with IVF. He said that restorative reproduction treatments are seen as boring and don’t make a lot of money for IVF specialists — you won’t need (or pay for) the fertility specialists’ services any longer if you’re healed. I was stunned. He told me how unethical it would have been to start me on IVF without managing my endometriosis surgically — placing me at greater risk of miscarrying, or ectopic pregnancies. The three previous doctors made no mention of that.

The first time I met with this holistic doctor, he ran my bloodwork again, checking the same hormone levels the first doctor did. My numbers were normal, higher even than the first time. He said those numbers fluctuate and should never be used for complete fertility outcome estimates.

This experience taught me a lot about the need to advocate for my own health. I can’t imagine how many women a year go into those clinics desperate for a child, blindly trusting these doctors and unaware of any restorative approaches to treating their reproductive systems. How many women wind up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars putting their bodies through so much pain? How many human embryos are created and frozen because the doctor was lazy — or greedy? How many doctors know the actual outcomes of IVF but aren’t upfront about the heartache and risks?

States like Alabama need to rethink how they are fighting the pro-life fight. Women need to know there are safer, more affordable, and more effective options. I’m so grateful I learned about this holistic method and was able to give birth to a healthy baby.