Professor speaks to Franciscan students, United Nations on fertility awareness


Derek Doroski, professor of biology at Franciscan University, presented his talk on fertility awareness in the Gentile Gallery on March 1 in preparation for his speech at the United Nations over spring break.

He addressed the students of the university so he could receive feedback and make improvements before speaking to the U.N.

In his talk, Doroski made a scientifically-based case for fertility awareness, describing its effectiveness over birth control, condoms and even in vitro fertilization (IVF).

He shared that fertility awareness actually results in stronger families, the overcoming of infertility and a more satisfying sexual union.

The talk began by examining the reproductive system. Doroski invited the audience to think about how many digestive systems they have — of course, the answer being only one.

“If we ask ourselves, ‘How many reproductive systems do we have?’ I think the answer is less than one,” said the biology professor. “It only works in the context of someone else’s reproductive system.”

He continued by explaining how the female and male reproductive systems function naturally. When it comes to fertility awareness, he said that it is based on the need to follow the fertility cycle of the woman; this is because men are always fertile, but women have fertility cycles.

“They monitor signs of fertility and use that knowledge,” said Doroski.

He said simple techniques, including taking a woman’s temperature, allow a couple to follow the woman’s natural rise and fall of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, which control fertility and the ability to maintain a pregnancy.

Doroski explained that these fertility awareness techniques allow a woman, and even her husband, to have deeper knowledge of how her body works. The techniques can even help the couple know if the woman is at risk for miscarriage before it occurs, said Doroski.

While fertility awareness simply monitors the natural functions and cycle of a woman, the pill and condoms work very differently, he said.

“The pill works by administering artificial hormones and disrupt her healthy fertility cycle,” Doroski pointed out. “She’s no longer fertile biochemically.”

He compared this to persons who eat organic food; this population consumes organic foods because they are concerned about the artificial hormones found in other food. However, sometimes the same people will ingest the same type of hormones through a fertility control pill, he said.

Doroski also said that couples using condoms not only describe the sexual union as less satisfying, but he said one could also face side effects including depression and preeclampsia.

However, fertility awareness is not only more effective in avoiding a pregnancy but in achieving one as well. Doroski said that fertility awareness is still more effective in achieving a pregnancy than IVF, and it carries a lower chance of multiple children, preeclampsia and ectopic pregnancies.

Doroski also pointed out that IVF does not solve the problem of a couple’s infertility, but fertility awareness does. Fertility awareness is based on targeting the root of the problem, namely, infertility whereas IVF focuses on simply attaining a pregnancy, he said.

Fertility awareness can even improve family life, said Doroski. One example of this is that husbands have a better understanding of their wives, he said.

“There’s a lot of respect that came out of that,” said the professor.

Finally, he said that fertility awareness is a technique that can be passed on to children. This is something that one cannot do with birth control, said Doroski.

“We have to put the doctor in between the parents and the children,” he explained.

After the talk, Doroski allowed time for questions and discussion on how to improve his presentation. Freshman John Durbin shared that this presentation was informative and helpful for him.

“I think I’ll have an easier time with friends and family who aren’t so open,” said Durbin.

Isabelle Farineau, president of Franciscan Feminists and secretary of Students for a Fair Society, appreciated that the biology professor’s approach was scientifically based.

“He relied very heavily on good data and good science and referred back to that,” said Farineau.

She also believes that the U.N. will be able to take away knowledge and encourage others to understand how their bodies work.

Doroski traveled to the U.N. to share this presentation, “Empowering Women, Men, Girls and Boys to Optimum Reproductive Health through Knowledge-Based Fertility” over spring break.

Doroski received his doctorate in biomedical engineering and a minor in life science from the Georgia Institute of Technology.