Editor's note: Dr. David Wachs' name has been corrected in the online version of this story.
For eight years, Heidi and Dan Smilloff had trouble having a second child.
Their first son, Jacob, was conceived eight months after the couple got married in 1998.
"After we conceived him, two years later we decided to start trying for a second baby, and we couldn't conceive," Heidi said.
The better part of a decade was spent trying various means: prescription drugs to stimulate ovulation, using timing methods and seeing different specialists.
"We did everything up to the point of (in-vitro fertilization). It was too expensive for us," she said. "We were even trying to think about . . . adopting."
But then she heard about NaProTechnology, an alternative means of having a child, from friends at church.
Short for Natural Procreative Technology, the method involves closely examining and charting a woman's cycle to determine when her body is most fertile, said Dr. David Wachs, a family practitioner at Avera St. Luke's.
"Charting with a great model allows you to have an insight into your gynecological health," said Wachs, who is also the medical director of the fertility care program at Avera. "It's similar to a diabetic checking their blood sugars or an individual watching their blood pressure."
The technology isn't new, said Susan Gutenkauf, St. Luke's fertility care practitioner. It was developed around the early 1970s by Dr. Thomas H. Hilgers, an obstetrician in Omaha, Neb., she said. While the concept has been around for almost 40 years, privacy has prevented the method from gaining popularity, she said.
"When it come to infertility or even fertility in general, it's a very private thing that a lot of people don't speak out about because there might be pain in the background," she said.
But the method has spread through word of mouth.
Heidi heard about it through a friend at church who used the method.
"Women are all so different in what happens naturally," she said. "It was easier after learning my body and what was happening with me to go, ‘OK, well that makes sense.’ ”
She discovered her cycle was irregular, and after learning what days were her most fertile, she was able to get pregnant with her second son, Charles, within four months of charting.
The program also helps monitor other problems women might be having, Wachs said.
Through this type of monitoring, doctors could take information about an irregular cycle and see if it's a symptom of something else, he said.
"The charting is a reflection of what's taking place in their body physically that that information will clue them in to come into the office sooner for their health problems," he said.
One topic it addresses is infertility and miscarriages.
"I won't say it's truly a cure because infertility is not a disease in and of itself, but a sign of a disease," Gutenkauf said.
But NaProTechnology can help a physician determine what disease is causing the infertility, she said.
"There are so many different reasons for infertility, it's hard to say it's because of this or that," she said.
In addition, it has helped woman who have had miscarriages.
"It's amazing the women that have come through here that simply needed to interact with charting and they've been able to achieve and sustain pregnancy," Wachs said.
Avera St. Luke's Hospital is hosting a free forum focused on revolutionary alternatives in gynecological health. The event will at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Avera St. Luke's State Street Medical Square, 105 S. State St. For more information, call 605-622-5588.