Dr. Jessica Jenkins has been immersed in hospitals from a young age. That’s what led her to a career as an OB/GYN, all while being able to practice in accordance with her Catholic faith, right here in St. Louis.
During her childhood, Jenkins often attended Mass at the hospital chapel where her mother worked in the emergency room as a clerk. Getting to know the medical staff in the ER played an instrumental role in developing a love for medicine.
As the native of Prudence, Michigan, was researching medical schools and what field to go into, she took pause when it came to obstetrics and gynecology.
“Instead of it being a career, it felt more like a calling,” she said. “It was the field that had the most ‘battles’ … There are so many opportunities to defend women and defend life in this field, which is why I chose this area.”
Jenkins joined Dr. Michael Dixon in September at SSM Medical Group OB/GYN at SSM Health St. Clare Hospital in Fenton. She is undergoing training as a medical consultant in the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, one of several methods of natural family planning, and its medical component, NaProTechnology. The training is offered through the St. Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska.
Jenkins will soon be taking on the bulk of obstetrics patients, with Dixon, who has been practicing as a Catholic OB/GYN in St. Louis since the 1990s, discontinuing deliveries in March and focusing solely on gynecology patients. Jenkins got to know Dixon when she was a physician resident at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.
One of her greatest joys is introducing patients to natural family planning, explaining that there are several options that have a similar foundation, but different approaches depending on their needs.
“While NFP is really beautiful and honors the woman’s cycle and her fertility and respects the marriage, it can be very challenging” depending on where a woman is at in her life, such as breastfeeding, postpartum, menopause, gynecological issues or infertility, she said. “To be able to support women in that, when it may be difficult to find support, I find it really rewarding.”
During medical school at the University of Toledo, Jenkins became acquainted with a mentor physician who stopped prescribing birth control and placed her focus on natural family planning. That was the first time she encountered a physician who had that focus and saw it was possible to practice medicine in accordance with her faith.
“Meeting her opened my eyes to the possibility of being a Catholic OB/GYN,” she said.
Jenkins knew Mercy Hospital St. Louis had a good reputation for being welcoming to resident physicians seeking an NFP-focus. She met another Catholic physician, Dr. Alexa Williams, who also completed her residency at Mercy, whom she found support in “making sure what you were doing was in line with Catholic teaching.”
One of her greatest joys is being at the first trimester ultrasound with a couple who is seeing their baby for the first time. Beyond that, she also enjoys helping patients understand how natural family planning works and finding a method that works best for them.
“If individuals are empowered and given the right tools, it absolutely can be effective if used correctly,” Jenkins said. “When they come to me and they’re nervous, there are so many tools we can give them to make them more confident in their ability to know when their fertile window is and help them achieve or avoid pregnancy.”
Office of Natural Family Planning
Alli Coiro was hired in September as director of the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning. The 29-year-old succeeds Diane Daly, who co-developed the Creighton Model FertilityCareSystem in the 1970s and led the Office of Natural Family Planning for nearly 25 years until her retirement in September.
Coiro plans to build upon the work of the office, which coordinates and promotes information on several Church-approved models of Natural Family Planning, which are offered as introductory sessions at more than a dozen locations throughout the archdiocese.
The office also supports two programs for teens and young adult women, the Wonder of Eve and Beauty of Eve, which give an in-depth look at the female reproductive system as it was designed by God. Other information presented includes the impact of artificial hormones on a woman’s body, Church’s teaching that sex remains within marriage and other aspects related to Theology of the Body.
Enkindle, a ministry for couples experiencing challenges conceiving a baby, includes professional individualized counseling for couples; a monthly Rosary held live on Facebook every first Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m.; and regular posts and interviews on the NFP Office’s Facebook page.
The office also coordinates the Archbishop Robert J. Carlson Adoption Fund, which supports families seeking to adopt a child. Since its inception, the fund has awarded nearly $250,000 in grants to 46 recipients, leading to the adoption of 50 children. A raffle to support the adoption fund is talking place through March 15 at
>> Natural Family Planning in St. Louis
There are four models of Natural Family Planning offered at locations throughout the Archdiocese of St. Louis. They include the Aware/Billings Ovulation Method, Creighton Model Fertility Care System, Couple to Couple/Sympto-Thermal, and the Marquette Model. Instruction in each of those models is offered independently of the Archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning.
The Office of Natural Family Planning, which is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal, also offers other resources and events, including:
•Annual Humanae Vitae Mass and celebration in July
•Materials for engaged couples and promotion kits for those helping couples prepare for Christian marriage
•Enkindle infertility support ministry
•Wonder of Eve and Beauty of Eve programs for high school teen girls and young adult women
•“Holy, Happy, Healthy” newsletter
•Annual seminarian Homily writing contest
•Archbishop Robert J. Carlson Adoption Fund
•Parish ambassadors and NFP witness speakers
To learn more about the Office of Natural Family Planning, visit stlouisnfp.org.