When it comes to women’s cycles of fertility, we know so much more today than we did in the early 20th century . Yet so many doctors and health professionals are still operating under the paradigm that the only acceptable methods of responsible family planning are those which require pills, barriers, and hormones. Any attempt on the part of a couple to use their own knowledge is often scoffed at. Well certainly, if we’re using only the knowledge level of the 1950’s, then perhaps we aren’t using the best methods of family planning.
But in 2015, this is simply untrue. In 2015 there are many well-studied, scientifically based methods of family planning which require nothing more than the tracking of various biological markers. But all methods are not equal, and this is important to realize. When it comes to effectiveness, often “fertility awareness methods” or “NFP” are all lumped together into one dismal looking statistic (for avoiding pregnancy), which attempts to discredit all fertility awareness based methods as nothing more than the rhythm method of the 1950’s.
What the rhythm method was, was an awesome scientific springboard from which our modern methods of fertility awareness came. Some of the modern, respected forms of natural family planning are: The Creighton Model FertilityCare System, The Billings Ovulation Method, The Sympto-Thermal Methods, and The Marquette Method. This is certainly not a comprehensive list, but these are, in my experience, the most commonly used methods. Each method has slightly different protocols for determining the woman’s daily fertility, as well as differences in how they are taught. I’m going to attempt to give you the cliff’s notes version of each with a little of my own commentary based on experience.
I'm going to talk today mostly about avoiding pregnancy, but it's important to note that each method I'll touch on today can be used for BOTH avoiding and achieving pregnancy.
The Creighton Model is based on cervical mucus only. The method has been standardized, meaning the way the woman describes the observations is meant to be the same from woman to woman. It is taught with qualified practitioners in a one on one setting. It is used in conjunction with NaPro TECHNOLOGY in which doctors use the woman’s charts to diagnose and treat various gynecological health problems, including infertility. The CrMS is 99.5% effective with perfect use, with a 96.4% use effectiveness when factoring in human error.
The Billings Ovulation Method is the method from which the Creighton Model was derived. Creighton is basically the standardized form of Billings. The method uses only cervical mucus to determine fertility, but without the emphasis on standardization. There are some doctors who are able to interpret Billings charts for health purposes. The method is taught one on one by trained volunteers who accept donations for their services. It is also 99% effective with perfect use. Use effectiveness studies ranged from 99.5%-94.1% use effectiveness, depending on the study.
The Sympto thermal method that I will refer to is the one taught by the Couple to Couple League. Most self-taught NFP methods rely on the sympto-thermal model. Sympto-thermal relies on multiple biomarkers, including temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical position. CCL teachers are volunteers who teach in a group setting. From my experience, there is an emphasis on nutrition, breastfeeding, and attachment parenting. It may be difficult for CCL teachers to help their students who are experiencing difficult charting issues. A CCL teacher that I spoke with recently said that in the event that the chart is hard to understand, “We teach them to focus on nutrition in the hopes that it will help improve their cycle.” The Couple to Couple League cites a study showing that with sympto-thermal based methods, “1.8 women out of 100 will have an unintended pregnancy.”
The Marquette Method is one of the newer methods. It is based upon the use of the Clear Blue Easy Fertility Monitor. The woman collects a urine sample each day and her daily fertility is determined by the result of the ovulation predictor. The method was developed at Marquette University. It is largely a self-taught method. Marquette University’s website offers a discussion forum which can be accessed for a fee. There are also Marquette instructors that have been trained to help one-on-one. Marquette is 98-99% effective with perfect use, and 92% with typical use.
My biggest tip regarding choosing a method of NFP is to first choose one of the trusted, scientifically based methods. There are a lot of apps, books, fertility beads, and homemade charts out there. Some of these are truly nothing more than the rhythm method of the 1950’s and 60’s. As I love to say to my Creighton FertilityCare Clients, “We’re talking about making BABIES here, folks.” Do you really want to trust a random app you found on your phone to help you plan your family? As always, contact me if you'd like to learn the Creighton Model. I can be reached at ShirelleEdghill@gmail.com .