Marquette method brings technology to family planning

In a country where a new health care law is providing contraceptives to all women at no charge, it might be hard to remember that there are many faithful Catholics practicing natural family planning (NFP) and inviting God to be part of the process as they plan their families.

While NFP generally requires charts, taking temperatures and studying mucus, a more "modern" method is often used to corroborate a woman's natural signs. The Marquette Method of NFP uses ClearBlue strips and a ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor to measure hormone levels through a woman's urine to more accurately pinpoint her fertility level.

The monitor, with the strips inserted inside, measures a woman's fertility at low, high or peak levels.

Richard J. Fehring, director of the NFP Institute in the College of Nursing at Marquette University, said the integration of the ClearBlue technology with the more traditional natural family planning method offers more "objective and measurable" information when it comes to fertility.

"Looking at mucus and temperature are secondary signs of fertility," he said. "They're a little bit more fuzzy. (The Marquette Method) is more of an objective marker, where the others are more subjective."

By giving more scientific information, the technology allows women to be more confident in determining the status of their fertility.

"I've heard women say, 'It just takes the burden off of us,'" said Thérèse Bermpohl, director of the diocesan Office for Family Life. "You're reading all those signs, and sometimes they're readily available, and sometimes they're not. With the ClearBlue fertility model … you can use it in conjunction."

Bermpohl added that the method, with its online tracking and message boards, is easy to use and convenient.

"I feel like they're kind of 'cutting edge'- using every means they can to help couples pinpoint ovulation and to feel confident in using natural family planning to achieve or avoid pregnancy," she said.

With so many couples using artificial birth control, Fehring said that one of the biggest challenges for Catholic couples is feeling supported. The Marquette Method website (nfp.marquette.edu) is one way the Marquette Method is seeking to overcome that challenge.

In addition to providing online charting, women can use the website as a space to have discussions, and to support and mentor one another. The site is monitored by Fehring and other health professionals, who answer questions and offer guidance to individual women. And, for women constantly on the go, a fertility monitoring iPhone app is in the works.

The Marquette Method offers a good blend for natural family planning, Fehring said, and it provides an opportunity for many interested health professionals and women to work together.

"We've developed a scientific-based, research-based, modern method of NFP," he said.

Crowe can be reached at gcrowe@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @GCroweACH.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013