Marquette Wire

Institute for Natural Family Planning offers contraception alternative

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New federal funding is helping Marquette’s Institute for Natural Family Planning offer hundreds of couples guidance on an alternative method for avoiding unwanted pregnancies.

Natural Family Planning is a family planning method that does not involve an outside form of contraception, such as condoms or birth control hormones. “The Marquette Method” incorporates two fertility monitoring techniques. One method uses an electronic monitor to ascertain a woman’s peak fertility, and the other observes changes in cervical mucous throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Richard Fehring, director of the institute and a professor in the College of Nursing, said the institute recommended Creighton University’s NFP method to couples until 1999, when the “Marquette Method” was developed. According to the institute’s Web site, Marquette’s NFP method is 98 to 99 percent effective.

The Department of Health and Human Services has called for new research on NFP, according to Fehring. A study comparing two different methods of NFP has not been conducted since the late 1970s, and Fehring said he believes more NFP research is needed in today’s scientific literature.

Marquette’s institute is providing this new research through a federally funded effectiveness study.

Currently, about 350 couples are participating in Marquette’s study, Fehring said. The institute is hoping for about 650 participating couples overall.

Participants in this study need not be married, but Fehring said NFP is a method that requires a strong commitment from both the man and the woman. Because NFP utilizes periodic abstinence, Fehring said some unmarried couples are not willing to practice it.

“We look at this as a tool for evangelization,” Fehring said.

He said he hopes this method will lead unmarried couples toward marriage.

Dana Rodriguez, a research assistant for the study and a nurse practitioner, said she hopes NFP can bring couples toward faith.

“As a Catholic, of course, you don’t have sex before you are married,” Rodriguez said. “But … if we only target people who are Catholic and who are married, that kind of defeats the purpose.”

Mary Schneider, co-investigator of the study and a nurse practitioner, said the institute’s method of approaching NFP has a spiritual component, but women who are not Catholic or don’t have a specific faith can still find value in monitoring their natural fertility.

“We are seeing women getting more interested in their own health by just seeing their own cycles,” Schneider said.

Rodriguez said this study is a good way to educate people and raise awareness about NFP. According to Rodriguez, some people have never heard of the method and are amazed when they hear about the alternatives to contraceptives.

Schneider said she tells her patients who ask for the birth control pill that she does not believe it is the best method of preventing pregnancy from both a health care and spiritual perspective.

“If we are going to empower women and families to make healthy decisions, then we need to empower them in every way, not just how to take a pill or get a shot,” Schneider said.

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