While there are many forms of artificial birth control readily available on the market, some couples are seeking safe but effective hormone-free alternatives.
Natural Family Planning of the Brainerd Lakes Area Inc., is a nonprofit organization that offers classes throughout the lakes area to couples to help them achieve or avoid pregnancy using the Creighton Model FertilityCare system.
When people think of natural family planning, they may think of the “rhythm method.”
“The No. 1 misconception is that this is the rhythm method,” explained Stefany Beyer, a FertilityCare practitioner intern. “The rhythm method doesn’t work. It’s been proven it doesn’t work. The rhythm method is ineffective because it doesn’t take into account the variations commonly present in a woman’s cycle.”
Beyer, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, was drawn to the Creighton model because it is based on science. She first learned about it when she became engaged to her husband six years ago. They used the method to avoid pregnancy and also to conceive their 20-month-old daughter, Kate.
Beyer said the method is 99.5 percent effective for avoiding pregnancy for those who perfectly use the system and 96.8 percent effective for those who typically use it to avoid pregnancy. Hormonal birth control range from 90-96 percent effectiveness. The method is nearly three times more successful than invitro fertilization for helping infertile couples get pregnant.
The Creighton model, developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers in 1977, relies on standardized observations and charting of biological markers that allow a woman to understand her health and fertility. These “biomarkers,” like cervical mucous, tell a woman when she is naturally fertile or infertile. They can also identify any abnormalities in a woman’s reproductive health. Often, there are steps that can be taken to fix any problems and restore a woman’s health, said Beyer.
For a few minutes a day of observing her fertility cycle, it allows a woman to understand how her body is functioning.
Beyer said every woman is not the same and even every menstrual cycle is not the same. This model allows a woman to chart those patterns over time.
She said it’s important for the man to be involved in the process, too.
“It’s a really important part that both people are involved,” Beyer explained. “Fertility belongs to a man and a woman.”
Beyer said she encourages the woman to make the observations and the man to chart them. Since the couple’s fertility belongs to them both together, she encourages them to both actively share in the responsibility and decision-making on a day-to-day basis.
The Natural Family Planning office is located on the fourth floor of Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd. It was started in 1983 by the late Dick and Jeanne Endres.
A couple interested in the program would attend an introductory session at no cost, either in a small group or individual meeting with Beyer or another FertilityCare practitioner, who would explain the scientific foundation and methodology of the program.
Five follow-up private sessions would then be scheduled during the first three months, and an additional three sessions over the rest of the year. This allows the practitioner to tailor the system to the couple’s needs. Cost is $25 per session. A packet of charting materials also needs to be purchased for $25.
Beyer said many couples want a birth control method that is effective, but also hormone-free.
“It’s sad to me to see a society that thinks fertility can only be controlled through hormonal birth control. I think women deserve a little more credit.”
Beyer and other FertilityCare practitioners also teach fertility awareness classes to teens.
“I love the aspect of helping women understand their cycles,” Beyer said. “It’s not just a mystery. I love empowering women.”
Beyer said it is rewarding for her to be able to help couples learn more about their fertility and help them achieve — or avoid — pregnancy, whatever their goals may be. She said it takes active participation and cooperation from the couple and some time and energy to learn. But what it provides in return is a natural method of family planning that can actually draw a couple closer together and improve their relationship over time.
For more information on the Creighton method, visit www.fertilitycare.org or creightonmodel.com.
To contact the National Family Planning office in Brainerd, call 829-2861, ext. 6217, or visit www.brainerdnfp.org.
■ JODIE TWEED, a former Brainerd Dispatch reporter, is a freelance writer living in Pequot Lakes. She and her husband, Nels Norquist, have three daughters.