Natural family planning method inspired by Catholic teachings - Catholic Courier
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Natural family planning method inspired by Catholic teachings

Anne Olek still remembers how she felt when she learned about the Creighton Model, a form of natural family planning that uses a woman’s biological markers to help identify naturally occurring phases of fertility and infertility. As both a lifelong Catholic and a nurse practitioner, Olek was amazed she’d never heard about this model, either in church or during her medical training.

“I was like, ‘How come no one ever told us about this? We didn’t learn this in school,’” she recalled.

Olek set out to change that. In 2003, she started the FertilityCare Center of Rochester with a goal of educating couples about the Creighton Model. Initially, she was as the region’s sole practitioner of the Creighton Model FertilityCare, but the center now boasts five practitioners, and one of them, Danielle Hubbel, is now training to join Olek as an instructor capable of training practitioners. The FertilityCare Center also is associated with two doctors who adhere to pro-life principles and do not prescribe artificial contraception.

Hubbel, who also is director of Christian formation at St. Leo the Great Parish in Hilton, said she hopes to spread awareness of the Creighton Model of natural family planning among parishioners, providing instruction and support to those who wish to adopt the method. Olek likewise is committed to spreading the word about the Creighton Model.

“I wish I could shout it from the mountaintops,” she said.

Creighton Model of natural family planning was inspired by Catholic teachings

Olek noted that the Creighton Model was inspired by Catholic teachings. It was developed more than 40 years ago by Dr. Thomas Hilgers in response to Humanae Vitae, Pope St. Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical about married love and procreation.

In the encyclical, Pope St. Paul VI confirmed the Catholic Church’s teaching that artificial contraception is morally wrong but appealed to scientists to find a way for married couples to naturally regulate their fertility while respecting their roles in the transmission of human life.

Intrigued, Hilgers studied existing methods of natural family planning and conducted his own research. He was a teacher at Creighton University School of Medicine when he developed the Creighton Model, which has been in use since 1980.

“What ties it the most with Catholicism is that it entirely supports the idea of conjugal love, and its goal is essentially responsible parenthood. While it is very Catholic and has the beautiful underlying theology to it, it is very practical,” Hubbel said.

Natural family planning methods typically are inexpensive, lack side effects and strengthen marriage bonds

The Creighton Model is one of a growing number of methods of natural family planning, which is the umbrella term for various ways couples aim to monitor fertility and achieve or avoid pregnancy without reliance on drugs, devices or surgical procedures.

These methods are appealing to many couples since they do not pose the side effects and risks associated with putting hormones, chemicals or substances in a woman’s body to alter her fertility, Olek said. They also are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of prescription medications and devices, she added.

“Once a couple learns a natural method, depending on what type of method they use, there’s very little expense after that,” Olek said.

Some of these methods require a woman to track her temperature every day, while others use home urine-test kits to track her hormone levels. The Creighton Model does not require any gadgets or equipment, relying instead on daily observation of a woman’s cervical mucus, as its physical characteristics change at different phases of the woman’s cycle, Olek said. By learning about these characteristics and how they relate to fertility — and charting them over the course of several cycles — a couple can determine when the woman is fertile.

The Creighton Model and other models of natural family planning based on fertility awareness frequently have the added benefit of strengthening the bonds between spouses. Such methods encourage spouses to see fertility as a gift, rather than a burden that a woman must shoulder alone, Olek said.

“It really strengthens the relationship between husbands and wives,” she added. “It really encourages them to … increase communication about this most intimate part of their lives.”

NaProTechnology grew out of the Creighton Method, helps doctors treat gynecological issues

Over the last few months, local pastors have begun referring engaged couples to Hubbel through their parishes’ pre-Cana programs, she noted. Physicians likewise have referred to her a significant number of couples, particularly those who have struggled with infertility or abnormal cycles and want to gain insight into their cycles, she said. Since its development, the Creighton Model has become a tool that helps women shed light on any reproductive issues they might be experiencing, she explained.

During his research to develop the Creighton Method, Hilgers accumulated an abundance of data and eventually began to recognize various patterns that appeared in the data that women charted. He eventually realized specific patterns could indicate whether a woman was going to miscarry, have trouble becoming pregnant or have other gynecological issues, Olek said.

Based on the data gathered through the Creighton Model, the Saint Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, which Hilgers founded in 1985, eventually developed NaProTechnology, which stands for natural procreative technology. Doctors trained in this science use women’s charted data to help them evaluate and treat such reproductive disorders as infertility, painful periods, ovarian cysts and recurrent miscarriages, Olek said.

Tags: Catholic Marriage, Life Issues
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