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April 23, 2012

Marquette - Not just a University in Wisconsin

There is a new website coming May 1st.  I'm really excited about it.  It's iusenfp.com.  Katie at NFP and Me wrote this post a couple of months ago exploring what we could do to really promote NFP as the viable alternative it is to using artificial hormones or IUD's or sterilization.  Around the same time, the hashtag, #IuseNFP began trending on Twitter and some of us were having a lot of fun tweeting out in 140 characters or less why #IuseNFP.  Then Katie started putting I use NFP buttons together using information from the #IuseNFP tweets.  And then, she and Kayla from Alluring World sprung the idea for iusenfp.com.  

And then, they started asking for help to get lots of info on the site and I offered to write a little bit about Marquette Method of NFP.  Here's what I've got.  It gets to double as a post for me, so I'm all good with that.  :)



Are you looking into Natural Family Planning (NFP) and curious about how it works?

Or...

Perhaps you've been doing NFP for awhile, and the method you have been using doesn't seem to be working or it might be frustrating and you're interested in learning a different method.

Or...

You might just be perfectly happy doing nothing and taking babies as they come at this point, but you're curious about this NFP stuff and you wonder what all your "Fringe"-Catholic Mommy-Friends are doing.  (Leila always has the best posts!)

Or...

You want to participate in an argument about which NFP method is the best so you want to learn about a different method.

Or...

Maybe you're one of those people who just SWEARS that NFP is the Rhythm Method and you're here to bust it all up with your oh-so-intelligent-comments.  

Whatever your reason, I'm GLAD you're here because I'm going to write a little how-to and a little how-do-I-like about the Marquette Method of NFP.

How did I learn about Marquette?

My husband and I used Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) for our first 8 years of our Authentic Catholic Marriage (that is...from about the time our oldest daughter was 6 months old).  We were okay with that method.  It had served its purpose.  We had followed all the rules (yup...every dang one of 'em!) and had avoided pregnancy when we'd discerned we should and achieved pregnancy when we'd discerned we should.  The biggest struggle had been the fact that my temperatures were unreliable because my temperature runs pretty low as it is and even when it shifted, it rarely gave us a good 0.4 degree shift like our method expected and needed in order to make our charts crystal clear.  A slighter struggle was with my erratic cycles...I never got a clear indicator that ovulation happened, and sometimes I had some spotting mid-cycle.

While pregnant with our 4th child in 2008, (yes, we actually tried to get pregnant with him, too), I heard about Marquette.  Well, I had heard about Marquette back in 2003, but I had completely poo-poo'ed it because, who wants to pay all that money for the stinkin' monitor?  

I digress (and more on that monitor later).

At my post-partum checkup with my doctor after my dear baby boy was born, Doctor told me about how Marquette University was doing a study on the efficacy of Natural Family Planning and they had actually been granted GOVERNMENT money for their study.  Holy cow!  The pro-abortion, pro-contraception, anti-baby government was forking over some grant money for an efficacy study on Natural Family Planning?!?  Sign me up!  Anyway, if I participated in the study, I could get a ClearBlue Easy Ovulation Monitor as part of my payment.  ahem...did I say...Sign me up!

So, we joined the study...got slotted into the "monitor group" and received the monitor immediately as it was part of the study.  The catch of the study was that we could only chart the monitor readings and had to abide by them for avoiding pregnancy.  This was kind of scary for me because I'd been checking my mucous for 8 years...what if the monitor didn't work?  But, I remembered that with STM, we had a similar question that went like this, "What if I mis-read my mucous or temperature shifts?"  And we leapt in faith into a new method of Natural Family Planning.

Well, sort of.  For 13 cycles, while we participated in the Marquette study, we used only the ClearBlue Easy Ovulation Monitor to alert us to whether we were in the fertile time or not.  As with most methods, the most conservative rule is to abstain for all the days until after ovulation is confirmed and adding three days (or PEAK + 3 days).  So, I faithfully used the monitor every cycle, testing each morning until I received the PEAK reading, then tacked on 3 days and we were certain we were in the clear.  

After 13 charted cycles using the monitor only, we were able to really practice the Marquette Method by recording mucous observations AND the ovulation monitor readings.  And due to that, we could use some of the less-conservative-but-still-pretty conservative rules for intercourse that didn't involve so much abstinence (The best example is the "Last Dry Day Rule").

 How does Marquette work?

Marquette Method utilizes the Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor ...
...cross-checked with mucous observations to help a woman identify her fertile time. The monitor measures estrogen and then luteinizing hormone (LH) levels in your urine.  When using the Marquette method, the woman's first order of business every morning from about day 6 until the day she ovulates is to test her first morning urine (FMU) using test sticks and the monitor.

When a woman's body is gearing up to ovulate, often her estrogen levels rise.  when this happens, the monitor will detect it and record a HIGH reading (which is up to two bars in the picture above).  At the time that a follicle is ripe and ready to release from the ovary, there is an LH surge that can be detected in the urine.  When the monitor detects this LH surge, the monitor will yield a PEAK reading (or, like the picture above, three bars with an egg in the top bar).

Scientists have discovered that most women ovulate only one egg each cycle.  The egg lives for 24 hours and if it is not fertilized will die.  Additionally, sperm will die if they are in a hostile environment.  A woman's body is actually a hostile environment most of the cycle.  But in the days and hours leading up to ovulation, the woman's body provides a very welcome environment for sperm and therefore, in a healthy, hospitable environment, sperm can live up to 5-6 days.

After the monitor has detected the LH Surge and recorded a PEAK reading, no more tests are needed.  The monitor will automatically record a second day of PEAK, then an automatic reading of HIGH will occur the day after that and then the monitor will automatically move back to the LOW reading. 

One big thing to note...the monitor might still ask for a test the next morning after a PEAK was recorded, but no test is needed (save those sticks!)

When trying to avoid pregnancy, depending on the desire to avoid, a couple might abstain until they receive the PEAK reading and wait three days.  from PEAK + 3 going forward in that cycle, all days are infertile and for the avoiding couple, here is your "honeymoon."  Anytime a couple has intercourse before a PEAK reading is recorded, there is a chance they might become pregnant, which is why I noted that it depends on the desire of the couple.  A couple with a very strong desire to avoid, would most likely always wait until a PEAK reading has occurred and wait the three days after.  

All the while, in the evenings, mucous recordings can be made.  The Marquette Website has online charting available with pictures that help show what LOW, HIGH and PEAK mucous might look like.  It's up to an individual woman how she might take her mucous observations, whether external or internal, but this information can be logged on the chart along with the monitor readings.

The online chart has an algorithm installed that will help determine the start and end of fertile days based on cycle history and current cycle information.  For example, I have a history of ovulating day 18-22, so my algorithm starts my fertile phase on day 9 (as opposed to day 6 for someone who might have a regular ovulation on day 14-16).  Once a PEAK reading is noted on either the monitor or the mucous readings, the algorithm adds three days and closes out the fertile period on the chart.

Why do I like Marquette?

For avoiding pregnancy, I find the certainty of ovulation I get with the ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor to be the main reason I like Marquette Method and why I will most likely use this method for the duration of my fertile years if we are trying to avoid.  Because I have received this certainty, I am able to read my mucous much more clearly.  What I used to chart as PEAK mucous, I have found is not really PEAK.  And I don't have to worry about my temperatures, at least for determining ovulation.  

I still treat my luteal phase defect with progesterone for 10 days every cycle.  But this is helped by the monitor because there is less chance that I begin to take the progesterone before ovulation, thereby suppressing ovulation.  (Go HERE for explanation of Luteal Phase Defect and how it can be treated.)

A search on the Marquette website and through the forums can give you a better idea of their breastfeeding protocol.  I cannot speak to that because I have not nursed the babies I have had since following Marquette.  According to my doctor, they have been doing another study on the efficacy of the breastfeeding protocol and there is something published somewhere (I didn't have time to get a link from him yet) that Marquette Method provides a lesser amount of abstinence post-partum than other methods.  I can't really speak to that because I do not breastfeed and, honestly, my husband and I are very conservative post-partum and even if we think it's "safe" sometimes, we still abstain and pray about it some more. 


4 comments:

  1. This was very helpful! We've tried the sympto-thermal method, but it's always been a little tricky because I too have low temps, a short luteal phase, and seem to have zero dry days. It's also hard tough to get a good temp reading since I rarely get a good stretch of sleep. I might have to look into one of these monitors!

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  2. I think it's great that you're doing this, Michelle!

    We're using Marquette in a sort of self-taught manner (totally didn't know about the online customized charting!). We chose to use the monitor in addition to the mucus checks for the postpartum period for just the reason you mentioned - we'd heard there'd be less abstinence! To be honest my return to fertility wasn't nearly as complicated as I thought it'd be, though, so I can't say whether it required less abstinence or not. I was glad that I'd learned STM first, though, because I think it's important to be able to trust your own bodily observations before going to the monitor. But I imagine once you switch to Marquette, you would rarely switch back!

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  3. Thank you for posting this! I've been following your blog for awhile, but I think this is the first time I've commented.

    I recently got a great deal on a practically-new CBFM. We are currently ttc, but I've considered using a monitor for quite some time (but kept putting it off due to the cost). I got the monitor too late to use it for my current cycle, but I'm excited to get started.

    I checked out the Marquette website awhile back...thanks for the tip that the website is being updated! I might try the "self-taught" method to start with but I'm looking forward to learning a new method.

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  4. Really interesting, Michelle. Thanks for sharing!

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