As Natural Family Planning week draws to a close, I feel it’s important to distinguish between a few of the methods available.  Since Patrick and I are preparing for our wedding day, we decided that it is important for both of us to understand my fertility so that we can together make responsible parenting decisions.

NFP offers a few different methods available to those looking for an alternative to birth control. I’ve laid out a brief description of the methods I am personally familiar with; Creighton Model and Symto-Thermal. I am also aware of the Marquette Method, but since I have no personal experience with that method I will leave the description to its experts.

SEE ALSO: Going All Natural: 7 Reasons I Use NFP

Creighton Model

Natural Family Planning - Creighton Model

Sample Creighton Model Chart

The Creighton Model Fertility Care System (CrMS.) was introduced by Dr. Thomas Hilgers and fittingly named after where his research is based in Omaha, Nebraska. This is not your grandmother’s rhythm method. It involves tracking a woman’s vaginal mucus every day, every time you use the bathroom. A women’s time of fertility is determined by the mucus’s color, stretchability, and sensation.

The advantages are numerous. It is effective for any women’s cycle; regular or not so regular. It is inexpensive, running around $40 each time I visit my practitioner. Initially, I was setting up appointments with her more regularly in order to learn this method. Now that I’ve had some practice, I usually schedule a visit once or twice a year just to check in with her.  This is much cheaper than birth control, which depending on your insurance coverage can cost up to $50 a month. Yikes…I’d rather spend that money going out to dinner with my husband.

Another advantage to using this method is that it seems more and more doctors are becoming familiar with it. Therefore, they can offer advice on any potential concerns there might be. This method can help you both achieve and avoid pregnancy.

Sympto-Thermal Method

Sympto thermal sample chart

Sample Sympto-Thermal Chart

Sympto-Thermal is another popular method used. STM was first organized in 1971. It combines the cervical mucus observations as popularized by Dr. Billings, the basal body temperature observations noted in the 1930s by Rev. Wilhelm Hillebrand and adds the optional observation of cervical position. In charting these three primary signs of fertility, a couple can determine their fertile and infertile times.

A woman practicing the STM model takes her temp with a basal thermometer at the same time every morning before getting up and beginning her day. (I like this 3M thermometer because it is cheap and continues beeping at the end) Throughout the day, she tracks her mucus pattern similar to Creighton just not as in-depth. She and her husband then use signs from both her mucus pattern and temperature to determine which phase she is in; pre-peak, peak phase or post-peak and base their parenting decisions off of this knowledge.

Interested? Want to know more?

This is a very high-level overview of two of the most popular methods of Natural Family Planning. I realize there are other methods out there, but again since I’ve personally had no experience with them I leave it to others to explain. If you have questions, I recommend asking your local Catholic diocese or contacting one of the organizations below.

Do you use STM or the Creighton Model? What do you like about it? What do you hate? Tell us about it!