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Nancy McGrath wants to spread the word — natural family planning is much more than birth control.

McGrath, a nurse and certified fertility care practitioner and educator, contracts through the Diocese of Charleston to teach natural family planning, specifically Creighton Model Fertility Care Services. She teaches at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System.

“When you hear ‘natural family planning,’ you think of the old rhythm method,” she said.

The new model, NaProTechnology (Natural Procreative Technology), teaches women to chart their full cycle using biomarkers, such as cervical mucus.

“It’s designed on a day-to-day charting of the woman’s cycle,” McGrath said. “The new science is looking at this natural biomarker the women’s body does as she is preparing for fertility. The last 25 years have really been fine tuning the signs because a lot of these biomarkers are telling about the women’s reproductive health.”

“We’re finding that probably half of our clients are coming because of infertility,” McGrath said. “A lot of times women come after they’ve been trying for a long time. Once they are charting with the Creighton Model System, they actually come back with a diagnosis.”

McGrath said a woman who charts her cycle can more accurately date pregnancy as well, looking at actual fertility rather than employing an equation based on the first date of the last menstrual period.

The method McGrath teaches begins first with an introductory session, followed by individual, one-hour follow up sessions.

“We’re making sure they will be confident,” she said.

Of course, many of McGrath’s clients are trying to prevent or time pregnancy without using other forms of birth control, either for religious or other reasons. McGrath touts the system’s effectiveness for that purpose as well.

“It’s 99.5 percent for avoiding pregnancy, if they have perfect use,” she said. “With typical use, they say 96.5 percent. It’s as effective as any artificial contraceptive on the market.”

McGrath said women do not need a referral to participate in the program’s introductory session. However, because there are no local participating physicians, McGrath is unable to accept health insurance. The introductory course is free, with a $35 cost for materials. Additional follow up sessions are $35 each. Any woman may participate, regardless of religious affiliation.

“It is an amazing gift,” McGrath said. “It’s Protestants and Catholics — anyone can come.”

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