Image credit: St. Mary’s Catholic Center
In honor of NFP Awareness week, I was blessed to interview a dear friend and NFP Practitioner Melissa Buchan, about the Fertility Care Center of St. Mary’s in College Station.
Melissa Buchan, FCP
1) Please introduce yourself and let us know how you came to be involved in working with in Natural Family Planning?
My name is Melissa Buchan, and I am a FertilityCare Practitioner with the FertilityCare Center of St. Mary’s (FCCSM) in College Station, TX. I have been teaching the Creighton Model for the past 7 years. I work with 4 other practitioners at the FCCSM. We provide diocesan approved NFP Introductory Sessions and work with women and couples teaching them how to chart their cycles and implement this knowledge into their marriage. Many probably wonder why in the world I would spend my days talking to women about their cycles. It sounds so taboo. This work has really become a passion of mine. It all began with my introduction to Theology of the Body. At the age of 17 I was already on the pill for irregular cycles. The first time I heard of NFP I was amazed by the concept. I found charting my cycles very liberating. Not only was I able to understand my body, my view of human sexuality took a 180 degree spin. It was a life changing discovery.
2) How can we as a church community be encouraging young people and married couples about practicing NFP, who have not encountered it before, or have been sitting on the fence about it?
Do your research! There are many methods of modern NFP. Find a method and start charting. You will be amazed at how easy it is and how well you can know your body. God created us beautifully and with purpose, including our sexuality. When a couple understands the meaning of their sexuality and can accurately identify times of fertility they gain an amazing respect and reverence for their bodies. This lends itself to growing in the virtue of purity. (further reading to come)
3) What advice can you give to women that may be on the pill and are interested in something different?
I am seeing more and more women dissatisfied with the pill. They want an alternative…a natural alternative that doesn’t interfere with their fertility or potentially mask more serious underlying health issues. The first thing to know is that stopping the pill can be done. I have helped many women do just that. It’s not easy for a woman to understand her cycle coming right off the pill. It can be very frustrating. It takes time, patience, and dedication. A woman usually charts between 2 and 3 cycles before she really understands and is confident in her charting. This process can take longer if there are hormonal abnormalities or if she is coming off of hormonal contraception. I encourage women to keep charting and give their bodies time to get back on track. It is amazing to see a woman transition to NFP from the pill.
4) What should people know about the Fertility Care Center of St. Mary’s who have not heard about it?
We are a service organization that provides professional standardized instruction in the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. The Creighton Model is a specific method of NFP. It is an educational program designed to empower women in their procreative and gynecologic health. We work one-on-one with women and couples teaching them to confidently chart their cycles. We also focus on communication: the spiritual, physical, intellectual, communicative, and emotional dynamics of a relationship. We call this SPICE. Communication is the key. If a couple was previously contracepting this can be a new and sometimes challenging way to approach their relationship and communication between the couple is important in a successful transition. We are not just about identifying time of fertility and infertility, we encourage couples to constantly communicate and work on all aspects of their relationship.
5) What is a Practitioner?
A FertilityCare Practitioner (FCP) is an allied health professional who has completed a 13 month education program accredited through the American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals. A FCP teaches the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, which is a specific method of natural family planning. We teach women how to recognize and chart biological markers. This leads her to a deeper understanding of her reproductive health in a simple standardized fashion. These biomarkers give the woman specific understanding and indication of her hormonal function.
6) So, is it primarily married women that your serve?
We serve 3 groups: single women, engaged couples, and married couples. We work with single women teaching them to monitor and evaluate their cycles and own gynecological health, and increase their fertility appreciation. We also work with engaged couples who are usually getting married in the diocese, which requires an NFP informational course. Our monthly Intro Session (held monthly in a group setting) fulfills this requirement. Couples then have the opportunity to enroll in the program, learn the system before their wedding day, and eventually implement it in their marriage. Married couples are the third group we work with. These are often couples who want to live according to Church teaching and need help understanding their fertility. We also work with couples struggling with infertility. Our goal is to help them find answers and place them with a physician who does two things when assessing infertility: first, she investigates the root of the problem; second, and most importantly, she upholds the dignity of the woman and respects the marriage by only using modalities that are morally and ethically sound.
7) Do you work with any other medical professionals in our area?
The Creighton Model includes a medical application called NaProTechnology. A NaPro Physician treats a woman’s chart as a medical record and gleans information from her chart to evaluate her health. Our Center often refers women to NaPro Physicians in the area. When I first started this work the closest NaPro Clinic was in Omaha, NE. Woman would work long distance with Dr. Hilgers and his amazing staff at Pope Paul VI Institute. We have seen tremendous growth in the system over the past couple of years. We now have NaPro physician in most large cities as well as NaPro clinics in Houston and Austin. The Vitae Clinic in Austin is led by Dr. Kalamarides and The Caritas Complete Woman’s Care Clinic in Houston is headed by Dr. Karges. It is exciting to have two incredible NaPro Clinics in our own backyard. These are truly pro-life medical practices. They do not prescribe contraception and they provide health care that is consistent with Church teaching. I look forward to the future of this work and helping support these practices as we continue to grow here in College Station.
979-846-5717 ext #143 https://www.facebook.com/aggiefcc
The Fertility Care Center was developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers in response to Humane Vitae and Pope Paul VI’s call to the laity and men of science and medicine to contribute solutions using medicine that is in line with faith and right reason.