A newly revamped program is teaching young women about a natural approach to their health care.
The archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning debuted the Wonder of Eve at the archdiocesan Religious Education Institute and Leadership Conference earlier this month. The nearly hour-long program is for teenage girls and includes information on the design and function of the female body, including the reproductive system and menstrual cycles and how to track them naturally.
Ashley Frank, a certified Creighton Model FertilityCare practitioner, worked with a team, including other health care professionals, in the past year to develop the program. Funding from the Annual Catholic Appeal to the NFP Office went toward marketing as well as hiring Frank to help develop and present the program.
"We only get the top layer (of women's health care) in an anatomy or physiology class, but it doesn't dive deeper into the signs of fertility and infertility," said Frank, who received her training in natural fertility education from Dr. Thomas Hilgers and the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Neb.
The program also covers the impact artificial hormones have on a woman's body, including how it could affect future health and fertility. "A lot of girls are on the birth control pill for various reasons, such as irregular menstrual cycles, premenstrual syndrome, or PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)," Frank said. She stressed that the information presented isn't specifically medical advice, but rather offered as an alternative option for treating these issues.
By teaching women about how their reproductive systems work through natural fertility tracking, "we want to help these girls foster a respect for their bodies and have them empowered with choices for when they are going off to college. That in itself is very powerful."
Diane Daly, director of the Office of Natural Family Planning, noted that a letter was sent to Catholic high schools promoting the new effort. Archdiocesan superintendent Kurt Nelson also has voiced his support for the program within archdiocesan high schools.
The NFP Office previously offered a similar program, but the revamping came because of feedback from a younger generation that wanted a more scientific approach, with a focus on women's health care. The program will continue to promote the Church's teaching that sex remains within marriage and other aspects related to Theology of the Body.
"We're not trying to interfere with anyone's medical care, but for people to know that there is an alternative and there are other treatments available," Daly said. "We hear over and over from people, 'Why didn't I know about this before?' We want to educate our young women to a new way of thinking."
Wonder of Eve
To learn more about the program, contact the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning at (314) 997-7576.
The NFP Office also is online at stlouisnfp.org, and Facebook and twitter @stlnfp