Understanding the Marquette Method: How Does It Work?
So you’ve been tracking your fertility symptoms for ages, but you’re still not quite confident about the accuracy of your predictions. Perhaps you find it difficult to take your temperature at the same time each day, or maybe you just don’t fully understand what exactly your cervical mucus is trying to tell you.
The Marquette Method is one of the most straight-forward methods for measuring your fertility hormones and predicting your fertile window. In this post, we’ll learn what this method is, how it works, and how it compares to other natural family planning (NFP) methods.
What is the Marquette Method?
The Marquette Method is an approach to natural family planning (NFP) that utilizes Clearblue fertility monitors to measure and track hormone levels in urine – specifically the hormones estrogen and luteinizing hormone (LH). By tracking these hormones each day, you can identify your fertile window, and depending on your pregnancy goals, either plan or avoid sex with your partner.
About the Marquette Method
How does it work?
As your body prepares for ovulation, both estrogen and LH levels rise. Estrogen begins to rise approximately 3-5 days before ovulation, while LH rises dramatically in the 24-36 hours before ovulation (this is known as the LH surge).
When following the Marquette Method, all you have to do is take a urine test with a Clearblue test stick, and then insert that test stick into the hand-held Clearblue fertility monitor. The monitor will then read either “low,” “high,” or “peak” depending on your hormone levels. On days with a “high” and “peak” reading, sex is more likely to result in pregnancy, and a “peak” reading is a reliable sign that you are approaching ovulation.
Once you get your first peak reading, it will then be followed by another “peak” then “high,” “low,” “low” (PPHLL). After the PPHLL pattern, it is likely that you have ovulated, and the egg has passed. Once ovulation occurs and the egg is gone, you cannot get pregnant until your next cycle.
If you are trying to avoid pregnancy, you can resume intimacy the day after the PPHLL pattern is complete. You can use all days until the next cycle begins (first day of your period) with minimal chance of pregnancy.
Whether or not you can use pre-ovulation “low” days for intimacy when avoiding pregnancy depends on your personal situation. Factors like your cycle length, being postpartum, or having a serious need to prevent pregnancy might change how you use the method. The Marquette Method has different algorithms you can follow based on your personal situation.
In addition to tracking hormones, the Marquette Method also allows for monitoring other symptoms – such as cervical mucus. However, this is optional and is not required.
What materials do you need?
The Marquette Method requires the following materials from Clearblue:
- Disposable urine test sticks
- Hand-held fertility monitor and batteries
These can be easily purchased online or at some local pharmacies.
In addition to the Clearblue fertility system, you will also need to purchase time with a certified Marquette Method instructor so that you can learn how to follow the method at home. This instruction can either take place in-person or online, and it can be done individually or as part of a group.
Is it effective?
Yes, the Marquette Method is highly effective for planning (or avoiding) pregnancy.
When following the rules exactly, there is a 0.6%- 2.1% unintended pregnancy rate over a 12-month period (Fehring et al. 2008). This is as good as many hormonal methods of contraception that are considered “highly reliable.”
With typical use, i.e. when mistakes are made and rules bent on occasion, the Marquette Method is about 88%-94% effective (Fehring & Mu, 2014). The Marquette Method also has been shown to increase satisfaction among people who use natural family planning methods to avoid pregnancy (Fehring et al., 2008).
Benefits of using the Marquette Method
Many women prefer using the Marquette Method for the following reasons:
- Increased confidence in finding your “peak” day.
- The monitor readings are easier to understand than body signs or self-read urine tests.
- It is highly effective when you follow the rules.
- It has special algorithms to fit your life circumstances, such as when you are postpartum.
Not only that, but the certified Marquette Method Instructors are also medical professionals with a deep understanding of fertility, and they can help answer any questions that you may have. There are also a number of online communities that exist for ongoing peer-support.
To learn more about the Marquette Method, visit The University of Marquette’s Institute of Natural Family Planning.
Drawbacks of the Marquette Method
While the Marquette Method has many benefits, there are a few drawbacks to consider as well. This includes:
- The monitors and test sticks can be expensive (about $200 to start, $27-$40 per month).
- Getting professional instruction and support adds to this cost.
- It can take several months to completely learn the method, meaning you may have to abstain from sex more at first.
- Depending on when your hormones change, it is possible for the monitor to miss your peak.
The main downside of the Marquette Method is that you will not know your exact hormone levels like you can with another tracker like Mira. Instead, you will only receive your results as either “low”, “high”, or “peak”.
Who should use the Marquette Method?
The Marquette method is suitable for any woman of reproductive age who is either looking to plan a pregnancy or avoid pregnancy.
It is relatively flexible, and can work with all cycle lengths. It can also be used if you are breastfeeding, approaching menopause, and/or if you are have fertility-related health conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Marquette Method alternatives
Taking into account the costs and effort involved with learning the Marquette Method, it’s worth exploring alternative methods for estimating your fertile window. Here are five to consider:
The calendar method is one type of fertility awareness method (FAM) that uses a simple formula to calculate when you are the most fertile – all you have to do is keep track of the first day of your period and follow the formula. While you can do this by hand using a paper calendar and a pen, it’s much easier to use an ovulation calculator app on your phone or tablet.
The BBT (basal body temperature) method is another commonly used FAM. This method requires you to take your temperature at the same time each day in order to spot your body’s slight rise in temperature after ovulation.
While this method is great for confirming that ovulation has occurred, it is not possible to use this method to predict the days leading up to ovulation, which is when you are the most fertile.
Check your cervix
Checking the positioning of your cervix is another way to determine if you are fertile or not. For example, around ovulation, your cervix will feel more open and softer to the touch compared to normal. It will also be positioned higher in your body. By using a finger to gently feel for changes in your cervix throughout your cycle, you can anticipate your fertile window and make plans accordingly.
Check your mucus
The cervical mucus method is another popular method for identifying your most fertile days. It involves keeping track of the color and consistency of your vaginal discharge over the course of your cycle. When discharge is more transparent and has the consistency of raw egg whites, this is a good sign that you are either about to ovulate or are currently ovulating.
What many couples love the most about the Marquette Method is the fact that it allows you to measure your hormones directly, rather than keeping track of physical symptoms like your temperature or cervical mucus.
However, the Clearblue technology utilized by the Marquette Method is not the only way that you can track your estrogen and LH levels – it is also possible to test and track these hormones with other analyzers.
Marquette Method FAQs
Is the Marquette Method hard to learn?
The Marquette Method is not necessarily difficult to learn. However, like any other fertility awareness method, it can take some time to completely learn the process, procedures, and how to interpret your results.
This is why it is recommended to learn the Marquette Method with a trained instructor. Certified instructors must either be a registered nurse, advanced practice registered nurse, physician assistant, or physician. Instructors complete training through Marquette University, and they are specially prepared to help women or couples gain confidence with the method.
Do I really need an instructor?
To follow the Marquette Method exactly, yes, you really do need an instructor. Instructors not only help you understand how the method works and how to use the Clearblue system, but they can also provide you with tailored guidance that suits your individual situation and learning style.
Typically, a Marquette Method instructor will offer support over a six-month period. However, this may vary depending on how comfortable you are with following the method.
Can I use any fertility monitor?
The original research and algorithms for the Marquette Method use the ClearBlue Fertility Monitor, and some features of the method are specific to how the ClearBlue monitor works.
We do not know yet how well other new fertility monitors might work with the same method rules for Marquette, or if the rules might have to be adapted. A recent study compared Wondflo urine LH hormone test sticks to the electronic hormone monitor, using the same Marquette algorithms (Barron et al., 2018). Findings showed that women did not have to be using the Clearblue monitor, they could instead use urine test sticks and still receive good results.
Even though this study sample was small, it suggests that other home fertility hormone monitors could be used successfully with Marquette. More research is needed to help us understand the ways in which different urine hormone monitors can be used to support natural family planning.