Natural Family Planning accepts our fertility.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a comprehensive acceptance of the divine gift of fertility within marriage, wherein the couple monitors their fertility to determine fertile and non-fertile phases for the purpose of either achieving or postponing pregnancy. It is not to be confused with the older and significantly less effective “calendar rhythm method” which estimates and projects the couples fertile and non-fertile phases by observing when these phases occurred in previous cycles.
NFP has a strong scientific basis.
The greater effectiveness of NFP is due to a much more precise and systematic approach in which, depending on the method, couples observe changes in the womans cervical mucus, temperature changes and/or other signs to determine fertile and non-fertile phases. Since both cervical mucus and temperature are responsive to the chemical/hormonal changes that regulate fertility, NFP users are able to accurately determine when they are fertile and when they are not. The outmoded calendar rhythm method was more of an educated guess that relied heavily on the often erroneous assumption that fertility cycles are the same from month to month.
NFP is a powerful tool for achieving or postponing pregnancy.
NFP users are able to determine their fertility by simply observing their cervical mucus and/or temperature and charting it. The process takes only minutes a day, and with the observance of a few simple rules yields an effectiveness rate for postponing pregnancy equal to or better than any artificial contraceptive methods. In fact the Couple to Couple League, an international Natural Family Planning organization in Cincinnati, Ohio, cites numerous studies, including one conducted by the U.S. government, that show the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP, which combines temperature and mucus observations, can be used at the 99% level of effectiveness for postponing pregnancy. It is also highly effective for achieving pregnancy and is used by many couples as a means of overcoming difficulties conceiving.
Natural Family Planning is safe, healthy, and inexpensive
Natural Family Planning does nothing to chemically alter a womans natural cycle and it makes use of no invasive or prophylactic measures such as IUDs, diaphragms, condoms, and spermicides to interfere with a womans fertility. There is no cost to NFP except a meager fee for classes, a basal thermometer, and charts. Mucus-only NFP users pay only for charts. Compare this to the cost of pills, condoms, diaphragms, injections, doctor visits, treatment for side effects, chemicals, and implants, and the cost difference is obvious.
NFP is as effective or more effective than contraceptives.
NFP meets or exceeds the effectiveness rates of all contraceptive methods if used properly. In fact, all the methods of NFP can be used at the 99% level of effectiveness to postpone or avoid pregnancy.1 “Several well-designed trials by the World Health Organization have shown that Natural Family Planninghas had an effectiveness rate when used correctly that is better than OCPs (oral contraceptive pills), that is, less than a 3% rate of pregnancies per year One of the largest trials (of 19,843 women performed by the World Health Organization in India) showed the failure rate to be 0.2 pregnancies per 100 women yearlya rate that is significantly better than almost all artificial methods of contraception.”2 Some simple rules must be followed to achieve this level of effectiveness but this is true of artificial contraception as well. The misuse rates of condoms and pills are startlingly high and typically exceed those of NFP users.3 One distinct advantage of NFP over contraception is that it is immediately reversible unlike IUDs, injections, implants, and sterilization.
NFP contributes to the health and welfare of the marriage
Unlike contraception, which acts as an inhibitor of ones natural fertility, NFP keeps it intact and works within it. In this way it is not a rejection of the gifts that husband and wife have to offer each other. The marital embrace is a complete gift of self to ones spousenothing is held back. Yet these gifts are not reducible to a sharing in the physiological aspects of fertility. The marital act is a visible sign of the reality that two have become one; that in the covenant of marriage each spouse belongs fully to the othernothing is held back. In the act of making love, spouses say with their bodies what they intend with their hearts. If fertility is withheld, this covenant expression is weakened if not wholly disintegrated. It becomes a conspicuous reservation in which, in keeping with the expression “actions speak louder than words,” spouses say, “you can have all of me except my power to give life.” It is not hard to understand why many married people feel used, even betrayed, by contraceptive sex; for implicit in this mutual withholding of self is a mutual rejection. Sex that does not accept the fullness of the other can easily become self-directed, reducing sex to a matter of self-indulgence and physical gratification, so much so that it becomes a wedge instead of a bond. Perhaps this is why divorce rates for NFP users are between 1/10 and 1/25 of the overall divorce rate in the United States in the 90s.4 Indeed, a study conducted by the Family of Americas Foundation found only 16 women ever divorced among 505 NFP users, a rate of 3.6%!5
NFP is consistent with the life of faith
There is no greater happiness and fulfillment than a life lived in and through God. Eliminating obstacles to this relationship is a positive choice, freeing us to love as fully as possible. The Church teaches against contraception not to impose arbitrary prohibitions, but to safeguard marriage and to deepen the expression of marital love.
The following comments are taken from the pastoral letter Of Human Life by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.
Its hard to see the difference [between NFP and contraception] when the emphasis is placed on “artificial” versus “natural” methods. People rightly point out that many things we use are artificial but not immoral. So its important to realize that the Church doesnt oppose artificial birth control because its artificial. Rather, what the Church opposes is any method of birth control which is contraceptive, whether artificial devices, pills, etc. are used or not.
Contraception is the choice, by any means, to sterilize a given act of intercourse. In other words, a contracepting couple chooses to engage in intercourse and, knowing that it may result in a new life, they intentionally and willfully suppress their fertility. Herein lies a key distinction: Natural Family Planning (NFP) is in no way contraceptive. The choice to abstain from a fertile act of intercourse is completely different from the willful choice to sterilize a fertile act of intercourse. NFP simply accepts from Gods hand the natural cycle of infertility that He has built into the nature of woman.
Regarding the issue of intention: Yes, both couples [the contracepting couple and the couple using Natural Family Planning] may have the same end in mindto avoid pregnancy. But the means to achieve their common goal are not alike. Take, for example, two students, each of whom intends to excel in school. Obviously thats a very good intention. With the same goal in mind, one studies diligently. The other cheats on every test. The point is, the end doesnt justify the meansin getting an education, in regulating births, or in anything else.6
This pamphlet is drawn from Chapter 8 of Called to Give Life by Jason T. Adams. Jason Adams is a father of five and the Theology Chair at Guerin Catholic High School, Noblesville, Indiana. Jason and Linda have used Natural Family Planning to successfully postpone and achieve pregnancy throughout their marriage, and have shared their testimony to its benefits in Pre-Cana, RCIA, young adult/youth groups, and other venues.