A Deeper Love


by Anthony J. Caruso, M.D.

Natural family planning is an invitation to live God’s plan for love and marriage

EDITOR’S NOTE: Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, a national education campaign of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be observed July 24-30. For more information, visit usccb.org/nfp.

When learned well and embraced by a couple, natural family planning strengthens and protects the marital bond. As a pro-life physician who works with couples seeking to learn NFP, I have seen it bring both blessings and challenges. Like any worthwhile endeavor, it requires time and effort.

A husband and wife using NFP have a unique opportunity to learn more about the beauty of the female reproductive system. The intricate symphony involved in the monthly cycle is fascinating and illuminates God’s plan for procreation. A couple’s enhanced understanding should be an occasion to grow in love and respect for one another as they move forward in marriage.

Monitoring a woman’s natural fertile and infertile periods leads a couple to regularly communicate about such topics as family size, physical health, psychological outlook and the role of intimacy in their married life. They also are encouraged to pray together to discern God’s will.

Humanae Vitae, the prophetic 1968 encyclical on the regulation of birth by Blessed Paul VI, mentions four considerations couples may take into account in delaying conception: physical, economic, social and psychological. While Pope Paul VI outlined reasonable grounds for spacing births, he also warned against a mindset that would be closed to conception, calling children “the supreme gift of marriage [who] contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare” (8).

Thus, though couples may use NFP to delay conception for legitimate reasons, when touting the “effectiveness” of NFP we should never forget that children are a blessing.

In all cases, NFP differs from contraception, for it does not separate the unitive and procreative meaning of marital intimacy. Not only that, but NFP avoids the risks and side effects of ingesting chemicals to suppress one’s natural fertility. Invariably, there is a marked improvement in the health and well-being of women who stop using hormonal contraceptives. When they stop and learn NFP, women feel the difference in their daily lives.

There are other health benefits as well. Doctors who advocate NFP instead of contraception can more easily diagnose and treat underlying causes of infertility, and they can help women with irregular cycles by using natural therapies.

There are also challenges, which can become blessings when faced openly and with faith. When a couple uses NFP to delay conception, periodic abstinence is required during fertile periods. It is not uncommon for me to speak with women who become frustrated because their charting can reveal they must remain abstinent for long periods of time. Other women express a strong desire to have another child, yet their husband is not supportive. Practicing NFP can be difficult if a husband and wife are not on the same page.

Nonetheless, NFP can help by encouraging communication between spouses as well as prayer. There is a very beautiful and beneficial interplay involved that can bring a couple closer together; even periodic abstinence can lead them to desire each other more, especially if they work toward the same goal regarding conception.

Although everyone is different, and there is no one-sizefits- all method, all married couples of childbearing age can benefit from NFP. As they turn toward one another in openness to life, and see the love of God reflected in each other, they make for stronger marriages and happier families.

ANTHONY J. CARUSO, M.D., is an obstetrician/gynecologist and a member of Father Boecker Council 6090 in Lombard, Ill.

This article appeared in the July/2016 issue of Columbia magazine and is reprinted with permission of the Knights of Columbus, New Haven, Conn.


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