It’s Natural Family Planning awareness week, y’all! I am a huge proponent of NFP, and I wanted to take a few minutes to hash out the reasons why I think it’s so great and, later, to reflect on how this largely ignored component of Catholic doctrine lead me to Rome.
Although you certainly don’t have to be religious to use NFP, the Catholic Church is the only church who sanctions the method exclusively, so I will talk about NFP through the lens of the Church. NFP is a moral way for married couples to postpone a pregnancy, if they have reason to do so. The Church doesn’t define what those reasons are, but “we can hardly make our mortgage payment and keep food on everyone’s plate” is a better reason than “we have a cruise planned and I don’t want to look chunky in my bikini.” It’s up to the couple to pray and consider their circumstances in order to determine if the time isn’t right to welcome a new member of the family.
The way NFP works is that the couple is taught to read the wife’s fertile signs. They include basal body temperature and cervical mucous. The signs are charted, and the couple learns to interpret the chart in order to determine when the wife is likely to become pregnant. If they need to postpone a pregnancy, they abstain until later in the month when she is unlikely to become pregnant.
No pills. No barriers. No synthetic hormones.
Here are some reasons why I love NFP:
- It requires communication. Let me just be blunt: it’s no fun to abstain. If you’re facing a week or so of having to go to bed with just a peck on the cheek, you’re going to be darn sure that the time isn’t right for another baby. NFP necessitates that the husband and wife are always talking about important issues: their finances, their stress levels, and what they can do to make life easier for each other.
- It helps a woman understand her body. God totally knew what he was doing when he designed Eve. (We are the pinnacle of creation, after all!) It was really, really cool to learn how all the hormones in my body interact throughout the month, and to learn why about 75% of the time I’m not likely to conceive, but 25% of the time, I am.
- Relatedly, it helps diagnose health issues. After just a few months of charting, I was able to see that I had a luteal phase defect. This can cause problems getting pregnant and can cause miscarriage. Since I had been charting, I knew to bring this up with my prenatal practitioner, who prescribed me progesterone once I got pregnant, to lessen the chances of miscarriage.
- It prevents you from sounding silly about sex. NFP honors the fact that sex, bonding, and babies are all related. I will never not be baffled when someone talks about an “unexpected” pregnancy. Uhh… don’t you know where babies come from? If you got pregnant from sex, even if you were contracepting, nothing went wrong. Everything went right! Your body did what it was supposed to do! Yay!
- It’s natural and cheap! I love that I’m not introducing any extra artificial hormones into my body on a daily basis, and that, aside from the initial cost of taking an NFP class, it’s free!
I know that it’s weird to care so much about family planning methods, but by golly, NFP is awesome and I want everyone I know to know about it! To learn more, check out this great website that just launched this week: http://iusenfp.com/home/