5 things to know about Natural Family Planning
Nope, Natural Family Planning isn't just the "rhythm method". It's not based on guess work that assumes all women's cycles are the same. Depending on which method you use (Base Body Temp method, Ovulation method, Sympto-Thermal method) NFP is based on some combination of charting body temperatures and cervical mucus. It's a system based on measurements and data tracking.
The female metabolism behaves in a specific way when it is or is not fertile. So, successfully following NFP doesn't consist of just abstaining from sex on "day 14." Through charting, a woman and her husband learn about her fertility, and then they can cooperate with that unique fertility. Theology of the Body has a great list of different NFP methods for you to investigate. Billings Ovulation Method features a couple of NFP apps as well.
Don't get thrown by talk of "measurements," either. Natural Family Planning is not too complicated for you to learn with your spouse. The key is committing to learning it as partners, and the best first step is to find an NFP class.
It's physically healthier than artificial birth control
There are some women who, for various reasons, may be prescribed hormonal birth control for non-contraceptive reasons. As with any medication, there are risks and benefits to be weighed with your doctor. But the potential risks and side-effects of hormonal birth control are worth noting: "the pill" can cause missed periods, headaches and nausea; but more importantly, hormonal birth control increases your risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack and cancer.
A lot of medications have scary potential side-effects. But weighed against the therapeutic benefits, the risk is worth it. But should an otherwise healthy woman, for whom there will be no therapeutic benefit of hormonal birth control, really risk all of the above if she doesn't have to?
Natural Family Planning doesn't increase your risk of any life-threatening condition. It isn't contraindicated with any medications, and it won't make you sick or moody. As we become more aware of the benefits of organic and hormone free food, it's worth considering the benefits of going hormone free in family planning, as well.
It helps couples bond better
There are a few ways in which Natural Family Planning is simply good for intimacy between couples. This starts right at the beginning: during the learning process. As a couple embarks on the process of learning how fertility works, and specifically how their fertility works, their communication will necessarily become better. Learning to talk about fertility on a daily basis will remove an area of "unspokenness" from their relationship. As the couple continues their NFP journey, their commitment is a shared responsibility. They help and support each other in this mutual "project".
Natural Family Planning also offers the challenging opportunity for couples to explore different ways to show love and affection during those periods when they are practicing abstinence. As couples get creative with date nights or other shared time, as well as loving touch and affectionate language, the result will be increased intimacy through the rest of the month as well.
It's not just for Catholics
Natural Family Planning is most often associate with religious people, specifically Catholics. That's not a totally mistaken association, because the Catholic Church certainly endorses and supports NFP. However, Natural Family Planning is not exclusive to Catholics! The downsides of hormonal birth control comprise a concern shared by many, and the potential for increased intimacy is something anyone can appreciate.
The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is an approach that's not associated with religious people, but is extremely similar to NFP. Taking Charge of Your Fertility is a resource worth checking out if you want to learn more about the downsides of artificial birth control and the host of benefits that come with a natural approach to fertility and family planning.
Natural Family Planning is effective at postponing or (for grave reasons) preventing pregnancy, and it's also effective at helping achieve pregnancy. Because NFP is simply learning your own body's fertility, it can be relied on in a much broader sense than can contraception. You can count on NFP at all the seasons of your life - it won't be working against you when you decide you'd like to achieve pregnancy.
In terms of NFP's effectiveness at preventing pregnancy, most studies find NFP (depending on the method) to be comparable with other forms of birth control (.5-4% failure rate with perfect use, 7-18 % failure rate with typical use).
We encourage you to look at the USCCB's resources on Natural Family Planning to learn more about why Natural Family Planning is a better fit with God's plan than artificial contraception is, and how you can get started.