Answers to some common questions regarding Natural Family Planning
What exactly is NFP?
Natural Family Planning is a method of birth regulation whereby a couple charts the woman’s fertility cycle, determines when the woman is fertile, then abstains during that period of time if avoiding pregnancy. If the couple is planning a pregnancy, they determine the most fertile time of the woman’s cycle in order to try to conceive. NFP is unique amongst methods of birth regulation because it can be used to both achieve and avoid pregnancy.
Abstinence? You mean a married couple must abstain?
Not at all. No married couple has to abstain from marital relations. Married couples choose to abstain in many instances: sickness, after childbirth, traveling…to name just a few. Abstaining from relations to avoid pregnancy can be seen as a logical extension of those times.
How many days, on average, does a married couple have to abstain if they’re avoiding pregnancy?
On average, most married couples abstain for about ten to twelve days. Women in the postpartum (after having a baby) period and pre-menopausal women usually have to abstain for longer periods of time.
Isn’t abstinence too difficult?
Abstinence is difficult. There’s no denying it. However, just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. As a woman, I have never felt used. When my husband and I are abstaining, it’s almost like dating again. When we resume relations, there’s always a honeymoon feel to it. I believe that our regular use of abstinence has preserved the romance part of our marriage.
Since abstinence is hard, wouldn’t it be good/helpful for a married couple to engage in non-procreative sexual behaviors during the fertile time?
You might think so, but in reality, these kinds of behaviors end up having an insidious and corrosive impact on the couple’s spiritual, physical and emotional well-being. Withdrawal, oral sex and mutual masturbation are behaviors which encourage lust. Abstinence means exactly that, abstaining from sex and sexual behaviors. Also, some contraceptive behaviors, like withdrawal or using condoms, are not only wrong, these activities can result in a pregnancy. However, if the couple decides to engage in the complete marital act with no contraception, this is morally acceptable.
How many different methods of NFP are there?
There are two NFP methods which are in common use today: the sympto-thermal method and the mucus-only method. There are various organizations which teach different approaches. But the sympto-thermal method usually uses a variety of observations in the woman’s cycle, such as basal body temperature, cervical mucus and cervix changes. All modern methods of NFP are at the 98-99 percent effectiveness in avoiding pregnancy.
How much does it cost to attend an NFP course?
This depends on the organization. The Couple to Couple League (for whom we teach) charges $150 plus shipping. With this, the couple receives a textbook, thermometer, charts and many other helpful materials. As well, they are automatically signed up to receive CCL’s magazine, Family Foundations, for one year. Members can also attend future classes free of charge as long as their membership is current. Other NFP organizations charge for books and materials. When you compare it to the cost of all other methods of contraception, it is a great bargain.
What’s the real difference between using NFP and using contraception? The end result is the same, isn’t it?
What’s the difference between abortion and miscarriage? What’s the difference between killing your terminally ill grandmother and waiting until she dies naturally? The end result is the same, isn’t it? While the end result may be the same, the way it happens is not.
Or to use the analogy that Christopher West uses: imagine a couple is getting married and they don’t want to invite a distant aunt. They have two options of not inviting her. They can simply not send her an invitation or they can send her a “dis-invitation,” a card which says, “You are not invited to our wedding.” Obviously, if she receives a dis-invitation, she is going to be more insulted and upset than if she doesn’t receive an invitation at all.
Using NFP is like not sending God an invitation to create life. Use of contraception is like sending a dis-invitation to God. And, as Pope John Paul II wrote in his book, Love and Responsibility: “Continence as a virtue cannot be regarded as a ‘contraceptive measure.’”
In a nutshell, the basic difference is that a couple using NFP can love as Christ loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. Contraception separates a couple during their most intimate act; couples cannot love totally. Contraception removes the procreative aspect of the marital act and encourages lust and selfishness.
Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach