What is Natural Family Planning?
NFP is the natural method of family planning that helps married couples achieve or postpone pregnancy. NFP involves observing the signs and symptoms of a woman’s fertile and infertile phases during her menstrual cycle, and then modifying the couple’s behavior through abstinence or lovemaking. NFP doesn’t involve birth control pills, condoms, IUD’s, etc.
There are 3 different NFP methods:
- Sympto-Hormonal Method (SHM)
SHM observes several signs of fertility (cervical mucus, basa.l body temperature, etc.) and adds the use of an ovulation predictor kit (OPK) or fertility monitor (like ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor). One well known Sympto-Hormonal Method is the Marquette Model, which helps women observe all her fertility signs, and gives her the added information of the detection of reproductive hormones in her urine. It has a 97-98% efficacy rate.
- Cervical Mucus Methods (CMM)
This method is sometimes called the “Ovulation Method” or “OM.” Here, the woman learns how to identify the normal, healthy, cervical mucus which indicates the days that sexual intercourse is most likely to result in pregnancy. A number of NFP providers teach a variety of approaches to the observation and charting of cervical mucus (e.g., NaProTECHNOLOGY, Billings Ovulation Method Association—USA, Creighton Model FertilityCare™ Centers, Family of the Americas).
- Sympto-Thermal Methods (STM)
STM involves observing and recording several signs of fertility, such as Basal Body Temperature, cervical mucus, changes in the cervix, and secondary fertility signs. A number of NFP providers teach a variety of approaches to the observation and charting of these signs (e.g., Couple to Couple League, Northwest Family Services).
DID YOU KNOW? Your medical insurance may cover professional NFP counseling and instruction
Why is Natural Family Planning okay? It’s true: NFP has yielded such high accuracy rates of postponing or achieving pregnancy that a legitimate concern has become whether couples are using NFP generously or selfishly. However, NFP, unlike contraception, does not interfere with how God designed women, nor does it take the “baby factor” out of sex, which turns sex from an expression of true love into simply a matter of physical gratification: lust. The Church has determined that it is not good (neither morally, theologically or philosophically) nor pleasing to God for humanity to separate sex from love and the miracles that can come from it, and there’s dozens of reasons why. (Click here to read about these many reasons.)
In 1998, Saint John Paul the Great wrote a letter to help explain the concept that separating a man and woman from the laws of nature and isolating their intimacy into a realm of solely sexual pleasure robs a couple of the human dignity they are worthy of:
“… the natural regulation of fertility can be correctly understood and authentically lived as the proper expression of a real and mutual communion of love and life. (…) “the person can never be considered as a means to an end, above all never a means of ‘pleasure.’ The person is and must be nothing other than the end of every act. Only then does the action correspond to the true dignity of the person.”(3)
In the end, NFP is approved by the Church because NFP allows a woman of child-bearing age to embrace her full identity as a potentially fertile person (and everything else that comes with it). Therefore when husband and wife join together in the conjugal act, they are both aware of the possibility of a new life being created. This is not to say that a couple needs to desire having a child every time they make love, it is simply being open to that truth that making love a) unites man and woman, and b) can create new life: to separate these two truths from each other is not how God intended His design.
To say it in different words, NFP is different from contraception because contraception does not allow a woman to express her full identity as a potentially fertile person. Other reasons NFP is preferable to contraception is that it is poses no potential health hazards to a woman (unlike IUDs and birth control pills). Moreover, practicing NFP requires a woman to be educated about her body and this in turn helps her develop an awareness of her reproductive health which can enable her to notice potential health problems ahead of time.
- CCC’s Teaching regarding NFP
- USCCB’s website on NFP
- For Your Marriage’s website on NFP
- EWTN’s website on NFP
- Diocese of Rochester’s website on NFP