What is Natural Family Planning?
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Natural Family Planning, or NFP, is fertility awareness. It goes hand-in-hand with responsible parenthood, or the married couples’ responsibility to discern whether or not to have children. It also calls married couples to have an openness to life.
There are several NFP methods. My husband and I are currently using and training to teach the Sympto-Thermal Method. But there are also the Creighton Methods, the Marquette Method, and more. You can choose what is right for you. I’ll mostly be referring to the STM since that is the one I am most familiar with (cuz I’m teaching it and all).
STM involves taking a woman’s basal body temperature, or the lowest body temperature during rest (in this case sleep), each morning at the same time and comparing that against the characteristics and sensations of cervical mucus (icky word, but something completely natural, clean, and necessary to create life. Let’s be grown ups here J). Basically your body goes through three phases each menstrual cycle. Phase 1 is a mostly infertile time, Phase 2 is a fertile time, and Phase 3 is an infertile time. The temperature and cervical mucus tells a woman what phase she is in, a pretty good estimate of when ovulation occurs, and many other things about the condition of your body.
NFP has a 99.6 percent method effectiveness and a 98.2 percent user effectiveness. Method effectiveness means you assume it was perfectly used, or you followed all the rules to the letter. User effectiveness is based on the actual practices of the couple using the method. For example, if you are taking hormonal birth control you would be using the pill incorrectly if you did not take it at the same time each day, resulting in a lower user effectiveness than the 99.7 percent method effectiveness. For the STM, it would mean saying, “It’s my birthday, and I don’t care if it’s Phase 2!”
So if these are so close in effectiveness, why does it matter which a woman uses? Health issues. Your body is your dwelling place for a (hopefully) long time on this earth. Treat it like the temple it is. One of the most popular hormonal birth control pills, Yaz, lists the following as common side effects on its website. “The most common side effects were headache/migraine, menstrual irregularities, nausea/vomiting, breast pain/tenderness, fatigue, irritability, decreased libido, weight gain, and mood changes.” So if you are going on the pill to have sex anytime you want, you might be drugging yourself out of the lacy underwear and into sweat pants. Also, I don’t know many women who would trade acne (one of the positives of going on birth control) for weight gain.
Other more serious side effects listed on Yaz’ website include: renal impairment (aka kidney failure), adrenal insufficiency (doesn’t allow the adrenal glands to produce the chemicals necessary for certain organ function), arterial and venous thrombotic disease (fancy talk for blood clots), undiagnosed abnormal uterine bleeding, breast cancer (other estrogen- or progestin-sensitive cancers), live tumors, liver disease, and pregnancy. Yes, pregnancy is listed as a potential side effect.
According to the 2009 study Risk Factors for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer in Women under the Age of 45 Years, after taking oral contraceptives for less than one year, a woman’s risk of this type of breast cancer is increased 2.5 fold. After more than one year, it has increased 4.2 fold and goes up each year after that.
NFP is 100 percent organic and has NO (N-O) side effects (BTW pregnancy isn’t a side effect, it’s a child, but that’s another post J). Why not treat your body like the temple it is and learn about its magnificence. A woman’s body has a predictable cycle that can tell a woman everything she needs to know if she is ready to start nesting or isn’t quite ready for 3 am wake-up calls complete with messy diapers. Also, charting a woman’s cycle can indicate other health issues that a woman might be experiencing, such as thyroid deficiencies, stress, and infertility. It also clues a woman into when her body is experiencing changes, such as menopause.
This is not a comprehensive look at NFP. If anyone wants to learn more about NFP, one option is to visit www.ccli.org, and sign up to participate in their classes. Classes consist of three, 2-hour sessions. You learn the majority of what you need in the first class and the next two have additional information and offer the couples an opportunity to go over their charts and ask questions.