Home > IPF, Uncategorized > Natural Family Planning (NFP), Catholic birth-control

Natural Family Planning (NFP), Catholic birth-control

090629-0820_IPF-Natural-Family-PlanningToday’s lecture was on Natural Family Planning.  The first hour was a presentation in Riggie Hall by couples that teach the program from The Couple to Couple League (CCL).  The second hour was back in the classroom for question-and-answer session with one of the couples.  A lot of great info and lots of great questions.  For the basics about the Catholic view on birth-control and contraception, check this out.

What is Natural Family Planning (NFP)? NFP is a way of following God’s plan for achieving and/or avoiding pregnancy. It consists of ways to achieve or to avoid pregnancy using the physical means that God has built into human nature.  Today’s NFP should not be confused with Calendar Rhythm Method taught in the 1930’s.

NFP-Umbert-the-Unborn-trendyNFP consists of two distinct forms:   Ecological breastfeeding is a form of child care that normally spaces babies about two years apart on the average. Systematic NFP is a system that uses a woman’s signs of fertility to determine the fertile and infertile times of her cycle.  Couples seeking to avoid pregnancy practice chaste abstinence during the fertile time of her cycle.

Systematic NFP consists of various “methods” or systems that seek to determine the fertile and infertile times of the cycle. The “Ovulation Method” focuses primarily on the mucus sign.  Other couples use a temperature-only form of NFP, and some use the cervix sign in combination with either the temperature sign or the mucus sign.  We were taught how to use a cross-checking system called the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM). It uses all the common signs of fertility in a cross-checking way.

A FREE 156 page manual is available on-line at NFP and more.org in PDF format called Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach by John and Sheila Kippley.  Basically, there is a chart (blank available in pdf format) that is used to track the changes in cervix, cervical mucus and temperature daily.  (In one hour, I think we learned more about the female anatomy than most married men do.)  Each variable has a code at the bottom of the chart to note:  (from chapter 2, pdf)

NFP-menstrualcycleTEMPERATURE (when a woman wakes up) is taken with a digital thermometer (oral, vaginal, or rectal).  Before ovulation, the waking temperature is lower than it is after ovulation. In the five or six days before ovulation, the higher levels of estrogen tend to depress or lower the waking temperatures slightly.  After ovulation, progesterone causes the waking temperatures to rise.

Before ovulation, the CERVIX undergoes four changes: (1) cervix rises slightly; (2) the mouth of the cervix (cervical os) opens slightly; (3) the tip of the cervix becomes softer; and (4) the cervix secretes a mucus discharge.  Around ovulation or usually right after ovulation, these changes in the cervix are reversed.

Before ovulation, the CERVICAL MUCUS first appears as a somewhat tacky substance and then becomes more fluid. It usually starts a few days after menstruation, but sometimes it can start toward the end of the period. As it becomes more fluid, the mucus becomes slippery and stretchy, and usually produces sensations of wetness on the outer lips of the vagina (the vulva).

Besides bombarding us with lots of science, they were proud to note that “We have no doubt that married couples who are properly instructed and motivated can practice the cross-checking Sympto-Thermal Method at the 99% level of effectiveness for avoiding pregnancy.”

NFP can also be used for couples who are trying to have a baby.  We also had the option to visit the Pope Paul VI Institute located in Omaha, NE that does extensive medical research dedicated to providing morally and professionally acceptable reproductive health services.  They include the CREIGHTON MODEL FertilityCare System and NaPro Technology that has helped women conceive children, while respecting the Catholic Church view against in-vitro fertilization.

NFP-HormonalForecaster-STM-chartThe Couple to Couple League (CCL) offer classes for couples and have computer software to help track all the variables into cool colored charts (I could definitely see guys getting into this … like me).  They said some couples have it on a laptop next to their bed (there’s something creepy about the sound of that … but I can see it happening).  The software they offer is CyclePRO, but I couldn’t find a screenshot of it.  I did find another popular ovulation & fertility software available called Hormonal Forecaster with many kinds of visual displays (the STM chart screenshot is shown here).

Besides all the technical info with science and the Catholic Church view on fertility, the idea of personal intimacy of a married couple started to get minimized.  The couples started sharing their own lives and the application of NFP in their marriages.  Through their own experiences, they recommend that the couple always do NFP together.  Even though the woman’s body is where all the signs come from, the husband should be the one to record the readings to actively be involved, pay attention to his wife’s needs more sensitively and find ways of intimacy outside of sexual union during their times of fertility.  They also posted a chart that concluded divorce is lowest in couples that practice NFP.  The chart showed a bar graph of “divorces per 100 marriages.” In 1960’s, it was 26 per 100.  In 1970’s, it was 32 per 100.  In 1980, it was 50 per 100.  For NPF users, it was LESS THAN 5 per 100 marriages.  (I’ve got some doubt about this research … a little too good to be true … no real source cited.)

Other questions about fertility and Catholic teaching can be found here.

Some personal testimonies of Catholic couples struggling with infertility.

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  1. TF
    October 4, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    I doubt that NFP is 99 percent. Given the variables involved and all of the things that might effect your body, it does not seem very reliable.

    • January 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      NFP for us has been 100%. I have been taught to observe my signs of fertility. Observing the signs of my fertility tells me, very accurately, the time when I am becoming fertile each month. Each month it is a different day of the cycle; each cycle is a different length. In spite of this, we have still managed to easily remain “not pregnant” for fifteen cycles since the birth of our last child. So see, NFP works well because it takes into account all of those variables and all of the things that affect the female’s body and cycles.

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  4. Crystal Grothoff
    August 22, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Thank you for your article. Nonetheless, it is misleading to call NFP “birth control.” In fact, it is intended to be used to regulate births only in cases of grave necessity, e.g, if a woman’s health would be seriously endangered by conception. It is useful for many other purposes, e.g., conceiving children more quickly, especially in cases of low fertility; precisely dating conception; and, in coordination with a NaPro doctor, addressing issues of women’s health. God bless you on your journey.

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