Natural Family Planning Q&A

Authored By: Couple to Couple League

QUESTIONS ABOUT NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING

What is Natural Family Planning?

Natural family planning (NFP) refers to the practice of achieving or avoiding pregnancies according to an informed awareness of a woman's fertility.

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Why is NFP the best in family planning?

NFP provides a medically safe, healthy, highly effective and very low cost method of planning your family. It is convenient (no birth control devices to use), and it's immediately reversible for achieving or avoiding pregnancy. It is increasingly available throughout the world, it tells you when you have achieved pregnancy, and it's morally acceptable.

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What's the basis for NFP?

It is scientfically established that during each menstrual cycle a woman normally becomes fertile and then naturally infertile. The fertile time is the part of her cycle when sexual intercourse can result in pregnancy. Her body provides certain physical signs to indicate her fertile and infertile times.

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What are the signs of fertility and infertility?

The primary signs are a normal discharge of cervical mucus and changes in a woman's waking temperature. Secondary signs include changes in her cervix and a feeling called "ovulation pain."

Cervical mucus is nature's way of helping a man's sperm to reach a woman's egg. Her flow of cervical mucus generally starts in a small way several days before she ovulates (releases an egg); it is a very positive sign that her fertile time has started. About the time she ovulates, her mucus may be abundant and have a consistency something like raw egg-white. After ovulation, her mucus normally disappears.

A woman's waking temperature is lower before ovulation and rises slightly but distinctly after ovulation. After it has been well elevated for several days (while her mucus has been disappearing), it is a very positive sign that she is infertile.

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What is the Sympto-Thermal Method of Natural Family Planning?

The Sympto-Thermal Method is a system of using the mucus and temperature signs in a crosschecking way for the highest confidence and reliability in family planning. The secondary signs are also used by many women.

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Is this what used to be called"the Rhythm Method"?

No. The Rhythm Method was the Calendar Rhythm Method developed in 1930. It was based on some biological averages, but it did not work well for women who had irregular cycles. It was the 1930's model of NFP, and great progress has been made since then.

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Can NFP work with irregular cycles?

Yes. Modern NFP assumes that every woman is irregular at least some of the time. In general, if her fertile time comes earlier or later than usual, she knows about it because the start of her cervical mucus comes earlier or later.

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Does NFP take much time?

No. With NFP's Sympto-Thermal Method, a woman needs just a few minutes to take her temperature when she wakes up each morning. During the day she takes a moment now and then to become aware of her cervical mucus. Her husband records a dot for the temperature on a chart, and at night she records a symbol to describe her mucus. This simple process gives them an accurate, day to day picture of her fertility.

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Is NFP SAFE?

Yes. Natural Family Planning uses no birth control devices or drugs. Every drug has potential side effects and should be taken only when necessary to cure or relieve an illness, etc. But fertility is a normal process, not a disease. Birth control pills and implants are unnecessary drugs, and most intrauterine devices (IUDs) were taken off the American market because of health-related lawsuits; some physicians have linked spermicides with birth defects.

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NFP is HEALTHY: what does that mean?

NFP is health enhancing. Through NFP charting, a woman becomes aware of her normal fertility-menstrual cycle. Some kinds of cycle irregularities can alert her to possible underlying problems, and she can seek early health-care assistance.

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How EFFECTIVE is NFP?

Numerous studies including one by the U.S. government, have shown that the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP can be used at the 99% level of effectiveness for AVOIDING pregnancy. That's equal to the birth control pill and better than all the barrier methods.

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Can NFP help ACHIEVE pregnancy?

Yes. With NFP you will become aware of the most fertile days in your overall fertile time, and you will learn certain practices to maximize your mutual fertility. In addition, your charted cycles may reveal certain patterns that can contribute to infertility and which sometimes can be corrected simply by better nutrition. Many couples of marginal fertility are helped by NFP training to achieve much wanted pregnancies, and the charts of those who may need medical help can assist the knowledgeable physician. ------------------------------------------------------

Can breastfeeding space babies?

Yes, but only when a mother practices a very natural form of baby care characterized by mother-baby closeness. This is called "ecological breastfeeding" to distinguish it from "cultural breastfeeding" which does not space babies.

In addition, the ecological breastfeeding taught by the Couple to Couple League helps you to keep your baby healthy and contributes greatly to the emotional enrichment of both mother and baby.

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Is NFP morally acceptable?

Yes. All the major religions including the Catholic Church accept the use of natural family planning when couples have a sufficiently serious reason for spacing babies or family limitation.

On the other hand, the teachings of the Catholic Church, some Orthodox churches, some parts of Judaism, and an increasing number of Protestants are opposed to sterilization and the use of contraceptive or abortifacient drugs and devices. It should be noted that intrauterine devices and birth control drugs (both the pill and implants) can cause very early abortions.

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Is Natural Family Planning "Natural"?

In other words, is it natural for a married couple to practice sexual self- control? Yes. No one denies that at times this is difficult, but such difficulties do not make periodic continence "unnatural." "Natural" means living up to the demands of our human nature, a nature "created in the image and likeness of God." All of the Ten Commandments are sometimes difficult to follow, but all of them spell out the challenge of being true to our own nature.

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How does NFP affect a marriage?

Sexual self-control can help build the marital relationship, and therefore most couples report that NFP has a positive effect on their marriages. They find that periodic abstinence helps keep their sexual relationship fresh, improves their communication, and gives them a deeper respect for each other.

In addition, the practice of NFP helps to develop the same strength of character that is necessary for marital fidelity and lifelong marriage. NFP couples have an extremely low divorce rate.

This makes sense because couples who respect the natural moral law, God's order of creation, can expect to enjoy its benefits.

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So NFP builds better marriages?

Yes, but not automatically. Couples rarely begin to practice Natural Family Planning out of a desire to improve their marital relationship. However, if they are going to practice NFP harmoniously, they soon find that they have to communicate more fully with each other and practice continence creatively. (Many are helped by a CCL brochure, Creative Continence.) Couples do not ignore each other at times when they choose to avoid sexual relations; rather they develop non-genital ways of expressing their love and affection, which is the art of marital courtship.

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How can I find out more about NFP?

The best way to learn NFP is to attend the classes of the Couple to Couple League (CCL) -- four classes spaced a month apart. If you cannot attend classes, the next best way is through the CCL Home Study Course.

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Please note: This information has NOT taught you how to practice NFP. In the classes and the Home Study Course, you will learn how to interpret all the signs of fertility; you will learn how to use them in a crosschecking way or individually; and you will learn how to apply this knowledge to your own cycle pattern with professionally trained guidance. And much more.

For referral to CCL classes in your vicinity or for information about the Home Study Course, contact the international office listed below.

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A comment about CCL's classes--

The in-class detail was great, and the book is an excellent post-class resource. -- K.S., Minnesota

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Comments about the CCL Home Study Course--

An excellent course. Very organized and easy to understand! -- B.Z., Iowa

Your lesson books are so well written and easy to understand, we felt we needed no more assistance. -- F.S., Wisconsin

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CCL's International Office:

The Couple to Couple League P.O. Box 111184 Cincinnati, OH 45211, USA 1-513-661-7612 CompuServe Address: 73311,256

The Couple to Couple League International, Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization founded in 1971 to provide quality natural family planning services throughout the world in order to strengthen the family, the basic unit of society.

This information is from a brochure titled "NFP: Safe, Healthy, Effective". The brochure and related material may be ordered from Couple to Couple League direct or through Catholic Resource Network's MarketPlace on CompuServe.