If sex is natural, why do we make it artificial?

Our culture can get pretty obsessive with organic and all-natural foods. Cereal boxes proudly display the presence of “whole grains,” and packages of fruit snacks will state if “real fruit juice” is used. Even if I don’t often get into the “healthy” stuff, I always feel a little bit better about myself when I eat foods that have the “all-natural” label slapped on them.

Yet there’s a strange paradox in our culture: How many people spend gobs of money on organic or natural food at the store, but, in the bedroom, use condoms or take birth control pills? While they are helping their bodies with healthy foods, these people are harming their bodies with birth control! From weight gain to shortness of breath, and from depression to blood clots, hormonal birth control pills can create many adverse side effects for the women who take them.

I’d be willing to bet that many people don’t realize the harmful side effects of birth control pills, or even know any other way to handle their sexuality. These people have been handed the message of condoms and birth control since their young teenage and adult days, to the point where it’s a typical part of sex.

Just like our obsession with natural foods, we need to get fired up for all-natural sex. No condoms, no contraception. What I propose is something called Natural Family Planning, or NFP. These three little letters can be largely misunderstood, and sometimes evoke fear or confusion from people: “NFP? That means no sex when a woman is fertile. ‘No sex’ is no fun, so no thank you!” Or perhaps, “NFP…that’s just a married couple thing. I don’t need to know, and I don’t care.”

What many people don’t realize is that NFP is much more than a form of periodic abstinence. Furthermore, even single people can learn about NFP, to prepare for their own marriages later in life. Natural Family Planning is used by couples who, for some serious reasons, want or need to avoid getting pregnant. But it’s also a way for couples to communicate together about the woman’s fertility, so that they may give themselves to each other in the most complete way possible.

Why is NFP a Big Deal?

It’s all-natural. There are several methods of NFP, and all of them are natural. Each method involves monitoring a woman’s fertility signs, and charting these signs to detect her fertile and infertile times of each cycle. The type of NFP my husband and I practice, the Sympto-Thermal Method, has three fertility signs that we monitor each day. No hormonal contraceptives or artificial barriers, just observing the natural way that my body was made.

It’s effective. If a couple diligently charts the woman’s fertility signs and follows the particular rules accordingly, Natural Family Planning methods effectively show the woman’s fertile and infertile times to the couple, so they can try to avoid or achieve pregnancy quite well. When done properly, Natural Family Planning can even be more effective than contraceptives.

It’s selfless, not selfish. When couples use any type of contraceptive, they are sending a message with their bodies: “I give you my body—but not my fertility.” Contraceptive sex encourages people to use each other for pleasure. When couples engage in all-natural sex, with no contraceptives, their actions and bodies communicate as well: “I give you my whole self, including my fertility.” Here, spouses make complete gifts of themselves.

It strengthens communication. Ideally, the couple records the woman’s signs together, so they are both aware of the woman’s fertility. For example, I have to take my temperature every morning. But I don’t have to wake up and do this while my husband is peacefully asleep; he wakes up, gives me the thermometer, and later records my temperature. We’re in it together, and we communicate openly and freely about anything, including sexuality.

It deepens intimacy. Communicating together about the woman’s fertility deepens marital intimacy. NFP practicing couples, through their continual communication and working together, grow in sharing their bodies, hearts, and love. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one of the major drawbacks of NFP is “Your partner must agree and cooperate.” However, instead of being a downfall to marriage, cooperation and intimacy between spouses will only help their love to grow. As NFP enriches a couple’s intimacy and cooperation, it also can be used to help women solve infertility problems, because women are in-tune with how their bodies naturally work. Many times, doctors prescribe birth control to “solve” various health problems—though they typically don’t solve the problems—when, if the woman understood how her body worked, natural methods could often be effectively used.

Admittedly, NFP can be hard sometimes. But, couples can take courage and celebrate this all-natural approach towards sexuality.

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Assisi (18)Anne Marie Miller studies Theology and English at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has a passion for the Catholic Faith, chastity, and St. Francis of Assisi, and frolicking around barefoot. In August 2013, she was blessed to marry her incredible husband, and the two of them enjoy the epic adventures of married college life. When she’s not doing homework, housework, cooking, or playing chess, AnneMarie reflects on her random observations on her blog, Sacrifice of Love. (http://marianninja.blogspot.com)

17 Comments

  1. Gostei muito do texto! Obrigado pelas indicações!
    Paz e bem!

    By Rênan ferreira. | 2 years ago Reply
  2. NFP is great because you most likely won’t have a baby if you don’t want one or can’t support one. You’re probably thinking, how is that different from using contraceptives? Here’s the answer: NFP leaves the POSSIBILITY for you to still have children. It leaves a window open just in case it’s God’s plan for you to have children.

    By Ian | 2 years ago Reply
  3. I just wanted to tell you that you are wise, and you are a very good writer. May Our Lord bless your new marriage!

    By Theresa Griffith | 2 years ago Reply
  4. Unless you are an endocrinologist, which you don’t appear to be, articles like this are inflammatory and shaming to women who have medical issues like endometriosis, PID, ovarian cysts or hormonal deficiencies who MUST take birth control or use contraceptives. This article is incredibly shortsighted and ignorant in regard to the very serious issues that millions of women everywhere around the world suffer from. Don’t we suffer enough already without having to read judgemental and sanctimonious articles like yours? Why don’t you leave the judging to God?

    By Jaks | 2 years ago Reply
  5. Hey Anne Marie! I was just thinking about NFP today, and how our society seems to display such dualism when it comes to encouraging being organic and natural everywhere but the bedroom. It’s really great that you’re putting this article out there.

    By John Serafini | 2 years ago Reply
  6. This was an awesome article about NFP! I had to give a little extra information on birth control’s side-effects in this past semester’s medical classes. NFP isn’t given enough credit when it actually gives women precisely what they hope for in a relationship: commitment, communication, real intimacy, trust, and respect. Hoping that more couples discover this beautiful method!

    By Shawn | 2 years ago Reply
  7. The only thing I would add, as someone who believes in NFP, is that NFP is also used by couples trying to get pregnant; without the costs of ovulation tests. 🙂

    By Patrick Larimer | 2 years ago Reply
  8. Except when a cycle is irregular. I can miss months and it’s perfectly normal, this method is nearly 100% useless to me. And condoms are not hormonal birth control, I would know, I can’t use hormonal birth control either for medical reasons. There is nothing bad about wanting to plan out your pregnancy with true accuracy. Everyone is entitled to their own choices with their own body, so do whatever you want. Just be aware when you judge people about the choices that they make just because something else works better for you.

    By Liz | 2 years ago Reply
  9. Anne, this is awesome! Thanks for writing it. The picture speaks volumes

    By Caroline | 2 years ago Reply
  10. …and ecological breastfeeding (taking the cues from the baby and breastfeeding frequently) is a large part of NFP. The side effect of natural infertility for a long amount of time after the birth of a baby is a gift given by God to the family that takes care of a baby in the way that God intended. (Offers more birth control by 40% than all of the unnatural birth control programs, public and private in the world.)

    By Donna Taylor | 2 years ago Reply
  11. We used NFP and after the birth of all of our children my fertility returned right away. I never had the luxury of the infertile time. I never used bottles, pacifiers, or supplements. I was their pacifier. NFP is truly a gift from God and the Church. It was a great tool for learning to communicate.

    By Vee Cross | 2 years ago Reply
  12. Wish more people did NFP! Going on 15 years and 6 beautiful children.

    By Sue | 2 years ago Reply
  13. Hey Crystalina I used this article for an oral presentation. And I got a B+ so thanks for the help! I really wasn’t sure what I should use but then I saw this and it worked out great!

    By Ryan | 2 years ago Reply
  14. Unfortunately, this method is not always effective. In the case of many young married couples who are not financially or emotionally ready for children, the condom/birth control pills are the safer route, even with the adverse side effects.

    By Anon | 2 years ago Reply
  15. Please remember that NFP is not made to be the answer allowing married couples to forever prevent conception – talk about NFP with your priest or spiritual leader to ensure that the need for NFP is not selfish in any way. NFP was not Gods gift to us to prevent conception, he provided us with this method so that we can plan our family to ensure the most love is given to our children.

    Above you mentioned that the couple ideally chart the woman’s movements together- and this greatly concerns me- if the woman starts doing it by herself and just tells her husband when she can and can’t have sex, this to me begins to sound like contraception. The husband should be discussing with his wife when and when they should not be having more children.

    Yes NFP is great, we are so lucky God gave us this method to help parents love their children (by helping us to provid for them all), but it is not to be used in the same way as contraception. If parents really truely cannot afford to feed one more child then NFP is there answer, but it should not be used if parents have no troubles.

    NFP should never be used as soon as a couple gets married- if the couple is getting married they are ready for children. If they cannot afford a cot and pram, they should not be getting married, it’s simple. Make a sacrifice to love, and wait until you can feed and provide for a baby before you decide to get married

    By Sasha | 2 years ago Reply
  16. And what about preventing STDs? Can’t do that with NFP can you?

    By Josie | 2 years ago Reply

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