I am at the stage in life where many of my friends are preparing to get married. As they plan their wedding and book the honeymoon tickets, there are three words that often surface as they dive deep into their marriage prep: Natural Family Planning (NFP).
The most basic explanation for NFP is that it’s a term used for the process of observing the woman’s body natural menstrual cycles to determine whether or not to abstain from sexual intercourse during certain points of her cycle to permit or avoid pregnancy. The process requires no drugs or surgical procedures.
Unfortunately, companies that produce birth control have a monopoly of the reproductive health market. They have a large influence on modern thought, and as a result many misconceptions about NFP have been accepted as truth.
I have listed common arguments I have heard against NFP and responded as logically as possible backing my responses with research.
Myth #1 NFP is too difficult.
While NFP does require effort on the part of the couple to track what the woman’s body is going through, the fruits of it are surprising and inspiring. NFP requires a responsibility to track a woman’s body and live according to its designs, depending upon whether or not a couple’s goal is to postpone or achieve pregnancy. However, NFP requires only about two minutes out of every day and can be done as part of the morning or evening routine. It’s not designed to control every aspect of the couple’s life.
NFP teaches couples how to communicate and exercise virtues of self-control, respect, and obedience, which can benefit many other aspects of their lives including finances and health, and it allows the couple to get creative in showing their love for each other outside of sexual intimacy. It encourages romance. Some couples even say that despites its challenges, they enjoy another honeymoon each month.
Another positive note is that it’s a lot cheaper than contraception.
Myth #2 NFP is ineffective.
The reality is that NFP can be even more effective and it’s safer than contraceptives. NFP works with the body’s natural processes, unlike artificial contraception that works against it. When used correctly, NFP can actually be 98-99 percent effective in delaying pregnancy.
While the pill can be equally effective, women using NFP do not have to be concerned with the birth control pill risks, including increasing her risk of contracting breast, cervical, and liver cancer, heart disease, ectopic pregnancy, and yeast infections. (Source)
In addition to how effective it is, NFP teaches couples to be open to life and accept any children that the Lord has willed to give them.
Myth #3 NFP puts a strain on the marriage because couples are unable to enjoy sexual intimacy whenever they desire it.
NFP can cause tension in some marriages, especially when a spouse is unwilling to practice it. However, research shows that couples who use NFP have more successful marriages than those who don’t. Evidence has proven that the pill can contribute to divorce. The divorce rate for the United States is nearing 50%, contrary to couples using NFP which had a divorce rate of only 5 percent in 2013. Such a low percentage could be attributed to the following facts:
NFP teaches men to view their wives as the human beings they are and not as a means for immediate sexual fulfillment only because she is available and on birth control.
NFP could be good for the kids too! When parents practice the virtue of chastity in their own lives, their children are more likely to follow in their footsteps. They see that if mom and dad are able to practice abstinence for a short period of time each month, the children will draw from that example and learn how abstinence can be an expression of love before (and even during) marriage.
Myth #4 NFP is only for Catholics
Yes, the Catholic Church does promote NFP, but more and more studies about NFP and the benefits of it are being released by non-Catholic organizations.
Regardless of how they feel about the Catholic Church, non-Catholics would do well to consider NFP. Unlike contraception, it’s not good not only for your soul, but for your body and your relationship as well.
Hannah Crites is a senior Communications Arts major and Theology minor at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She originally hails from Denver, Colorado and has written for numerous publications and blogs, hoping to someday work as a Catholic youth and young adult speaker, blogger, and social media guru. She is currently working for the Steubenville Conference office as an engagement assistant where she helps manage outreach beyond the conferences through social media and Steubenville Fuel website. Connect with her through Twitter (@hannah_crites) and Facebook. Check out more of what she has written here.