Myths about Natural Family Planning

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.

_________________

hHannah 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.

13 Comments

  1. Great article! Might want to double-check that last sentence though.

    By Sean Duffy | 9 months ago Reply
  2. Oral contraceptives can cause strokes, too. A number of young women have died from strokes caused by “the pill” – any man who loves a woman would never let her risk her health and her life by taking the pill.

    By Mich | 9 months ago Reply
  3. We used NFP during our reproductive years. God blessed us with 4 children. There was at least 3 years between each one. It works. It helped us grow as a couple. I did not have to have hormones change what my body naturally naturally did each month. I did not jave to fear having fertility problems because of the supression of hormones which the medical world is seeing with long term use of the pill. It’s out there on tje literature especially those who start young and ise the pill for years. I also naturally went through menopause and it was also smoother than most of my friends. Symptoms were not as severe as my friends. I loked the fact that I did not mess with the way God made my body to function and I do not live with the fear of the long term repercussions from the the effects of the pill or other hormonal birth control.

    By Mary | 9 months ago Reply
  4. Thank you for your witness and courage in speaking up for the Church’s teachings on NFP! We need more young people to embrace this method of achieving/avoiding pregnancy and maintaining a woman’s gynecological health.

    However, I have to disagree with your point, “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.” My husband and I have been practicing NFP throughout our 1.5-year marriage, and my experience has been otherwise.

    The model of NFP we’re using requires me to check for signs of fertility before and after each time I use the bathroom and shower, and at the very end of the day. Contrary to your point, this does take a lot of effort, especially while simultaneously taking care of an infant. It would be much easier to simply take a pill once each morning (although yes, I realize the many, many physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual problems that would come with this).

    On another point, while NFP has put a strain on our marriage. It is difficult for my husband to abstain for occasional long periods of time, and for me to abstain at the precise moment when my body most craves and would most enjoy sex. Furthermore, some of the “green light” nights are then encumbered by a crying baby, visiting in-laws, or other life circumstances. Yes, this has forced us to grow in selflessness, prayer, and communication, all of which are good fruits for our marriage. However, to imply that these gifts have come without struggle isn’t accurate.

    My overall point is this: NFP is hard. It is frustrating for the woman to be constantly tracking her symptoms every day, and it is difficult to endure periods of abstinence. When my husband and I first took an NFP class, we were incredibly frustrated and disillusioned because we’d heard so many chastity speakers talk about how wonderful NFP would be, yet the practice sounded painful. The reality is that NFP is a cross. It forces you to die to your desires, your comfort, your privacy, and simply being able to go to the bathroom without having to check for mucus. However, Christ said, “If any one of you wants to be my follower, you must take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). NFP is not easy, it is not fun, and the marital growth is a painful pruning process. Many of the myths your article dispels actually do have some truth to them. But being a Catholic means taking up our cross and following the Lord through both the peaks and the valleys.

    By Lindsay Short | 9 months ago Reply
    • Look into Billings Ovulation Method. It is the basis for the other NFP methods, and was intentionally designed to be quick, easy, and non invasive.

      By Matthew | 9 months ago Reply
      • Thank you for the suggestion, but that isn’t the point in my response. My point is that there is no one method that makes NFP as “rosy-colored” at this article suggests. NFP isn’t “too difficult,” but it is just plain difficult for a variety of reasons.

        This is where Catholics simply need to embrace the Cross and trust that Christ can bring new life out of their struggles.

        By Lindsay Short | 9 months ago Reply
    • Lyndsay
      You are living my story but you got it figured out a whole lot faster. It took my husband and I 15 years before we understood the realily and beauty in the struggles of NFP. Growing in love is the fruit of the struggles. And that can not be taught or explained by others. I just has to be lived. God Bless You

      By Patricia | 9 months ago Reply
    • Yes! You’ve said it so perfectly. I can’t stand how people only talk about how WONDERFUL NFP is, when I’m over here hating it! I get that it’s a cross, but I wish more people would talk about that aspect. And let’s not even talk about how easily human error can factor in…

      By Jessica | 9 months ago Reply
  5. Great article! Well done! We have a very active NFP at our Church. I really like that connected to the few couples who do have a hard time with it because 1 is unwilling to follow it. Respect & mutual love are so important. Not just sex on demand!

    By Rhonda | 9 months ago Reply
  6. Thank you Hannah 🙂

    Just review the last sentence…I think you meant “it’s good not only for your soul, but for your body and your relationship as well”. I’m not sure that the “not” belongs there (“it’s NOT good not only for your soul”)

    God bless you and keep sharing the truth!
    Dillon

    By Dillon | 9 months ago Reply
  7. Soy de Costa Rica, mi esposo y yo también utilizamos métodos naturales de regulación de la natalidad y hemos tenido muy buenas experiencias, no contamino mi cuerpo, fortalece nuestra relación como pareja y también nuestra relación con Dios.

    By Gabriela Orozco | 9 months ago Reply
  8. Catholic church talk about NFP but i dont find her serious because there are no institutions or any plan to help us get information about it, priests are only preaching about it but offer no help, i just got married and i have no choice other than the available method in kenya that is the pills though i would like to use and teach NFP in kenya but i cant afford the books and DVD’s that contain the information, how can i get this information? and also theology of the body classes

    By Anthony kioko | 9 months ago Reply
    • Anthony, you may want to contact the Couple to Couple League (CCLI) and ask them if they provide online classes NFP on an international level

      By M | 9 months ago Reply

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