What can NFP do?
Natural Family Planning is an invaluable resource for doctors and patients. NFP can help you identify and manage: anovulation (lack of ovulation), late ovulation, short luteal phase, vaginal infections, UTI's, hormonal imbalances, repeated miscarriage, and cervical anomalies because it gathers data from a woman's own body about how her hormones are working. This is not an exhaustive list. But before we can know how NFP can help with all of that, it is beneficial to know the biological principles that Natural Family Planning is based on.
A woman's cycle begins on the first day of her period and ends about 8-12 days after ovulation. This can span a time frame of anywhere from 23 to 40 days on average. During this time, a woman is only fertile for about 24 hours, around the time of ovulation. Prior to ovulation, a woman's body will begin producing cervical mucus in response to rising levels of estrogen. As a woman approaches ovulation, the cervical mucus becomes stretchier and resembles egg-whites. Once the egg is released, progesterone is produced. This triggers a rise in basal body temperature (waking temperature). Progesterone also prevents another ovulation, thickens the cervical mucus so that it forms a barrier to bacteria, and generally preps the uterus to support a pregnancy. About two weeks later, if conception did not occur progesterone and estrogen will stop being produced and the woman will have her period.
This is all basic biology. How then does Natural Family Planning fit in? By learning how to identify fertile and infertile mucus and track her basal body temperature, a woman can learn what her normal is. In her book "Taking Charge of Your Fertility”, Toni Weschler writes “Women who chart are so aware of what is normal for themselves that they can help their clinician determine irregularities based on their own cycles.” Instead of preventing ovulation from occurring, NFP teaches a couple to recognize signs of fertility so that they can then abstain if they are trying to avoid a pregnancy or schedule a special date if they are trying to achieve. Natural Family Planning allows a woman to take an active role in her health care.
How contraceptives work
On the other hand, contraceptives like the Pill and the hormonal IUD flood a woman's body with artificial hormones, causing her body to believe it is already pregnant, thus preventing ovulation. At least, that's the main way they work. There are “backup” measures that contraceptives take just in case ovulation does occur. The secondary backup is that the hormones also thicken a woman's mucus, to prevent sperm from being able to reach the egg. Finally, if those two measure fail and an egg is fertilized, the hormones have also thinned the lining of the uterus, so that the embryo cannot implant. If an embryo cannot implant, it will die. This is an incredibly troubling mechanism of birth control, as essentially it is acting as an abortifacient. The couple could be conceiving children and losing them repeatedly, never knowing.
Doctors who are familiar with Natural Family Planning are able to approach a woman's health holistically. It is often mistakenly believed that hormonal birth control is the only way to manage fertility and gynecological problems such as PCOS, Endometriosis, debilitating cramps, and a whole slew of others. Unfortunately, hormonal contraceptives only treat the symptoms. The flood of hormones only masks the problems instead of treating the cause. However, this is not the only option! Enter NaproTechnology: “Unlike common suppressive or destructive approaches, NaProTECHNOLOGY works cooperatively with the procreative and gynecologic systems. When these systems function abnormally, NaProTECHNOLOGY identifies the problems and cooperates with the menstrual and fertility cycles that correct the condition, maintain the human ecology, and sustain the procreative potential.” When a woman charts her fertility signs, she is able to share her chart with her doctor and together they can identify abnormalities before ordering a slew of potentially invasive and unnecessary tests. NaProTECHNOLOGY uses that information to give doctors and patients a firm starting point.
Side-effects of NFP vs. contraceptives
Increasingly, the Pill is being used to treat conditions that are not related to women's gynecological health at all. But is this safe? The World Health Organization classifies the Pill as a class 1 carcinogen. This means that the Pill (when using a combined synthetic estrogen and progesterone) is known to increase the chance of certain cancers in women. The Mayo Clinic positively links the use of oral contraceptives with an increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer. Similarly, the Mini-Pill (synthetic progesterone only) is classified as a class 2B carcinogen,meaning that it is possibly carcinogenic to humans. In a world where people are questioning the health effects of food dyes, various additives, and commonly prescribed medications, it makes no sense to simply accept a known carcinogenic substance as routine “health care” when there is an equally effective, healthier option.
Beyond the increased risk of certain cancers, women experience side-effects such as weight gain and mood swings. They are also at an increased risk of heart disease, blood clots and ectopic pregnancy. Given thatthis is not an exhaustive list, we must ask ourselves if hormonal contraceptives can really be “worth it” when there is a method of family planning that is side-effect free: NFP. Natural Family Planning is as effective as hormonal birth control and various barrier methods when being used to avoid pregnancy while at the same time producing no side-effects.
Jack of all trades
So let's recap: Hormonal contraceptives work against a woman's body – they mask hormones, treat symptoms only, can act as abortifacients and come with some pretty serious side-effects. Natural Family Planning on the other hand, works with a woman's hormones, helps doctors treat causes, never endangers the life of a child or a mother, and has no side-effects. You tell me – which one sounds like healthcare to you?