What is Natural Family Planning (NFP)?
NFP is a term for methods of family planning that utilizes knowledge of the body’s naturally occurring signs of fertility. NFP uses no chemicals or devices but rather the avoidance of intercourse during the fertile phase of a menstrual cycle if pregnancy is to be avoided and the intercourse during the fertile phase if pregnancy is to be achieved.
Isn’t NFP just guess work?
No. NFP is based on biology. Considering that 82% of reproductive age women report having used the pill (this figure would be even higher if including other forms of contraception) at some point and that it is estimated that half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, the method that utilizes guess work is really contraceptives. Couples who use contraceptives guess that their chemical or device will work. On the other hand, couples using NFP know how to identify the fertile phase and use the only 100% guaranteed method of avoiding pregnancy, which is abstinence during the fertile part of the menstrual cycle.
Is NFP the same as the Rhythm Method?
No. The Rhythm method consisted of counting days on a calendar with no room for cycle to cycle variations. Modern methods of NFP are based on daily observance of the bio-markers or signs of fertility and infertility (often multiple bio-markers). NFP is a scientific and researched based method, whereas the Rhythm Method was mostly guesswork.
How effective is NFP?
NFP is 99% effective when used to avoid pregnancy. It is also highly effective when used to achieve pregnancy. Read more in the NFP overview.
I don’t have regular cycles, is this OK?
NFP does not require regular cycles in order to be effective.
Is NFP difficult to learn?
NFP is used effectively by millions of people worldwide, even where the literacy rate is much lower than our own. It is not rocket science but makes use of a few basic guidelines. Most women can learn to recognize their signs of fertility within 1 month of learning and become confident within 3 months. Those who cannot may have fertility problems, in which case NFP is especially important to learn as information obtained through charting can be a valuable diagnostic tool for the woman's physician.
Is NFP going to be a serious inconvenience?
No. The woman observes her fertile signs as she goes about her normal daily routine. She records them on her chart once each evening or even on her iPhone health app. After the initial class, there is no more monetary investment. The spouses can feel peace that it is morally acceptable and there will never be any negative side-effects. How’s that for convenience?
Is NFP just for Catholics?
Every couple, regardless of religion, wants the benefits that NFP provides (greater intimacy, a drug free body, improved communication, etc.) NFP is for anyone; it is based on the biology of the human body which is the same regardless of religious belief.
How can I learn NFP?
Taking a class from an experienced instructor is the best way to learn NFP. While NFP is easy to learn, you do not want to be a lone ranger. A book can’t answer your questions. Everyone’s body is unique and everyone’s situation is different. NFP teachers are thoroughly trained. Most practice the method themselves (exceptions being those beyond childbearing years, or women religious) and have taught countless others to do the same.
When should I take an NFP class?
Couples are encouraged to attend an NFP class as early as 4 – 6 months before marriage, but it’s never too late to learn!
Sign up as soon as possible.
Is there another way I can learn (besides the scheduled classes)?
With something as serious as family planning, taking a class with an NFP teacher is essential. Your instructor will be a valuable resource both now and for whatever situation you may need assistance with in the future. Besides selecting from the available NFP Classes, contact an NFP teacher near you. Some NFP teachers may be willing to add a class, make special arrangements, provide some follow-up via phone or other formats to help accommodate you.
What can I expect in an NFP class?
In your initial Natural Family Planning class, expect to learn what NFP is, why it is beneficial, the spiritual and relational aspects of NFP and the science behind it. You will also learn specific signs of fertility and infertility to look for in your body on a daily basis. In addition, you will see example NFP charts and learn how to chart your signs of fertility. You will also learn the guidelines necessary to use the method to achieve or avoid pregnancy.
In subsequent meetings, you will meet one-on-one to review the chart of your actual data. The instructor is trained to assess your ability to interpret your data accurately and are able to identify the fertile days and do not miss any infertile days. Additionally, your instructor will be able to help you and your fiancé/spouse navigate any difficulties you may share.
What can I expect in my first follow-up to NFP class?
After the initial class, you will start to recognize the signs of fertility and infertility within your own body. Many couples find it interesting and empowering to begin to notice these signs. In general, follow-up sessions will include further discussion and review of the method and an opportunity to do some practice charting exercises. You will chart your signs between the follow-up sessions and have the opportunity to review your charts with your instructor as well as get help with any questions you may have.
I am interested in learning more, but am unsure of how we can afford it.
Our office is working on developing scholarships and other ways of facilitating the sharing of knowledge of NFP to all in our diocese. However, in the meantime, please contact our diocesan office of Marriage and Family Life Ministries at (920) 272-8317 to inquire further about assistance.
Does practicing NFP mean less frequent sexual intercourse?
Some couples fear their beginning to practice NFP may mean less frequent sexual intercourse which may or may not be the case. If the alternative to your using NFP would be engaging physically many times per cycle in both the fertile (with contraception) and the infertile times, practicing NFP may mean a decrease. However, if your frequency of sexual intercourse would mirror that of most married couples (one to two times per month or less) then it may mean a similar or even higher frequency. The reason for this is that desire for physical intimacy depends on a number of factors like the quality of communication and the level of emotional intimacy between the couple. These are things that are strengthened through the committed use of NFP. The result is that couples often find they take better advantage of the non-fertile times of the woman's cycle. Keep in mind as well that it is not all about quantity. Read more in the section on Emotional, Relational and Spiritual benefits.