What is Natural Family Planning? Why bother learning about it? What is the point in learning a “method” to avoid and achieve pregnancy? Taking a pill, putting on a condom, or getting an IUD inserted is so much easier, right? Besides, why should the Church have any say in how we plan our family? That's a personal choice!
These are some common questions that couple's have when they first learn about the Church's teachings on sex and marriage. It's quite likely that you never encountered those teachings until you entered your marriage preparation program. Some people get angry, some are shocked, and still others are confused to find that the Church stands firmly against the use of any contraceptives, hormonal or non-hormonal.
What? Why not use contraceptives?
When the Pill first came out it was revolutionary. Never before had women felt so in control of their reproductive potential. We all know what happened after that. Everything from the makeup of the workforce to the divorce rate began to change. Since then, each new variation of contraception has been accepted without question. Not anymore! More and more women are ditching hormonal contraceptives. No longer content with side effects ranging from mildly annoying all the way to death, men and women are looking for a better way to take control of their fertility. Not only is contraception being prescribed for family-planning purposes, but increasingly for non-contraceptive purposes as well. Is it worth it? Mary Claire Lacrue, from Verily Magazine doesn't think so. Four years ago, her doctor prescribed the pill to treat her adult acne. She says “It wasn’t until a while later that I began to question my treatment. A friend shared how fertility awareness methods had helped her understand and treat her reproductive and hormonal health. Her alternative to popping a pill intrigued me, so I took her advice and began researching.” What she found surprised her. She came to the conclusion that while the Pill and other artificial contraceptives are widely prescribed, it is rarely the best health care option.
What Makes NFP different?
If the Church is against artificial contraceptives, surely it just wants couples to have as many children as physically possible then, with no regard for health, safety, finances, etc! Actually, that is not the case. The Church teaches that couple's must practice responsible parenthood. In Humane Vitae, a very short encyclical written by Pope Paul VI, he states “With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.” (HV, #10)
Marriage is not only a civil union between a man and a woman, it is also a sacrament. A sacrament is a concrete expression of Christ in the world.” What this means is that the love shared between married couples is a public expression of Christ's love. His love for us is both generous and eternal, just like the love a couple shares in marriage. Sex is a gift from God, a special way to express a love so profound that it needs a physical outlet. Natural family planning works with, celebrates, and respects our bodies and God's gift to our marriages. The benefits of using NFP extend beyond child spacing – there are health, spiritual, and relationship benefits as well that couples will be able to enjoy.
What exactly is Natural Family Planning?
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for various methods which track a couples signs of fertility. Couples are then able to read this data and use it to achieve or avoid pregnancy and to identify and treat various health issues. The Church is not “out to get us” - she only wants what is best for us. We encourage you to read on and learn more about why NFP is the best choice for your marriage.