In this article, Carl and Carolyn Wenning provide an overview of the arguments for choosing NFP over other methods of family planning, covering quite a lot of ground in a concise question and answer format.
This is a good general introduction to the reasons people have for coming to a logical choice in favour of the natural methods.
- What is NFP?
- Why use NFP?
- What are the Benefits of Practising NFP?
- Is It Wrong to use Contraceptives in Marriage?
- But isn't NFP just another form of Birth Control?
- How can I find out More about NFP?
Choosing to Practise Natural Family Planning
What is Natural Family Planning?
More than anything else, Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a unique approach to human sexuality. NFP is a way of achieving, avoiding, or spacing births that is both a science and an art. NFP is fertility awareness that depends upon the observation and interpretation of the woman's fertility signs. When used for avoiding pregnancy, it entails chaste and loving abstinence.
Is NFP the same thing as Calendar Rhythm?
No. Calendar rhythm can be considered the "Model T" of NFP practices. Though calendar rhythm was as effective as any other form of birth control in its day, it was the forerunner of new, scientifically proven methods of natural fertility awareness that are far superior.
Does NFP's Effectiveness Depend Upon Regularity in a Woman's Cycles?
No. Modern methods of NFP are based upon current signs of a woman's fertility. Past records might prove useful in some cases, but are used only with guidelines that make modern NFP practices one of the most effective birth control methods in the world.
Just how Effective is Modern NFP?
The effectiveness of NFP depends upon the practice of the couple. Three recent Federal studies have shown that well trained and motivated NFP couples can expect a method effectiveness of 99% (one unexpected pregnancy out of 100 women in one year's time; a baby, not a failure) which is as good as any other method of birth control known to modern science.
Why Use Natural Family Planning?
The reasons that couples choose to practice NFP are many and varied. Some of the major reasons can be categorized as follows:
Health - NFP is a no-drugs, no-devices way of spacing or regulating births. It is completely healthy. In fact, because a woman truly gets to know her body through fertility awareness, she often can detect important changes that might lead to the early diagnosis and treatment of medical problems. Other birth control methods that rely upon drugs, devices, and surgery offer no such benefits but, rather, have significant health risks. The Pill is linked with medical side effects ranging from blood clots and strokes to ectopic pregnancies and cancer. The I.U.D. can cause cramping, haemorrhaging, pelvic inflammation, and even death. Spermicidal foams can cause vaginal irritation and may lead to birth defects as at least one study has shown. Tubal ligation is associated with surgical complications and ectopic pregnancies. Vasectomies, and even the use of condoms, frequently result in immune system reactions.
Reversibility - NFP is completely reversible. It can be used to achieve as well as to avoid pregnancy. The Pill, on the other hand, can change a woman's reproductive system enough to result in infertility. The I.U.D. can cause pelvic inflammation disease which may result in sterility. It also can scar and weaken the uterus so that a woman becomes a habitual "miscarrier." Sterilization often has a deeply regretted and unwanted permanence.
Aesthetics - NFP allows for spontaneity during infertile times. On the other hand, barrier methods call for a couple to pre-plan love making or stop love making altogether and use a condom, spermicide, or cervical cap (or a combination of two or more if the couple is really serious about avoiding pregnancy)
- Moral Convictions - Everyone is concerned about morality even if they claim to have no religious beliefs. Pollution of the environment seems morally disordered to some and this belief leads some people to conclude that it is unnatural to pollute a woman's body with birth control drugs and devices. Others sense a moral contradiction in celebrating God's gift of marital sex while, at the same time, trying to destroy its God-given natural consequences.
Moral Ecology - The use of insecticides, though they can and do kill unwanted pests, have had both bad and unforeseen effects on the environment. So it is with contraceptives. Since the open promotion of unnatural birth control began around 1917, efficient contraception has been at the heart of the sexual revolution; the divorce rate has risen 500% and widespread fornication has led to an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and abortions.
Respect for Life - Many people erroneously think of the birth control pill, the IUD, and subcutaneous implants as contraceptives. However, even pro-contraceptive and pro-abortion groups admit that all three often work because they can and often do cause "silent" abortions.
Biblical Prohibitions - Does the Bible prohibit contraceptive behaviour? Most definitely. Consider the contraceptive act of Onan and the serious punishment meted out in Genesis 38:6-10. As "temples of the Holy Spirit" we are subject to punishment if we do violence to our bodies through practices such as sterilization (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). For more on this, see A Biblical View on this website
Church Teachings - Mainstream Christian churches opposed the use of artificial birth control measures up through the early part of this century. Even the US Federal Government forbade the use of contraceptives under penalty of the Comstock laws. Only after the Anglican Church opened the door to change at its 1930 Lambeth Conference did many Christian communities reject this inspired but "hard saying" (John 6:61) and embrace the ideas of Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. There was and continues to be at least one major exception to this change of heart - the Catholic Church. Jesus Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would guide His Church in the truth (John 14:15-17). We must remain faithful to this Spirit of truth. God never changes, people do.
Practicality - With NFP there is no running to the doctor or the drug store for the IUD, the Pill, or contraceptives. You never "run out" of anything; you never "forget" anything; you are never embarrassed.
Equality - With NFP the woman is no longer solely responsible for birth control and pregnancy - family planning is a shared responsibility. This is as it should be. After all, it is the man who is continually fertile; the woman is fertile only a few days out of each cycle.
Economy - NFP is cost effective. Once a couple completes a class and purchases the needed materials, they essentially have a cost-free birth control measure for life. Contrast this with the direct annual financial costs of other birth control methods:
| The Pill||$220||£135|
These are the direct costs of artificial birth control for one year. Over a thirty year span of fertility these costs can mount up to enormous amounts of money. The indirect financial costs can be staggering if medical complications arise as a result of using artificial birth control methods.
Of course, in the UK, the bill for most of this is picked up by the NHS - which has many other real needs to address with its funding.
What are the Benefits of Practising NFP?
The practical benefits of practising NFP are many, as the experiences of married couples show:
Personal Growth - The periodic abstinence required as part of the total NFP philosophy fosters the growth and development of desirable character traits. Patience, self control, and personal responsibility are the fruits of practising Natural Family Planning.
Spiritual Development - Because the successful practice of NFP is at times difficult, couples often find assistance in their religious beliefs. This reliance fosters a more devout spiritual life, nurtures a richer prayer life, and deepens one's awareness of God's presence and assistance.
- Marriage Enhancement - Couples who practice NFP frequently report that the method helps to build and sustain healthy marriages. Couples who practice NFP often have a relationship based upon faith in God and each other. They have a mutual respect for the creative forces within their bodies and rarely treat each other as objects of mere physical pleasure. These couples tend to have a less worldly attitude and children are thought of as a blessing.
Couples who previously have used contraceptives in their marriages frequently report benefits from the periodic abstinence required as part of the NFP practice. They mention that their marriage relationships are constantly refreshed by what NFP practitioners have come to know as the "courtship" and "honeymoon" phases. They report a heightened sense of physical satisfaction and a feeling of renewal every month. This puts a definite positive spin on their marriages. One very significant result is that NFP couples have a divorce rate less than 1/10 the national average.
Peace of Mind - Peace of mind comes from doing what is right. The practice of Natural Family Planning helps one to do what is right emotionally, physically, and spiritually. With NFP the Lord and Giver of life is granted His rightful place as Head of the family. NFP promotes a positive orientation toward children, the visible sign of marital love.
Self Awareness - Many woman who practice NFP indicate a heightened level of self awareness. They are deeply in touch with their bodies; they know about their fertility. With a deep sense of security they can predict their menstrual cycles and can tell if they are pregnant before most women would even come to suspect it.
Is it Wrong to use Contraceptives in Marriage?
Yes. Contraceptive practices might foster or support an anti-life, anti-family attitude. This contraceptive mentality is one in which fertility is seen not as a gift from God but as a disease to be eradicated. It is an attitude of materialism in which children are often seen only as a burden rather than the blessing that they truly are. As a result of this disordered attitude, attacks on the generative process - and even on life itself - have become widespread. The symptoms of this mentality are abundant.
Abortion is the scandal of modern society. In some cases it is being used as a form of birth control. Terms such as "contraceptive failure" and "back stop abortion" are now part of the abortion debate vocabulary. Abortion as a "right" may ultimately lead to abortion for sex selection, abortion because of known or presumed birth defects, and abortion to harvest body parts for research or transplant.
The growing societal trends toward infanticide (partial-birth abortion), euthanasia ("mercy" killing), and physician-assisted suicide are clear. Today some people are calling for a "right" to die; others are calling for a "right" to kill severely handicapped, terminally ill, or vegetative patients. What will tomorrow bring with increasing competition for space and resources, growing population and pollution? In some political campaigns acceptance of the death penalty for certain crimes is now a litmus test for candidates.
Without a doubt, the contraceptive mentality is one which permeates and affects nearly every aspect of society. A society in which self-discipline is replaced by technological control of reproduction is one in which chaste attitudes toward sex are generally undermined, human dignity annihilated, and lives destroyed.
But isn't NFP just another form of Birth Control?
NFP is more than just a way of spacing or limiting births. It's a way of life which promotes positive family values and respect for life; it is consistent with biblical and traditional Church teachings; it respects the order of nature that God instilled in each of His creatures.
Marriage is symbolic of the relationship that Christ has with His Church, a covenant relationship, one of total self-giving (Ephesians 5: 22-33). Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be a renewal of that marriage covenant. Any action which defrauds sex of its God-given meaning is impermissible. Couples who have a serious reason to practice birth control must concern themselves with the morality of the method they choose. The end never justifies the means.
How can I find out More about NFP?
If you have decided that the practice of NFP is for you, you may want to take an NFP series of classes. Alternatively, you might wish to learn NFP through a home-study course. The good news that you have just heard about is a small part of a broader, more glorious picture that will unfold in a series of four classes spaced approximately one month apart.
Carl and Carolyn Wenning are certified to teach the sympto-thermal method of Natural Family Planning by the Couple to Couple League (TC #567) of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. They have been teaching NFP since 1983. The Wennings live and teach in the Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, area outside of Chicago.
For full details of the Couple to Couple League and other NFP teaching resources, go to the resources page