Usually when I hear about Natural Family Planning, the focus is on preventing pregnancy. I think this is, in part, due to the fact that Natural Family Planning proponents want to prove that it is an alternative just as effective as contraception. Although it is certainly true that NFP is very effective at preventing pregnancy, this emphasis saddens me because I believe that by simply comparing the preventative abilities of NFP with contraception, we lose the essence of what it truly is. It is not simply a method for preventing pregnancy, but rather a comprehensive system in which knowledge of the female body is utilized to plan a family – both to prevent (or postpone) pregnancy and to achieve pregnancy. Unlike contraception, NFP has a beautiful, life-giving component which should not be overlooked.
When my husband and I first married in July of 2010, we were dead-set on using NFP to avoid pregnancy. Slowly, over the course of several months, we realized that the reasons we had to avoid pregnancy weren’t necessarily as much of obstacles as we thought – they didn’t go away, but they began to seem less important. We decided that we would start trying to get pregnant in January. But when the time came for us to abstain in December, we decided that we were just too excited to start our family to wait another month. We hadn’t picked January for any particular reason other than it made sense to start trying with the start of a new year (but timing your family to correspond with a calendar doesn’t make much sense either) and it was really freeing for us to be able to change our mind on a dime. We didn’t become pregnant that month, but there was a definite positive change in our relationship and our outlook as we sought to grow our family.
Unlike many forms of contraception, which require scheduled appointments to remove or, in the case of birth control pills, advise waiting several months after stopping before trying to conceive, NFP is immediately reversible. Not only that, it provides one with extra knowledge that makes conceiving easier. Instead of abstaining during fertile times, a couple uses knowledge of when those times occur to heighten their chances of conceiving. For many women using contraception, the process of getting pregnant once they and their partners decide to start trying is long and frustrating. First, they must stop contracepting, then wait the allotted time before they try to conceive. If they do not conceive within a certain amount of time, they are then advised by doctors to chart their cycles in order to pinpoint the best times for conception. By using NFP, all of these steps are skipped and a couple can start actively trying to achieve a pregnancy as soon as they are ready. Of course, this doesn’t mean that some women who use contraception won’t get pregnant right away, nor does it mean that couples who use NFP won’t experience infertility or difficulty conceiving – each woman’s body is unique. But NFP does proactively help couples achieve pregnancy, whereas contraception’s only purpose is to avoid pregnancy.
My husband and I conceived our child that March, during our fourth cycle of actively seeking pregnancy. I often wonder how much longer it may have taken us to conceive if I did not know when I was fertile. For various reasons, we have decided not to use NFP to prevent pregnancy in the future unless serious reasons arise for doing so (specifically, health complications). However, I have not yet decided whether I will start charting again postpartum. To me, knowledge of my cycles is invaluable – not only will it help us to conceive again in the future, it also helps my husband and I understand the various physical and emotional changes I experience throughout the month.
About the Author: Mandi is a young wife to her PhD husband, a mommy, and devout Catholic. She blogs about learning to keep house, her Catholic faith, motherhood, and more at Catholic Newlywed.