My husband and I have used Natural Family Planning (NFP) since the day we were married. We have never used contraception, and there are several reasons why. The main reason has to do with our Catholic faith, but below I’ve listed 10 other reasons why we use NFP.
As an aside, if you are my Mom, my mother-in-law, or one of my husband’s patients, you may not want to read this article. You’ve been warned. (blushing)
1. NFP is good for the environment. There seems to be mixed information out there about contraception polluting the water supply. According to this article, though, there appears to be a €30 billion bill proposed to clean up the water supply in England since it has been contaminated by synthetic hormones from contraceptive pills. By using NFP, I’m not urinating synthetic hormones into the water supply. Also, no pill packet or condom or ring or sponge means no waste going to the landfills.
2. NFP is good for my body. Many women who buy organic food, hormone-free chicken, and hormone-free milk are recognizing that a natural method of family planning is more congruent with their lifestyle. NFP works with my body, not against it. I never suppress or shut down my reproductive system in order to avoid pregnancy and then expect it to start back up again when I want to achieve pregnancy.
By charting my fertility, when I was single, married, wanting to achieve pregnancy, and wanting to avoid pregnancy, I had insight into my health that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Charting my fertility can reveal hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism, polycystic ovaries, ovarian cysts, stress, infertility, suboptimal fertility, endometrial polyps, cervical inflammation, and fibroids.
Natural family planning doesn’t double my risk of having a stroke or heart attack, increase my risk of breast cancer, or quadruple my chances of cervical cancer. And yes, the pill can decrease my risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer, but so can a diet high in fiber. Why risk all of that when I can just eat more veggies? Want to know all the risks? Go here. The author cites the World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute, the Journal of American Medicine, and the Mayo Clinic.
3. NFP is good for my marriage. The divorce rate among NFP users is about 2%. And that’s the highest number I’ve heard. Several other studies showed divorce rates less than 1%. By not contracepting, my husband and I had to grow up, fast. There’s little room for, “I want it NOW!” It fostered maturity and trust in our marriage very quickly.
And there’s plenty of physical intimacy that we can enjoy during the fertile time that doesn’t involve sex!
My husband and I plan our family together, making decisions about whether it’s time for a baby or not, each and every month. And if we unintentionally conceive, it’s because we decided that our desire to be together physically simply outweighed our need to avoid pregnancy. All of this involves lots of communication, a willingness to be vulnerable with one another, and fosters intimacy on many levels.
It was important for me to find out how my husband felt most loved by me when we first married. Turns out (surprise, surprise), it’s through physical touch. Without physical touch, he feels unloved by me! But that’s not how I feel most loved by him. I feel most loved when he does thoughtful things for me or says something affirming. By using NFP, we have a time to be physically together and meet his needs for feeling loved, and a time to be physically apart and meet my needs for feeling loved.
In the times when we decided that we were not ready for a baby, we had to come up with alternative ways of expressing our love and affection for one another. We had to get creative! And guess what? During those times when we’ve had to abstain from sex for medical reasons (like after the birth of the baby), our marriage didn’t suffer. My husband didn’t feel neglected. We were already accustomed to being affectionate with one another in ways other than through sex.
This is something I just realized, but during the fertile time, assuming we’re trying to avoid pregnancy, when my husband does the dishes or takes the kids to the park, I know he’s not doing it to score points with me. No ulterior motive here! Truth be told, I’ll take him doing the dishes and taking the kids to the park any day, regardless of motive! But when he does these things during the fertile time, I’m more aware of how kind he is and how blessed I am to be his wife.
For those of you who know me personally, you know that my husband and I have 4 children. For the record, none of them were surprises. They weren’t all planned either. There were times where my husband and I decided that being together was worth the chance of conceiving. Several times we haven’t conceived. Twice we have. (The other 2 were planned.) But we knew exactly what we were doing.
One final thing. NFP is better for my marriage, because I let it. But it’s not magic. You can help NFP ruin your marriage if you let it, too. Here’s how.
4. Artificial hormones didn’t mess with my attraction to my husband when I decided to marry him. Did you hear about those studies that showed women on birth control were more likely to choose more effeminate men or men with DNA similar to their own compared to when they were off of the pill? While there’s nothing inherently wrong about being attracted to a more effeminate man (I think we can all agree Justin Bieber is doing just fine with the ladies), it would be creepy if it was the unnatural result of artificial hormones. Since I didn’t have hormones in me when I dated him, I let nature draw me to a man I was naturally attracted to with DNA dissimilar from myself.
5. NFP is effective. The method of NFP that I teach and use is called the Sympto-thermal Method (STM). The STM of NFP is as effective as the most effective form of hormonal contraception in avoiding pregnancy when practiced properly (charting reliably, interpreting charts correctly, following the rules). But guess what? It’s not just an effective way to avoid pregnancy, it’s also a great way to achieve pregnancy when you’re ready. No other method of family planning can do that!
The physician who created the STM of NFP did a study to determine its effectiveness in delaying pregnancy. He said that couples who used the infertile days at the beginning of a woman’s cycle had a 99% effectiveness rate (1 pregnancy in 8,532 cycles) in avoiding pregnancy. The couples who didn’t use the infertile days at the beginning of the cycle and only used the infertile days at the end of the cycle had a 100% effectiveness rate (0 pregnancies in 17,000 cycles) in avoiding pregnancy.
6. I’m not always worried that there’s a chance I could be pregnant. Since we don’t have sex during my fertile window, I don’t worry that I’m pregnant. According to many of my contracepting NFP students, since they do have sex during their fertile time, they are preoccupied with worry that they may be pregnant.
7. NFP is empowering. I didn’t understand what was happening to my body with each cycle until I took an NFP class.
I love knowing why I see mucus and why it changes in consistency, why I have breast tenderness, and why I sometimes experience spotting when I do. I love knowing the best time to perform my monthly breast exam based on where I am in my cycle. I love knowing when my next period is going to begin with a 2 day window. I love knowing what that twinge is that I feel on the right or left side of my pelvis mid-cycle. And that’s just for starters!
And since I know the interplay of all of the hormones, I have such an appreciation for how many things have to go right in order for a baby to be conceived!
8. It’s free! If you buy a book or take a class, there are obviously upfront fees. Other than that, though, you just need a thermometer and charts. Unless you use a mucus-only method in which case you don’t even need a thermometer. As my husband always says, “If it’s for free, it’s for me!”
9. We have more sex. I know this isn’t the case for all couples that don’t use contraception, but in our case, it is! I have anecdotally surveyed my contracepting friends and my non-contracepting friends to see how often they have sex with their husbands. And those who use NFP have more sex! Want to know why? Because we don’t always have tomorrow. Tomorrow we may be fertile. So we take advantage of today. And if we’re still infertile tomorrow, we take advantage of tomorrow, too!
(I didn’t know this until I was doing research for this article, but there have been studies showing that NFP users have more sex than contracepting couples. Unfortunately, I can’t find the link to the actual studies yet. But now I know it’s not just my friends and me!)
Another reason? Artificial hormones suppress a woman’s sex drive. As a busy mother of 4, it can be difficult to motivate when my husband and I have time to ourselves. Thankfully, I don’t have anything other than my own tired body hampering my desire.
10. We have really good sex. During the fertile time while we’re abstaining from sex, we start a countdown to the infertile time. And as soon as that countdown gets to zero, you better believe we’re in the bedroom…often.
It’s like chocolate. (For the record, I can’t take credit for this analogy.) If you ate chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, you’d eventually get tired of chocolate. But if you love chocolate and commit to not eating it for a whole week, but you talk about chocolate every day during that week and count down the days until you can have that delicious bar of chocolate, when you finally get to have that piece of chocolate, it’s going to taste like heaven. You get the analogy, right? ;)
The next article I’m working on is the details of how to use NFP, so stay tuned!