The Values of Natural Family Planning

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What is Natural Family Planning?

Natural Family Planning (NFP) does not refer to the "Calendar Rhythm Method," which is based on calendar calculations of a "normal" cycle. It is not the same as the "Rhythm Method," which is not recommended because women have different cycle lengths.

NFP is based on the direct observations of various signs that occur in a woman's body (such as changes in the cervix, cervical mucus, and temperature) which tell her when ovulation occurs.

NFP involves methods. Nothing is wrong in employing methods and techniques, as long as the reasoning and purpose are correct, and implemented with the spirit of respect and reverence for God's design.

The Values of Natural Family Planning

The difference between natural family planning and contraception goes beyond one being natural and the other artificial. The difference goes deeper into the values of the human person.

NFP does not separate sex from responsibility

There are two aspects of the marital act: unitive (love-giving) and procreative (life-giving). Married couples who perform the marital act must be open to both aspects. While not every act will result in a child, it must nevertheless be open to the possibility of life.

Sex is a beautiful gift that gives pleasure and the capacity to generate life. With this gift comes responsibility. NFP takes care of this gift by exercising responsibility for it.

NFP is based on virtue

Natural family planning is based on self-control, a necessary ingredient for a healthy marriage. The sexual drive has a purpose. It is not to be destroyed or repressed, but disciplined. In NFP, sexual discipline is developed.

There are instances when spouses have to put aside the desire for sex because of sickness, fatigue or travel. In a healthy marriage, love is expressed in many ways, not just physical. In certain conditions, to refrain from sex is itself an act of love.

Using natural family planning requires abstinence from marital intercourse during fertile days if a pregnancy is to be avoided. This exercise can strengthen the couple's sexual life. When the spouses know that they can abstain for good reasons, they also come to trust each other more, and avoid the risk of treating each other primarily as object of sexual pleasure, rather than persons.

NFP is shared responsibility

Natural family planning puts the responsibility for family planning on the shoulders of both partners, because it requires communication and cooperation. Both spouses need to know the fertile days of the woman's cycle and decide together what to do (depending on whether they are trying to avoid or achieve pregnancy).

NFP requires mutual observation that would lead to a decision by the couple. NFP demands continuous dialogue between husband and wife. It facilitates a process of growth in a relationship. NFP needs a totally committed relationship because it allows the total self-giving and total union, fully accepting and respecting the fertility of the female partner.

NFP is not birth control, as contraception is.

It may be used to achieve pregnancy, since it pinpoints ovulation. It is a means of spacing pregnancy is there are serious reasons for doing so.

NFP enriches love and marriage

NFP is a practice of virtue, resting on self-control, inner freedom, respect, trust, communication, and reverence to God's plan for love and marriage. It enriches both love and marriage.

How effective is Natural Family Planning?

Successful natural family planning depends on the couple's ability to:

  • Recognize signs. Couples must know the daily signs and symptoms of fertility to determine the fertile and infertile days of each cycle.
  • Chart signs. Keeping accurate daily records of signs of fertility by observing changes in the menstrual cycle.
  • Abstain from intercourse. NFP is based on the couple's decision to have or not to have marital intercourse on certain days. Many couples find that abstinence from sex helps them find new ways of expressing affection and intimacy.

In addition, successful NFP also depends on sound instruction from a specially trained NFP teacher and proper follow-up from qualified teachers to ensure that a couple understands NFP and is using it correctly.

Methods of Natural Family Planning

Basal Body Temperature

The basal body temperature is a person's lowest temperature taken upon waking ad before rising from bed. A woman takes her temperature immediately after waking, after at least 3 hours of sleep, before doing anything else. The thermometer is placed under the tongue for five minutes. After taking the temperature, it is recorded (ideally by the husband). The basal body temperature method does not give enough advance notice of ovulation during the early phase of the cycle, buy it can be useful in identifying when the fertile phase ends.

Billings Ovulation Method

This method is based on detecting daily changes in cervical mucus discharged into the vagina. A changing mucus pattern before ovulation is a natural sign of fertility.

Sympto-Thermal Method

In this method, both the basal body temperature and Billings ovulation method are used to mark the fertile and infertile phase of the menstrual cycle. The sympto-thermal method involves:

  • charting the basal body temperature daily
  • observing and recording the changes in the cervical mucus
  • noting other signs of ovulation like pains or cramps (in the abdomen or lower back), sensitive breasts (which may be experienced around or after ovulation), and bleeding (specially if it occurs on the peak mucus day or before the rise in basal body temperature.

Lactational Amenorrhea or Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding releases hormones that prevent ovulation. When breastfeeding is total, meaning the baby is fully dependent on mother's milk, and milk from both breasts is sucked, the ovulation of the mother is delayed for several months.

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