(An important point of clarification on this post here)
This week is Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week!
As a crunchy, wellness minded person, I am excited about NFP, because in the process of NFP, a couple watches the signs that the woman’s body in order to understand where she is in the cycle of fertility. Despite what they taught you in middle school (at least they taught me), it is not possible for a woman to get pregnant any day of the cycle. Most women, in most cycles, will ovulate only once–and the egg will live only about 24 hours after that if it is not fertilized. During the several days before ovulation, it is possible to conceive, but after about 3 days, it won’t happen (barring a miracle). I had to correct myself here because as a former NFP teacher friend of mine pointed out to me, it is possible to conceive in the three days after ovulation, which is why the Couple to Couple League and FertilityCare teachers (among others I’m sure) will teach you to wait three days after ovulation if you are hoping to avoid pregnancy.
It is also exciting because NFP doesn’t require chemicals that might harm the body or the environment. It also doesn’t require “equipment.” Although some methods of NFP do require a thermometer, and many require charting, it doesn’t put any device inside the body, or barriers between husband and wife.
I’m also excited about NFP isn’t just for avoiding pregnancy. Because it tunes in to the body’s natural signs, it can help a couple to get pregnant. Charting the woman’s cycle doesn’t only show when she is fertile and infertile. It can also show if there are abnormalities that need to be addressed medically in order to help with conception.
NFP requires self-discipline. When a couple uses NFP to avoid pregnancy, there are times when they must abstain from the marital embrace. The “secret” that many who practice NFP know is that when the couple comes back together after this time of abstinence, it can be like a little honeymoon.
Being Catholic, I know that many people believe that the Church forbids contraception because she wants us to have as many children as possible, and keep the pews filled up. This is not the case. Contraception is forbidden because procreation and rearing of children is one of the natural ends of marriage. Contraception is also forbidden because in contraception, the couple removes God from the equation. The act of sex should say “I give myself to you completely and totally, and I accept you without reservations.” Contraception says “I want you for the pleasure you can give me. I give you everything but my fertility, and I don’t want yours, either.” It makes it easy to use and be used.
Natural Family Planning is not always easy, but it is natural, amazing in its attentiveness to the cycle of fertility, and it helps a couple to truly image the marriage of Christ and his Church.