Despite what critics say, Natural Family Planning can be good for your marriage.
If you've heard the term Natural Family Planning (NFP), it's probably almost a certainty actually, that you were given some bad information about it. As someone who has practiced NFP with my wife for around six years, I know I've heard more than my fair share of misguidance from family, the media and even priests. Sometimes it's honest confusion or simply a passing along of misinformation, but other times it's a blatant attack on a somewhat mysterious practice that many in our culture chalk up to some form of crazy desire for 20 kids or an exercise in Pope-worshiping.
I've heard it all as a marriage blogger who writes openly about all aspects of NFP and healthy sexuality over at my site, Engaged Marriage. I've even written here at YourTango about the challenges of Natural Family Planning. So, I was a bit shocked when I read a recent Traditional Love blog post by Lyz Lenz bashing NFP. I'm actually cool with bashing, and my goals in writing about NFP are never about converting people to practice it (I'm not that naive), but when someone publishes false statements about Natural Family Planning and further feeds the steady stream of misinformation that caused my wife and I so much emotional pain early in our marriage, I get upset. The Top 5 Challenges Of Natural Family Planning
But getting upset does no good, so I thought I'd instead share a bit of a rebuttal to the post and hopefully clean up some of the mud that was slung at Natural Family Planning. I could literally write a book on this subject, but you don't want to read a book about NFP, so let's just hit three major misconceptions:
1. Misunderstanding Natural Family Planning: Natural Family Planning is unfortunately a term that's been around for a long time, and it's been used by various groups over the years. The distinction here is that what my wife and I (and most everyone today) practice is Modern NFP. In Lenz's essay, she refers to her mother's struggles using NFP in the late '70s and early '80s, and the fact that she had a large (and apparently happy) family, as one reason why NFP is ridiculous. I have no way of knowing what her parents' family planning desires were, but I do know one thing—they were NOT using Modern NFP.
Like cancer research and x-ray technology, a lot has changed in our understanding of fertility and the many incredible, natural signs indicating the phases of a women's cycle over the past 30 years. Modern NFP consists of several different methods that have been adopted and endorsed by the medical community. They all rely on decades of empirical research and have very high degrees of accuracy. The method we use is called the Marquette Model, and we use a Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor to track my wife's fertility cycle. This is hardly an old-school "guess and pray" method of family planning. Here are a few other things you should know about NFP:
- When a trained couple wants to avoid pregnancy, it's 98% effective. This is the same (or better) than any form of artificial birth control on the market. Natural Family Planning Method As Effective As Contraceptive Pill
- My wife and I have planned our three children to within a few months of their birth. It is not only extremely effective at preventing pregnancy, but it helps achieve pregnancy when you're ready. And my wife has crazy, irregular cycles.
- NFP is NOT contraception. It's not pulling out. It's not the Rhythm Method or the Calendar Method of the past. It's a modern, scientifically-based means of understanding a women's fertility cycle.
- NFP is totally healthy and carries none of the side-effects or long-term health consequences of hormonal birth control.
- NFP is no longer a Catholic thing or even a religious thing. It is becoming increasingly popular among those who care about their health, our environment and even women's rights (how's that for coming full circle?).
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