Shae O'Brien is an English teacher, writer, wife, and mother to three beautiful girls. She takes life with a grain of salt and two spoonfuls of sugar! Please be sure to follow her on www.facebook.com/catholicmamablog.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Why We Use Natural Family Planning: Women Speak Up About an Alternativeto Birth Control

     If you have spent anytime on the internet in the last month, then the words BIRTH CONTROL have come across your screen at least a dozen times. On a list of hot topics, women's rights are definitely skyrocketing to the top of the list! As a woman, I am proud and excited to be a part of a generation that is speaking up about equality and rights in a society where we have struggled to be seen as equals for centuries. That being said, there is a large group of women that practices an alternative form of birth control that is rarely mentioned in these discussions. (In the U.S., this pregnancy prevention method is often NOT covered by insurance and is not advocated for under the new Contraception Mandate.)

     This week, July 20th-26th, is National Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week. This alternative, completely natural form of birth control is used by women of all faiths, races, health struggles, and relationship statuses. However, it is still mentioned at a whisper in the world of contraceptive rights. So, I asked women across the world to take a picture of themselves giving their reasons for using NFP. Here are some of the responses I received...

1) Because it is all natural!

2) Because femininity is not a condition to be treated.

3) Because it helps women understand their bodies and how they can work to prevent or achieve pregnancy as their needs and desires change.

4) Because it can help women and their doctors determine medical issues and work to solve them.

5) Because birth control didn't work for them.

6) Because it is one of the only forms of birth control that is considered the man's responsibility too. (Safe sex is not just a woman's responsibility!)

7) Because it aligns with their morals or religious beliefs.

8) Because it allows couples to plan for the family they want, whether big or small.

9) Because it is inexpensive and user friendly.

Wanna know more about NFP? Comment below with any questions and I will try to answer them as a part of National NFP Awareness Week. Thank you to all the incredible women (and men) who participated in this post! God bless you.


  1. Replies
    1. Search online for:
      Couple to Couple League
      Creighton Model for Fertility Care

    2. Www.iusenfp.com is a great starting place to begin learning about methods of NFP. I will be posting about various methods this week as well!

    3. Another one that offers alot of encouragement and testimonies is 1flesh.org

  2. Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler is a great place to start!

  3. This is outstanding! Thank you for taking the time to put this together!

  4. Thank you for reading! I will be writing a comparative post on different methods tomorrow. If you would like to make a photo with a reason you like your method, I may use it on my next post! Email it to shaeopoetry@gmail.com. God bless!

  5. We used NFP for 4 years to avoid pregnancy and it worked! We were then able to get pregnant as soon as we started trying. Now, our baby is 6 months old and I don't know what to do. I don't want to use other contraception, but my cycle isn't regular. My gyno says I seem to be ovulatory and I had 1 period, but none since. I am nursing but based on the other signs LAM will not work for me. Are there resources for my options? I know that with nursing it can be over a year before my cycle returns as normal (I plan to breastfeed past 1 year), and I don't know what to do until then. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Check out the Marquette Method of NFP it uses the ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor to measure your hormone levels. It is very effective & can be used while nursing.

  6. NFP Awareness Week? The teaching of the Catholic Church is that NFP should not be a matter of course. NFP should be used when there are serious and grave reasons. Serious and grave reasons don't need an awareness week. Really. NFP should not be the 8th Sacrament. You know you can not use anything, to let nature take its course. As a matter of fact, it's preferred. NFP is not the norm. It is for serious and grave reasons. These are rare.
    When using NFP as normal mode, it is a birth control mentality.
    Check out all these places...

    1. Thank you for your concern regarding the promotion of Natural Family Planning. First, I'd like to point out that this post was created to represent and educate the diverse population that reads my blog, not only Catholics. The point in its creation was to educate everyone as to why people use NFP--not to judge people's reasoning based on religious belief.

      That being said, I am concerned about you trying to promote an incorrect interpretation of Church Doctrine. Humanae Vitae is a blessed teaching of the holy purpose and morally correct intentions of marriage, including "responsible parenting". The term "grave reasons" is incorrect and often implies that NFP should only be used in life or death circumstances. However, the correct translation (directly from the English translation on the Vatican website) uses the term "serious reasons", and the document even provides a list of possible reasons the Church would consider serious:

      "With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time."

      As you can see, this gives allowance for a husband and wife to decide to prevent pregnancy for a decided period of time or indefinite period of time. Also, The Church states via Humanae Vitae that "with regard to man's innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man's reason and will must exert control over them." This actually shows encouragement from the Church for man to use "reason and will" to control "drives and emotions" in order to be a responsible parent.

      If you do not have serious reasons to use NFP at this time, then I am very happy for you. I would caution that you do not judge another couple's morals based on choices (or simply observations) to which you do not know the prayer and discernment behind. Also, I would hope that every couple within the Church has the opportunity to learn about NFP, whether or not they currently need to practice it, so that if a serious reason arrises they are already prepared to handle it in a morally acceptable way.

      Vatican English Translation of "Humanae Vitae": http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html

    2. Laura, you've made the assumption, like many, that Catholics use NFP to avoid having children. Since I've been married, I've been unable to have children. Should I not use NFP to help us conceive a child? Or is that not a grave enough reason?

      NFP is really just an awareness of the fertility of a woman. A couple can choose whether or not to use that information to make decisions on whether it is prudent for the couple to abstain from sexual intercourse or have a marital embrace. Either option is moral.

    3. Runtomary, yes, I was referring to using NFP to space or avoid. In the rest of this reply, I also mean NFP to space or avoid.

      Shae, with a name like 'the Catholic mama', logically most of your readers are Catholic. And, no, my concern is that you are promoting an incorrect interpretation of Church Doctrine.

      My son had a brain tumor. That was a reason that my husband and I thought serious and grave enough to use NFP to delay the next little one. We are grateful that we have recourse to NFP for a time like that. He doing wonderfully now. We are grateful. Grateful beyond grateful.

      ~If~ for example, our boy had a harder battle, a longer battle, one that would last until the end of my fertile age, then, yes, we may have a serious enough reason to decide not to have children for an indefinite time. We may have another something that would come up, too. We hope not. We don't know what the future holds.

      NFP is not to be the norm. It is to be used for serious reasons. Serious reasons are not to be celebrated. They're usually pretty sobering. This post and the whole NFP awareness campaign seem pretty celebratory. In your quote from HV, the pope says serious, too.

      I am judging your blogpost to be celebratory of NFP, that's all I'm judging.

      When I did have reason to use NFP, although grateful for the option, I was not celebrating it.

    4. I forgot to add...
      Please listen to (if you haven't yet) at least one of those audio files that I linked to above. Father explains the misuse of NFP a lot better than I can.

    5. I think people celebrate that God has given us a way to abstain that is not agains the moral law, and that is in concert with our human dignity.

      I don't think any couple who is using NFP to abstain is joyful about that - all couples would prefer to have the ability to take children as they come, and not worry about spacing or number, finances or mental health.

      But we ARE joyful and we DO celebrate this teaching - that the Church, ever caring as a Mother, and God in his infinite wisdom, have given us the means to know our bodies and be responsible parents. That is cause to be joyful and celebrate! What mercy!

      We are joyful. You are a serious. Neither of us is sinning. Let us be at peace, sister, as we should be in Christ.

    6. "Serious and grave reasons don't need an awareness week."

      As Catholics, we are called to share the truth, no? I view NFP awareness week as an awareness campaign like any other: with the purpose of promoting knowledge about a specific topic. For many (including some Catholics) the knowledge that something exists beyond artificial birth control to prevent pregnancy, that is not the 'Rhythm Method', is news. For Catholics, it is good news, because it gives us a moral way to prevent pregnancy (when seriously needed) while the world is trying to push artificial means at us from every direction.

      Awareness campaigns are often not about pleasant subjects, but topics necessary for the public to be informed about. As someone with a debilitating illness myself, I find it important to educate others on how they can protect themselves from the harm I have experienced, and I do it passionately. I don't see how this is any different. These people are passionately informing the world, not just Catholics, as this is a blog that will be shared in many social forums that non-Catholics also frequent. They are letting them know that there is more to this than your doctor told you, or your RCIA class had time to, or that your highschool religion class had to offer. There are SO many people, poorly catechized Catholics included, who need to know that when God closes a door, He opens a window. Not to mention ALL of the other reasons people learn and use NFP for (to conceive, diagnose fertility issues, etc, etc.)

      I see no one waving a sign that says, "I use NFP selfishly even though I am not supposed to-- and you can, too!" We all know that we cannot judge another's motives: only God can. So why not take the opportunity to share with the world what NFP means to you? Your story of having NFP to fall back on when your son was suffering is a powerful one. What if you hadn't known of NFP? What then? Maybe it would have meant a painfully long period of abstinence; or, maybe it would have caused you to turn from the Church. Instead, it offered you the comforting embrace of your husband during an incredibly trying time your life. NFP is a gift to be celebrated for that beautiful reason, though not that reason alone.

      This is part of the truth the world needs to hear. Because by telling people we use NFP, we are also telling people we are open to life. We are telling them that barriers and hormones are *not* part of God's plan for us. We are evangelizing about the beauty of the Theology of the Body, and so many other truths the Church has to offer. And that, all of that, is good news! Good news that we are to share joyfully, even under persecution. Good news that we are to make others aware of, even if it isn't "news" to us. This is but one blog post of many. We are being called to come together as the Church and add our two cents; so that by doing so, the picture will become more and more complete with every post that ends in #iuseNFP .

      God bless!

  7. As one of the above couples, let me just add we use NFP to treat health issues. Without NFP Awareness, we may not have ever full discovered our options. Without Creighton Model & FertilityCare, I am confident I'd still be walking around with untreated PCOS, Endometriosis, an Ovarian cyst larger than a grapefruit, & other health concerns. NFP has allowed us the ability to 'let nature take its course' & have a possibility of biological children. And, NFP may allow us to space pregnancis if we find a need. NFP can be used to promote health & fertility. It can be used to avoid or space pregnancy. It's a system of getting to know your body & biology. It's a good thing! Without the boldness of other couples, NFP would be something buried in a book that we never discovered. Our lives and health are changing for the better because of NFP Awareness.

    We are all on the same Pro-life, Pro-marriage, pro-family team here! :)

  8. So something I'm curious about is the actual science behind BC. I love these articles supporting NFP, but I've seen a lot of crazy non-scientifically proven statements being thrown around (not here though). When people criticize us, I can see why: completely unqualified people will go around spouting off things. We need to be academically honest about this stuff! This article is awesome of course :-) Just wondering if any of you know of good resources to share info about contraception from a scientific background. Thank you!!

    1. Laura, thank you for reading and for your interest! I definitely understand the feeling that some "facts" get thrown out without citation a lot in the NFP community. What specifically would you like more information about?

  9. I understand NFP for fertility and pregnancy and all that but how does it treat medical conditions like severe bleeding and severe pain -issues I've had since I was 12 that only BC ever helped with.Also why would that one couple post that they dont use BC because they love and honor each other? What does using or not using BC have to do with honoring or loving one another? And why would that one woman post that her body is not "broken" as if that is what people think of women who are on birth control pills. I take vitamins and it's not because I think my body is "broken" either. I have never heard of BC being a carcinogen or causing cancer although I do know it can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.

    1. Jessica, thank you for taking the time to read and reply to this post. While I cannot speak for any of these women, I can do my best to speak to the general themes presented in their statements. Many women sent me pictures regarding their health, and they mentioned how getting off birth control allowed them to start working on determining what their health issues were and find solutions to them instead of simply masking the symptoms. (Mind you, I am in no way judging you or your situation, only mentioning their experiences.) as for the mention of vows, Catholicism specifically requires that vows include being open to procreation and giving oneself wholly to the other without any barriers (not meaning they must be constantly pregnant but that they never put a barrier between each other in regards to the marital act). In regards to the "broken" statement, I have heard from many women who practice NFP that they don't want to use medicine for something that is not wrong. You mentioned vitamins, but that is not a medicine. It is simply nutrients. I appreciate you taking the time to consider this post, and I hope I was able to address some of the questions it brought up.

  10. I read this blog thinking it would be a positive article about NFP and women/couples who choose to use it. I came to it with an open mind, and believed it would be about empowering women. That it would be a great resource for people looking for an alternative to birth control and give user's tips on what has worked for them. Unfortunately, the overall theme was completely negative. It was not about empowering women with the choices they make for the bodies, but shaming women who use birth control. It told me that if I use birth control, I am treating myself as "broken" and needing to be fixed. That I didn't mean my vows. That I have turned myself into an "object for a man's sexual whims." That I am without morals and obviously can't love God or have faith if I use birth control. Where is the Christian (and therefore Catholic included) ideals of do not judge and love they neighbor? Where is the respect for each other, that we have the right to make the best decision for ourselves and our own bodies? I have never seen a pro-BC article in which it demeans women for choosing NFP, but apparently that does not hold true for the NFP community. In fact, the end result is that I am turned off of NFP if this is the judgment and negativity that is found in the NFP community at large. So maybe, you should really reconsider if this is accomplishing your goal.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thank you for taking the time to respond to this post, even after being so put off by it. This post is meant to be a place to find a diverse list of reasons why different women choose to practice NFP. I am sorry that you turned each statement around and read it as a judgment against you. That was no one's intent here. None of the strangers you see in this post could accuse you of not meaning your vows. Some vows (specifically Catholic ones) include references to not using barriers during the marital act. No one would accuse anyone else of being broken--quite the opposite really! Women who make that statement say so because they believe that no woman is broken and so is not in need of medicine for their fertility. (Mind you, that belief is not a judgment on those who choose to use birth control, but simply a way to express pride in their womanhood.) And no one would ever be allowed to make the statement on this blog that another person's love and relationship with God is unworthy or impossible for any reason. Just because a woman offered her reason for choosing NFP does not in any way mean you are being judged for not choosing NFP. Each person makes their decisions for their own reasons. That's all this post shows us. Each of these women have a very personal reason for choosing Natural Family Planning--whether it be their faith, their commitment to natural products, their pride in their womanhood, or even their desire to survive the zombie apocalypse!--this was just a place for them to share their reasoning. I hope you can see that their reasons are not judgments for you but convictions for them.

  11. Natural Family Planning is wonderful for all the reasons above. It is my hope that women will come to view sexual intimacy as sacred. Sexual intimacy exposes our most vulnerable selves, to our spouse, and to God. One needs trust to do this. Pray The Rosary to develop trust. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the ULTIMATE feminist. She will help you with everything. Yoga is a discipline that reaps great benefits. Praying The Rosary faithfully reaps ASTOUNDING blessings and love. And inner peace.

  12. I participated in this article while pregnant and lost my little one just a few days later (3 years on the 22nd). We used NFP to avoid to allow myself time to physically and emotionally heal. We welcomed another little one to our family last year and used NFP to achieve the pregnancy. Thank you for putting together such a fun blog for so many to be part of!