What is Natural Family Planning?
Natural family planning, or NFP, is a scientific method of achieving or avoiding/spacing pregnancy by observing the changes in a woman’s body that naturally indicate a couple's fertility. It has come a long way since the old “Rhythm Method”, and it treats you like a person--body & soul.
How does NFP work?
Women are relatively infertile creatures. While men are fertile all the time, women ovulate just once a month, and the egg is only viable for 12-24 hours. In the right (fertile) environment, sperm can live for 3-5 days in anticipation of ovulation. A couple can pinpoint a woman’s fertile and infertile times by biological indicators—cervical mucus, body temperature and cervical shape. (More on signs of fertility here.)
A couple learns how to observe and chart a woman’s cycle by taking classes/ one-on-ones with an NFP teacher. The great thing about NFP is that you can use it to either achieve or avoid a pregnancy. In fact, when some couples decide they’re ready to conceive, but then run into infertility struggles, NFP often helps them where other fertility treatments fail.
See “Methods” section to see what methods are offered, and call your NFP Coordinator to see which fits best for you.
What are the Benefits of NFP?
- Is healthy.
- Has no negative side effects.
- Is comparatively inexpensive.
- Recognizes fertility as a gift, a normal healthy process, not a disease or side effect of sexuality.
- Does not interfere with future fertility.
- Is a shared method, which requires mutual responsibility & self-control
- Empowers women with greater scientific knowledge of their bodies
- Increases communication between spouses regarding intimacy, family planning, & more.
- Deepens intimacy & renews romance.
- Enhances the spiritual aspect of marriage by planning your family in way that’s not contrary to love and the Church’s teachings.
How effective is NFP?
For Achieving a Pregnancy: According to the Paul VI Institute, 76% of couples using the ovulation method (Creighton Model) and having normal fertility will achieve pregnancy in their first cycle of using fertile days for intercourse. This means that couples using NFP can accurately time conception and their due date to within about a month, 76% of the time. Those rates go up to 90% after 3 cycles and 98% after six cycles. For those with "compromised fertility" 20-40% will become pregnant within six to twelve months of use by charting alone. When couples receive medical treatment along with charting, their pregnancy rate up to 80%. Numbers may vary with the different methods.
For Avoiding/Postponing Pregnancy: Overall the rate is as high as or higher than any contraception systems--97%-99% method-effectiveness! No, really. It's THAT good. Plus, the continuation rate of NFP (people who love it and keep on loving it) is around 93%. The continuation rate for contraception ranges from 43% to 72%. (See Jason Evert's Love, Sex & Babies, page 2. Copyright Catholic Answers, 2004.)
(More on effectiveness studies here.)
Do you offer Spanish-Language Classes? Offrecen los clases en español?
Yes! We currently have one Couple-to-Couple League teaching couple that is available for Spanish instruction. Both spouses speak Spanish as a second language. Please contact the NFP Office for registering with this teaching couple. As an alternative, Couple to Couple League also offers a Home-Study kit in Spanish. For more information on NFP in spanish, visit the CCL website: www.ligadeparejaapareja.wordpress.com
When is it appropriate to use NFP to avoid or postpone pregnancy?
Natural Family Planning is all about knowledge; specifically, knowledge of fertility and the workings of a woman's body. This knowledge can be used to either achieve or avoid/postpone pregnancy. The knowledge that comes with NFP can equip couples to grow in greater appreciation for each other's fertility, for the gifts of sexuality and of marriage, and for the sacredness of every human person. In fact, knowing more about the most profound mystery of what makes us human can also point us toward knowing more about the profound mystery of God.
NFP can help a couple to grow in the virtues needed for a successful marriage: self-control, mutual respect, and sacrificial love, to name a few. It also allows a couple the opportunity to involve God in the process of discerning what is best for their family.
Our primary response to God's love is always one of generosity for who He is and for all he has given us. Generosity, first and foremost, should take the form of being open to whatever God's will is for our lives and for our vocation to marriage and family life. Does God want us to have another child at this time? is a question every NFP-practicing couple is able to ask themselves in every cycle, and act accordingly. Is there a serious reason for us to postpone a pregnancy right now? As the Church document, Humanae Vitae, states: "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 (HV 10)."
Couples are charged with the responsibility to prayerfully and carefully seek God's will for their family at all times. But figuring this out can be a daunting task. It is wise to seek good counsel from someone who supports the teachings of the Church and who has a good understanding of the struggles the couple faces. A faithful priest is a good person to begin with. I also recommend two articles that can assist with this discernment process: Discerning Just and Serious Reasons for Postponing Pregnancy
and What the Church Teaches on the Moral Spacing and Limiting of Births by Spouses.
Above all, trust that God has a plan for your marriage.
I looked at the schedule, and can't make any of the current classes. Is there another option?
Yes. First, contact the NFP Office. There are teachers willing to schedule additional classes to fit your schedule. Next, try looking at the class listings for other nearby dioceses (see links on main NFP page). Or, you may want to take a home study course. Couple to Couple League and Northwest Family Services both offer home study courses that allow you to consult a NFP instructor in your learning. Contact the NFP Office for more information on getting started. Note: Toni Weschler's "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" or any natural method that condones the uses of barrier contraception during the fertile part of a woman's cycle, are not approved or endorsed by this office.
How long before we get married should we take the classes?
You can start taking classes at any point before marriage, but we usually recommend that you start taking classes and charting at least four to six months before you get married. Many single women have also taken an NFP class simply to gain more knowledge about their own body! There's no such thing as starting too early. If you're already married and would like to learn NFP - better now than never! :-) Contact the NFP Office to get started today. For pregnant couples, we encourage you to start learning in the 7th or 8th month of pregnancy.
Do you know NFP-friendly Medical Professionals?
Yes! There are a few NFP-Only primary care providers. See our "NFP Only Medical Providers List" for their location and contact information. However, we still have no NFP-Only OB/Gyns in our Diocese. The more demand there is for NFP-certified medical professionals, the more likely they will get trained/ settle in this area. Please sign this petition for an NFP only doctor in the Diocese of Madison. If none of our NFP-Only docs are in your area or covered by your insurance, please contact the NFP Office. We may be able to put you in touch with a doctor that is "NFP-friendly". If you know a doctor that should be listed on our NFP-Only or NFP-friendly lists, please let us know!
See the Diocese of LaCrosse and the Diocese of Milwaukee for their NFP Provider Lists.
--> See also One More Soul's Comprehensive NFP-only Physician List.
Talk to me about cost.
NFP classes range in cost because the methods offer varying degrees and types of client support and differing quantities of instructional materials. A class can cost anywhere from $55 to $150, but what is included in that cost differs from method to method. Additionally, methods have differences in structure, some offering an Intro Session with individually-scheduled follow-ups, and others offering 3- or 4-class group-setting courses. So, the cost of certain methods includes the follow up fees, and in other cases, follow ups are paid for on a session-by-session basis. You can get specifics on class fees and what is included with each method's fee by visiting our "Methods" page.
In any case, keep in mind that the cost of taking a class in NFP and being provided with all of the materials and client support is far less than the cost of contraceptives. In the case of NFP, you will come away with the ability to chart your cycles for the rest of your reproductive life, with minimal, periodic costs for additional charts and/or replacing a basal body thermometer. In the case of contraceptives (even though NFP isn't contraceptive family planning), your bill can run from $20 to more than $45 a month, which can add up to several thousand dollars over your reproductive lifetime. Having said that, we never turn away couples for inability to pay the full amount. We want you to choose what NFP method is best for you and your family situation. Please do not base your decision on cost. If you need some help, please write the amount you can pay/ amount you need in the comments section of the registration form.