I recently saw a tote bag with the saying, “The struggle is real, but so is grace.” I immediately thought of NFP (Natural Family Planning). And so in honor of NFP Awareness week (July 23-29th) here is my top ten reasons to use NFP:
10) Money in the Bank
Obviously, this isn’t the #1 reason, but a penny saved is a penny earned and using NFP costs close to nothing. The only real expense is the cost of the classes to learn properly. (The exception is the Marquette Method which involves buying a Clear Blue Easy Fertility Monitor to track your luteinizing hormone (LH).The other three major methods Sympto-thermal, Billings, and Creighton, however are basically free).
9) Living Green
I don’t think anyone feels good about ingesting chemicals. It seems ridiculous that a bag of baby carrots even has an ingredients list, but it is affirming to read INGREDIENTS: CARROTS. However, other labels may have you telling your kids, “Be sure to say a prayer before eating that mac n’ cheese.” Hormonal Birth Control methods use high levels of estrogen to override the natural hormonal cycle and mimic the only time a fertile woman’s body naturally doesn’t ovulate, which is pregnancy. Thus it makes sense that some of the common side effects are similar to those seen in pregnancy: moodiness, weight gain, breast tenderness.etc. Here is a link to the FDAs website where you can read, “It is rare, but some women will have blood clots, heart attacks, or strokes.” And what it doesn’t say is that can and have resulted in death. Just ask the families of Americans Ashley Lewis, Stephanie Rosfeld, or Zakiya Kennedy all young healthy girls that died due to blood clots related to the patch (link 2).
8) Clear Conscience
Consult any embryology textbook and you will see that the moment a sperm and egg join a new organism is formed with its own unique DNA and ability to grow and do all the things that “living things” do. Life begins at conception; God gives us life and a soul. The use of hormonal birth control can allow fertilization, but prevent implantation thus resulting in the death of a child in that early embryonic stage of development. After all, embryo, fetus, toddler, adolescent they are all terms used to characterize a stage of development of a human being. When you kill a caterpillar you also end the life of a butterfly.
7) Bun in the Oven
Knowing when you ovulate can increase your chances of conceiving when you want! NFP teachers can also look at your charts and identify problems. The Creighton Method is used by doctors who specialize in NaPro Technology to treat infertility without having to use IVF.
You don’t have to be an NFP teacher to not get pregnant using NFP. Mother Teresa taught NFP in India and in a study of 19,843 poor women the pregnancy rate was approaching zero! There have been studies done in Germany (800 couples) and China (10,000 couples) and like many other methods with “proper use” it is 99% effective. However, just like the pill (or other contraceptives) efficacy data you read that number is for a year. So 1% risk every year for 10 years = 10% chance of unexpected pregnancy with proper use. And like other forms of pregnancy prevention “actual use” numbers drop in effectiveness, for example in the Germany study of NFP this drops to 92%, condoms for example drop to 80% (varies by studies). We all know people who have had whoopsie pregnancies. I know people who have been surprised using NFP, the pill, condoms, IUDs (dangerous for baby when removed), Implanteon, and even 12 years post vasectomy.
The struggle is real, but so are the graces. NFP, if being used to prevent pregnancy, does require at times a heroic amount of restraint. However, this exercise in the virtue of chastity carries with it a spiritual good. Similar to fasting or voluntary poverty, it is the willful sacrifice of a good for a cause. I would recommend offering it up for the intention of your marriage and in reparation for past sins.
4) Personal Invitation to Christ
You’ve maybe heard sex referred to as “the marital embrace” or as a “renewal of our wedding vows.” The following is an illustration from Christopher West that really clarified for me the difference between naturally spacing your children, artificially preventing pregnancy. Imagine you are sending out wedding invitations, but there is someone you don’t want to come. What do you do? You don’t send them a DIS-invitation saying we’re getting married, but you’re NOT invited. God made men fertile 24/7, but not women. God made women with a natural cycle of fertile and infertile times. So when you utilize your times of infertility you invite Jesus to your wedding, which He appreciates, but He won’t be able to bring a gift. If you are fertile He RSVPs ‘yes’, and may or may not bring a “gift.” If you are contracepting you are disinviting Jesus; we don’t want your gifts, don’t come. Barrier methods may be desirable from a chemical and abortifacient standpoint, but they may be putting a barrier between you and God.
3) Strengthens Your Marriage
NFP users enjoy some of the lowest divorce rates (1-2%) Why is this? Commitment, communication, self-control, and being mindful of the other person are all essential elements of a strong marriage and are all similarly necessary and honed using NFP.
2) Cherished not Used
According to ChastityProject.com women often complain that contraception lowers their sense of worth. It makes sense. Women are not made to be like convenience stores open for business 24/7. St. Pope John Paul II, said “The opposite of love is not hate, but use.” Sex is made to be more than the casual, shallow, pleasure-driven past-time contraception fosters. It can become a slippery slope between the mutual self-giving it is supposed to be and not using each other.
1) Faithfulness to God’s Design
God designed sex to be a powerful procreative and unitive bond between two lovers. Our children are literally an incarnation of our love as spouses. That is why they are so beautiful! NFP never separates the power from the pleasure, the power to co-author with the Author of Life, to cooperate in grace and be led up the sometimes arduous path that leads to heaven. Integral to NFP done right is a continuous conversation with God. The idea is to take your desires and concerns to the Lord in conjugal prayer every month and discover what His plan is for your family. And we all should do this even if we aren’t using NFP. In using NFP, our fertility is put in God’s hands and that is where it belongs.For more information on the “number one reason to use NFP” and in honor of NFP week I challenge you to read Humanae Vitae. It is a fairly short and easy to read encyclical describing why contraception is against God’s natural law and therefore the Catholic Church does not even have the authority to change its teaching. God is the Master and the Magisterium is the ministers.
“He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself, lose yourself on the cross, and you will find yourself entirely.” St. Catherine of Siena
July 26th is the feast day of Sts. Joachim and Anne patrons of married couples. Sts Joachim and Anne pray for ALL of our marriages.
A special thanks to Erika and Jeff Cowman who are certified NFP teachers here in Idaho and were recently on our Catholic Idaho segment Passionately Prolife. They are an inspiration to me and I hope this inspires you to share this or another pro-NFP blog in honor of NFP Awareness Week. This year’s theme is “It’s Time.” It’s time to speak up about NFP! Looking for another idea for NFP awareness week? Jeff recommends renewing your wedding vows, just remember to invite Jesus, but not me! You can hear our segment with Erika and Jeff the next two Tuesdays during the 6pm hour on Salt & Light Catholic Radio 1140AM or 102.3FM (they are also available in the archives).