Is NFP based on guess-work?
Who can use NFP?
What are the methods of NFP?
What are the signs of fertility?
How does NFP work?
What are the benefits of using NFP?
Where can I learn how to use NFP?
IS NFP BASED ON GUESS-WORK? Not at all. NFP is based on scientific facts about fertility. The methods are developed from research about women's menstrual cycles and the signs of female fertility.
Over a century ago, scientists discovered cyclic changes in cervical mucus and their relation to ovulation. In the 1920s, scientists identified the temperature rise that signals ovulation. But it wasn't until the 1950s that scientists developed programs to teach others how to observe and interpret these fertility signs. Today, ongoing research continues to refine the methods of Natural Family Planning. (Back to top)
WHO CAN USE NFP? Any married couple can use NFP! A woman need not have "regular" cycles. NFP education helps couples to fully understand and interpret their combined fertility, so that they can discern when to postpone or try to attempt pregnancy.The key to the successful use of NFP is cooperation and communication between husband and wife--a shared commitment. (Back to top)
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF FERTILITY? While in her fertile years, a woman’s body provides several basic ways to identify the fertile and infertile times of her menstrual cycle. The rise and fall of reproductive hormones is responsible for these signs. Recognizing the pattern of those physical signs forms the basis for all methods of NFP.
Around the time of ovulation, a fluid or mucus is released from the woman’s cervix (the opening of the uterus). When cervical mucus is present, it has the ability to keep sperm alive in the woman’s body for several days.
Another sign of fertility that can be observed is a woman’s daily waking temperature or basal body temperature (BBT). A woman’s BBT is lower prior to ovulation and will rise .4 to .6 degrees Fahrenheit and stay elevated after ovulation. The higher temperature signals the end of the fertile time.
An additional sign is a change in the shape or texture of the cervix itself. During the infertile time of the menstrual cycle, the cervix is low, closed and firm. Around the time of ovulation the cervix is high, open and soft.
With the development of ovulation prediction kits, the rise of certain reproductive hormones such as estrogen and luteinizing hormone can be observed. Finally, other optional signs, such as breast tenderness or minor abdominal pain at the time of ovulation, can also be observed by the woman. (Back to top)
WHAT ARE THE METHODS OF NFP? NFP methods focus on one or more signs of female fertility. They can be grouped into three categories:
Cervical Mucus Methods (CMM): Methods that observe cervical mucus (CMM) are commonly called the Ovulation Method (OM). In OM education, a woman learns how to identify the normal, healthy, cervical mucus which indicates the days that sexual intercourse is most likely to result in pregnancy. Local providers: Diocese of Columbus Marriage & Family Life Office, Creighton FertilityCare®, Family of the Americas Foundation, and F.E.M.M.
Sympto-Thermal Methods (STM): Methods that observe several signs of fertility and cross-check two or more of the signs to pinpoint ovulation are commonly called the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM). STM typically combines charting of the basal body temperature and cervical mucus with other optional indicators, such as changes in the cervix and secondary fertility signs. Local providers: Diocese of Columbus Marriage & Family Life Office and Couple to Couple League.
Sympto-Hormonal Method (SHM): The method that observes several signs of fertility and adds the use of an ovulation predictor kit or fertility monitor is called the Sympto-Hormonal Method. Similar to the STM, this approach adds the self-detection of reproductive hormones in the urine. (Back to top)
HOW DOES NFP WORK? NFP instruction helps married couples learn how to observe, interpret and chart the wife's signs of fertility. This enables husband and wife to identify the fertile and infertile phases of the wife's menstrual cycle.
When husband and wife wish to attempt to achieve pregnancy, they will understand that intercourse during the fertile phase of the wife's menstrual cycle may result in pregnancy. When wishing to postpone a pregnancy, husband and wife would abstain from sexual intercourse and any genital contact during the fertile time. No artificial methods are used during the fertile time.
NFP is unique among methods of family planning because it enables its users to work with the body rather than against it. Fertility is viewed as a gift and a reality to live, not a problem to be solved. The methods of Natural Family Planning respect God's design for married love! (Back to top)
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING NFP? In NFP both husband and wife are taught to understand and live God's design for married love—this will give them countless blessings! NFP methods promote a holistic approach to family planning which both respects procreation and has the potential to deepen the intimacy of husband and wife.
NFP methods support reproductive health. They are good for the body. The natural methods have none of the harmful side effects caused by contraception, especially chemical contraceptives (e.g., pill, injection, etc.). For the woman, NFP charting can even assist in the diagnosis of underlying medical problems. And, if a couple find they are having trouble conceiving, NFP information can help them pinpoint the most fertile time of the wife's cycle.
NFP methods can be marriage strengthening. NFP relies on couple communication and behavior adaptation. NFP methods require husband and wife to cooperate with each other in the most intimate area of their lives. During times of periodic sexual abstinence, husband and wife live a renewed courtship as they discover non-sexual ways to express their love for each other. On a practical level, husbands are encouraged to "tune into" their wives' cycles, and both spouses are encouraged to speak openly and frankly about their sexual desires, hopes for number of children, and prayerful discernment of God's will for their marriage.
When living the NFP lifestyle, husband and wife learn that they have a shared responsibility for safeguarding God's gifts of human sexuality, marriage and family. They also grow in their understanding of God's will for their family size. NFP has the potential to make good marriages great! (Back to top)
WHERE CAN I LEARN HOW TO USE NFP? The best way to learn NFP is from a qualified instructor—that is, one who is certified from an NFP teacher training program. To find a certified NFP teacher near you contact the Marriage and Family Life Office at 614-241-2560 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Current class offerings are listed online at familylife.colsdioc.org. (Back to top)
Adapted from What is Natural Family Planning? United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/what-is-nfp/index.cfm