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Using natural, biological signs to predict fertility

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the name for a collection of methods which use the natural, biological signs of a woman’s menstrual cycle to predict fertility. With that knowledge, husbands and wives can adjust their intimacy to increase their chances of conceiving a child or – for grave reasons – to postpone or avoid pregnancy.

Unlike artificial contraceptives, Natural Family Planning does not actively change the sexual act to render it unfruitful; instead, it identifies times when intimacy should be avoided if there is a serious reason to avoid pregnancy. Thus NFP respects the two inseparable aspects of sexuality – the closer union of husband and wife, and openness to children, the fruit of sexuality. Moreover, NFP does this without introducing artificial hormones or devices into a woman’s body, while also promoting communication, intimacy, and trust within a marriage.

You may have already heard about NFP through a marriage preparation program or through resources at your parish. If you have any questions or concerns, or would simply like some more help finding support for your situation, please contact our office.

Natural Family Planning Methods

The diocese has NFP instructors available in a variety of methods. These courses aren’t just for engaged couples. They are for any married couple, no matter how long they’ve been together. Offered in many places around the diocese and available virtually. 

Creighton Model practitioners teach couples how to observe and record the quality of the woman's cervical fluid in a standardized and systematic way. The Creighton recording system has codes to classify all types of normal and abnormal cervical mucus for accuracy in determining real-time fertility. These markers undergo a progressive change throughout the cycle and are easy to learn, observe and interpret. This is a mucus only method with no internal examinations, calendars, or test strips involved. These biomarkers also show when abnormalities exist and can be used to diagnose and treat many gynecologic conditions. More information can be found at creightonmodel.com.


Contacts by area: 
(Note: All Creighton practitioners are available for in person or online classes)

 

  • Great Falls:
    Gina Hansen, FNP-C, FCPI
    Phone number: 406-403-2434

Helena Fertility Care Contacts for Creighton Instruction: 

These teachers are all located in the Helena area and are available for in person and online classes. Reach Helena Fertility Care at 406-285-1223 or helenafertilitycare@gmail.com. You can also contact them individually.  Helena Fertility Care includes:

 

The Billings Ovulation Method is a highly effective and uniquely simple method of natural family planning. It is another cervical mucus-only method and relies on the observation of patterns of fertility and infertility based on sensations and appearance of discharges. This method follows four simple rules that are applied within the woman’s cycle based on the couple’s desire to achieve or postpone pregnancy. While there are no Billings practitioners in our area, you can find a live online class here

This method utilizes observations similar to the major mucus-only methods, but combines it with a temperature sign to paint a more complete picture of your fertility each month. The Couple to Couple League uses a cross-checking system based on three signs of fertility to postpone or achieve pregnancy. Go to ccli.org to find online courses or contact the local teachers below to learn more.

 

 

The Marquette method of NFP brings 21st century technology to NFP by using the ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor, a device used at home which measures hormone levels in urine to estimate the beginning and end of the time of fertility in a woman's menstrual cycle. The information from the monitor can be used in conjunction with observations of cervical mucus, basal body temperature, or other biological indicators of fertility. We are currently working to get a few Marquette instructors in our Diocese. Until then, you can also find live online classes here

FEMM is a Sympto-Hormonal method that teaches the identification of cervical mucus, the use of FH strips for hormonal testing, and makes use of an App for charting. This system also integrates current research on a woman's reproductive hormones and has a companion medical system that supports the method. 

 

Please Note: FEMM does not require its teachers or medical practitioners to be "NFP-only." For this reason, we can only endorse the use of our contacts listed here: 

 
  • Kalispell:
    Sara Rolfing, RN, BSN, FEMM Certified
    Founder of TrueFem: www.TrueFem.org
    Offers adult education and TrueFem for Teens (girls ages 9-18)
    Email: admin@truefem.org
    *Sara only offers virtual services

Frequently Asked Questions About NFP

Like many people, you are probably wondering, “Which fertility awareness method is best?” But the better question to ask is really “Which fertility awareness method is best for me?” For more information and a comparison of the methods, check out this article from Naturalwomanhood.org or read this Diocese of Lansing NFP overview

There are many benefits to using NFP, including moral, medical, and relational reasons:

Additional information on Natural Family Planning can also be found on the USCCB’s website.

 

RELATIONAL BENEFITS
  • NFP is entirely moral and in line with Church teaching, and respects God’s design for married love and human sexuality.
  • NFP values children as a natural end of both sexuality and of marriage, even when couples have a serious reason for avoiding pregnancy.
  • NFP fosters respect for and acceptance of the total person.
  • NFP requires mutual responsibility by both husband and wife, and promotes couple communication.
  • NFP inspires other forms of intimacy and bonding during times of abstinence.
  • NFP is economical (typically a couple pays for the class but the rest of planning is cost free).
 
MEDICAL BENEFITS
  • NFP teaches a couple to understand their bodies and their combined fertility.
  • NFP works with fertility, rather than masking it or overriding it.
  • NFP can be used by doctors to evaluate a woman’s health, sometimes identifying health problems early (e.g. infertility, PCOS, cancer).
  • NFP is completely organic, adding no artificial hormones or devices to your body, and has no harmful side effects.
  • NFP is effective for both achieving and avoiding pregnancy, and has helped many couples struggling with infertility to conceive.
  • NFP can be used throughout a woman’s reproductive life (e.g., post-partum, breastfeeding, perimenopause, etc.).

Myth #1

NFP IS JUST ANOTHER NAME FOR RHYTHM
REALITY: Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for modern, scientifically accurate, and reliable methods of family planning. It differs significantly from the older Rhythm (or Calendar) Method. The Rhythm Method tried to estimate the time of next ovulation by calculating previous menstrual cycles. Although this approach had scientific underpinnings, in practice it often proved inaccurate because of the unique nature of each woman’s menstrual cycle. NFP, by contrast, has been proven scientifically sound in both theory and practice.
 
NFP is based on scientific research about women’s cycles of fertility. Since the 19th century, doctors have known about the changes in cervical mucus and its relation to fertility. In the 1920s, temperature rules were developed. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that an educational process was developed to teach the observation and interpretation of these fertility signs.
 
The NFP methods are: the Basal Body Temperature (BBT) method, which monitors changes in a woman’s temperature when she wakes up each morning; the Ovulation Method (OM), which monitors changes in a woman’s cervical mucus; and the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM), which combines observations of temperature and cervical mucus with other indicators such as changes in the cervix and secondary fertility signs.
 

Myth #2

NFP CAN ONLY BE USED BY WOMEN WITH REGULAR CYCLES

REALITY: The natural methods do not depend on having regular menstrual cycles; they treat each woman and each cycle as unique. NFP works with menstrual cycles of any length and any degree of irregularity. It can be used during breastfeeding, just before menopause, and in other special circumstances. NFP allows a woman to understand the physical signals her body gives her to tell her when she is most likely to become pregnant. Once she understands this information, she and her spouse can use it according to their family planning intentions.

 

The natural methods can be used throughout a woman’s reproductive life. These methods are progressive. That is, they monitor the current, day-to-day signs of the woman’s cycle. Instruction in NFP provides couples with information about their bodies that is specific and observable. When special circumstances do occur, a woman can contact an NFP instructor for additional guidance in interpreting her signs of fertility.

 

Myth #3

NFP IS TOO COMPLICATED TO BE USEFUL FOR MOST PEOPLE.

REALITY: Anyone who is taught by a certified teacher and motivated to use NFP can do so. The methods are so simple that they have been successfully adapted to suit the needs of countries all over the world – first world countries and third world countries; those with many years of education, and those who are illiterate.

 

In a World Health Organization (WHO) study, 725 couples from five countries – El Salvador, India, New Zealand, Ireland, and the Philippines – were taught the ovulation method of NFP over the course of three months. After a year the couples were evaluated, and the method effectiveness rate was 97.2%. Note: half of the Salvadorean couples were illiterate, proving that an advanced education is unnecessary for learning NFP effectively.

 

Myth #4

NFP IS NOT A RELIABLE METHOD OF FAMILY PLANNING.

REALITY: The effectiveness of NFP depends upon spouses’ following the rules of the method according to their family planning intention (i.e. achieving or limiting pregnancy). When couples understand the methods and are motivated to follow them, NFP is up to 99% successful in spacing or limiting births.

 

When comparing family planning methods, researchers distinguish between “perfect use” – when a method is used consistently and correctly every single time – and “typical use” – or the success rate for all people using the method, no matter how precisely or consistently they use it. As the chart below demonstrates, NFP is just as effective at preventing pregnancy as other common family planning methods, particularly when it is used consistently and correctly.

 

NFP / sympto-thermal (perfect use): 99.6%
NFP / sympto-thermal (typical use): 89%

The Pill (perfect use): 99.7%
The Pill (typical use): 92%

Condoms (perfect use): 98%
Condoms (typical use): 85%

Withdrawal (perfect use): 96%
Withdrawal (typical use): 73%

 

Myth #5

COUPLES WHO USE NFP HAVE LESS SEX THAN THE AVERAGE AMERICAN.

REALITY: Most people most of the time are not engaged in sexual activity (see table). If couples who practice NFP were to engage in intercourse on all the days when abstinence is not required for spacing births, they would be doing so at a rate almost twice the national average!

 

Average monthly coital frequency among both married and unmarried couples in the United States:

 

Age:      Frequency (per month):
18-24      8
25-34      9
35-44      8
44-55      7
55-67      5

 

If wishing to avoid pregnancy, a couple practicing NFP is usually advised to abstain from intercourse and genital contact during the wife’s fertile time. NFP couples can make love no less frequently in each cycle than other couples.

 

Myth #6

THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NFP AND ARTIFICIAL METHODS OF CONTRACEPTION.

REALITY: NFP methods are different from and better than artificial contraception because they:

 

  • Follow God’s design for sexuality as both love-giving (unitive) and life-giving (pro-creative).
  • Are moral and in line with Catholic teaching (contraception is considered a serious sin).
  • Foster respect for and acceptance of the total person.
  • Cooperate with, rather than suppress, a couple’s fertility.
  • Can be used both to achieve and avoid pregnancy.
  • Call for shared responsibility and cooperation by husband and wife.
  • Inspire spousal communication.
  • Have no harmful side effects.
  • Are virtually cost free.

 

Myth #7

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WANTS PEOPLE TO HAVE AS MANY BABIES AS POSSIBLE.

REALITY: In fact the Church encourages people to be responsible stewards over their fertility. In this view of “responsible parenthood” married couples carefully weigh their responsibilities to God, each other, and the children they already have when making decisions about the number and spacing of their children.  Couples who prayerfully discern that they have a serious reason to avoid pregnancy can make use of NFP to do so.  In fact, that is why Natural Family Planning was developed in the first place!  (For more on “serious reasons” see CCC 2368USCCB, and EWTN.)

 

The nature of both marriage and sexual intercourse are life-giving (pro-creative) and love-giving (unitive).  This reflects the Divine plan. That is why the Church teaches that couples must not actively separate their fertility from their sexual union (e.g. by using contraceptives). To do so is to show disrespect for an important gift of the Creator, a gift that is intrinsically bound with the unitive nature of marital love.

 

Myth #8

THE CHURCH DOES NOT WANT COUPLES TO HAVE SEX FOR PLEASURE’S SAKE.

REALITY: The Church wants married couples to have the best sex possible! Remember, there is a difference between simply “having sex,” which includes actions directed towards the self, and “making love,” which requires the giving of self to the other. Only in a lifelong, committed, loving relationship, centered in Christ, can couples hope to fully experience the sacrament of life and love, i.e., marriage.

 

Current studies confirm what the Church has always taught: married sex is more fulfilling and enjoyable than uncommitted sex. People who “use” sex only for their own pleasure end up using other people–and they lose the real joy of sexuality. Unconditional love is what marriage is all about. That love is a real source of joy in the lives of married couples!

Learn More

ABOUT NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING

The Catholic Church supports the methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP) because they respect God’s design for married love. In fact, NFP represents the only authentic approach to family planning available to husbands and wives because these methods can be used to both attempt or avoid pregnancy.