Isn’t NFP Just Catholic “Birth Control?”

I am in no position to talk to you about NFP, because:

  • We’ve had 3 babies in 4 years, the most recent addition being somewhat surprising in her timing.
  • I forget to chart. Often.
  • I frequently say terrible things like “Let’s give them back” or “Let’s never have sex again” … in jest, of course, but still… what kind of a mother/wife/Catholic says those things?
  • I have often fantasized about taking a magical pill which will forever ‘free’ me from the burden of motherhood.

And that’s exactly why I want to talk to you about contraception, which is, as it turns out, an entirely different animal from NFP.

NFP does not equal contraception. It is not ‘Catholic birth control,’  however persistently our illiterate culture pushes the notion. Contraception necessitates a step taken, a physical or chemical interference in the life-giving process of human sexuality.

Delaying conception, on the other hand, or to use soon-to-be-Bl. Pope Paul VI’s phrase, “the intentional spacing of children,” does not tamper with the life-giving potential of sex.

On the contrary, using knowledge of one’s cycle to avoid a pregnancy virtually bows down in the face of Divinely created human fertility and says “I defer to your awesome power” — there’s no funny business about shutting down or circumventing or cutting off or wrapping up and proceeding as if nothing has changed.

So in this way, fertility awareness aka NFP aka ‘birth control’ in the real sense of the phrase is about the furthest thing from contraception. A better term for it might simply be self control.

Instead of enabling sterilized, life-denying sex, it summons temperance. Prudence. Delayed gratification. Concepts few couples seem to have room for in their bedrooms or their marriages in our present culture.

NFP says “I recognize the gift, I am in no position to receive the gift, I offer the gift back to the Giver in gratitude…even when it’s a difficult offering to make.” And it’s sometimes a very difficult offering — both the abstaining part and the ‘maybe we really are ready to welcome another child’ part.

The Church isn’t anti-contraception because She is anti-science or anti-technology (couldn’t be further from the truth, actually, but that’s another post entirely), but rather, because contraception is fundamentally anti-woman and anti-life. And anything that opposes life itself definitely opposes the Source of all life.

It’s not a matter of finding a ‘natural’ way to avoid getting pregnant; it’s about coming to terms emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually to the reality that sex and procreation are intentionally, inextricably linked. For a reason.

Contraception says, if you’ll forgive the expression, forget you, Giver…now shove aside so I can screw with my partner.

Too crude? Maybe. But for those of us for whom sex is a daily topic of conversation with relative strangers, it’s probably not entirely shocking to hear a tired mom throw around the term.

Or if it is, then you need to spend more time in the checkout line at Target.

Because:

  • Are they all yours?
  • Are you done now?
  • Finally got your girl, huh?
  • Are you going to try to give her a sister?
  • Oh, they’re NOT twins?
  • You’ve been busy…
  • You do know what causes that, right?

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…until you think you might scream at the very next person who comments on your reproductive activities.

I actually fairly frequently encounter friendly, non-hostile and curious strangers who are genuinely surprised and happy – if a little confused – to see a youngish mom with so many little kids in her charge. Especially kids who look like they could maybe be twins but aren’t.

Nobody has kids as close together as some of us practicing Catholics tend to (well, maybe Mormons), and so while to some people it’s repulsive, for most it’s simply … surprising. And I don’t mind being surprising.

Except when my kids are misbehaving. Or when I’m sleep deprived. Or when I’m in a hurry and I honestly don’t want to talk to you about how you came from a family of 10 but your husband had a vasectomy and you always wondered if you should have tried for a third but it’s a relief to be done with the diaper stage, anyway, and doesn’titalljustgobysofastanyway?

Those are the times when I have to summon my deepest reserves of grace and patience and put-a-smile-on-your-face-and-make-this-look-good attitude, because I, me and my little family, and you and your families, are cultural missionaries — emissaries from another planet — however you want to look at it. And we must send the message that we come in peace.

I remember hearing about how an acquaintance’s husband would sometimes remind her to smile when they were in public, “so people will know we’re enjoying this.”

“This” being the teeming, boisterous life with 5 small children in tow.

I recall being mildly scandalized by this, hearing it with only a year or so of mothering my firstborn under my belt (and pregnant with my second born under my belt, literally) and wondering how he could be so callous toward her, because mothering is hard, dammit, and you’re reminding her to smile?!

Now that I’m deeper into it, I realize how right he was. I think about it often, talking myself down when somebody is melting down in the grocery store or trying to crack my nose with their skull while we share a skinny airplane seat or maybe just pew-diving on any given Sunday … I mentally revisit his very helpful reminder to “look like you’re enjoying this.”

Because for as much as our culture professes to hate life, to fear life, to seek its destruction, even our culture is starving for a little slice of authentic happiness.

Bl. Mother Teresa said that “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

I think if it’s a painful smile, like the kind you might flash at Costco when a particularly horrific behavioral issue might be rearing its head over the lack of quality of samples that day or the denial of ice-cream from the snack counter, it’s probably even more beautiful.

So, act like you’re enjoying it, mama. Even when you’re not. Maybe especially when you’re not.

NFP isn’t the Catholic solution to the problem of ‘too many children;’ rather, it is the Church’s response to the gaping void of too little love.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Mama Needs Coffee, the authors blog, and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

image: Petrenko Andriy / Shutterstock.com

Jenny Uebbing

By

Jenny Uebbing is the content editor of Heroic News, a web-based news service dedicated to life and cultural issues. She maintains a blog at mamaneedscoffee.blogspot.com, and writes frequently elsewhere on matters of bioethics, human sexuality, contraception, and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. A graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, she and her husband David reside in Rome, Italy with their young family.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • DaveRamseyFan

    It’s not about too many kids…it is the ability to pay for all of their needs, college included and be able to save enough to retire on. At age 46 to retire comfortably both of us and secure college for our 2 kids we need to have $527,000 invested, plus be debt free and a paid off house. If we had more kids that number would be even higher. So it is not just a question of how many but how much??

  • HenryBowers

    Punchy, agile, and convincing; well-done. But if contraception is essentially about “shove aside Giver…” then how can it be _intrinsically_ wrong, i.e. even for unevangelized tribes who know nothing of the Giver? If contraception is intrinsically wrong, it can’t be because it’s impious. Therefore, I think we need to recognize that opposing life itself is what is unreasonable, and as the author intimates, adopting NFP is to suspend all judgement about the good of a future life. NFP accepts non-conception as a side-effect, in the pursuit of other goods. On the other hand, the steps taken to enact timed abstinence _can_ be deployed as a species of contraception, if the abstinence is chosen as a judgement and will against life. So we need to disclaim the notion that NFP is the only possible use of timed abstinence.

  • MaryIsOurMother

    This is what our modern culture teaches – quite the opposite of Jesus’ instructions. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Mat 6:33. The wisdom provided to us 3,000 years ago is also quite appropriate -especially in today’s world: “It is vain for you to rise early, or put off your rest, you that eat hard-earned bread, for he gives to his beloved in sleep. Behold, sons are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” – Psalm 127:2-3. I am 54 with 6 children (youngest 11). When I finally started to live according to these teachings, not only did life became much more simple and peaceful, the Lord provided the means for me to provide for my family while working 4 to 5 hours a week.

  • Cmhs

    Hmm, sounds like you need to read Humane Vitae. Unless there is a grave reason NFP is not acceptable in the Catholic Church.

  • PGMGN

    We’re not commanded to pay for our children’s college and have a comfortable retirement. That is the world’s gospel, or at the very best the Gospel of American Commercialism.

  • Emily

    to read stories of how couples (anonymously contributed by women) have made NFP work in their life, visit Conversation with Women http://www.conversationwithwomen.org/category/natural-family-planning/

  • TOB Fan

    It is a question of generosity, not quantifying children to a dollar amount. It is about spiritual generosity in trusting the Lord when he stretches you. It is a question of prayer so that you hear the Lord who may or may not wish to provide you with the gift of new life. It is not a one sided dialogue where you have it all figured out by a finite financial plan.
    Last I heard, our Lord’s mother hadn’t planned or budgeted for Christ. She did place all her trust in the goodness of God.

  • TOB Fan

    Jenny, I do not know if it will help you but when I had my larger tribe in tow and was stuck in some checkout line, I decided to change my response to those snide or befuddled comments about my large family. For example, “Are they all yours?”, I would look the questioner directly in the eye and answer, “Yes , won’t you agree how beautiful they are and how Blessed I am?”. They did agree and stated it out loud for my children present to hear. God Bless you tired mamma.

  • PeteTheBeat

    As Jesus tells us, “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God, and all of these things will be added to you.” As a father to six, yes kids are expensive, but $$ is not my joy, my family is. The Lord knows our financial needs, and while we cannot be irresponsible for our financial spending, putting God’s plan FIRST secures our future the way He intends!

  • Anon

    If there is a place within a marriage for sex to be something other than procreative then that is saying that sex is important regardless of whether or not it is procreative. Which is 100% true. It is important in a marriage whether you are 20 or 70, whether you are infertile or not. NFP is not contraception but it is absolutely birth control. Sex is part of a healthy relationship with your spouse and there are 5000 other things that can interfere with it, not just an ovulation schedule. I have to say that with three children under 3 (for awhile I had 3 children under two) we are not in the position to have another child without myself suffering some serious mental health issues. However because of a military lifestyle, it would be hard, almost impossible to practice NFP and STILL have sex. I refuse to believe that God wants me to a) not have sex with my husband or b) lose my mind.

  • GFPchicken

    Hang in there, I’m sure you’re doing a great job raising those little ones! I do think there are times when God calls spouses to not have sex. If you happen to be fertile when your husband is home from deployment, and you absolutely can’t have another child right now, I think that’s one of those times, however hard it might be to admit that.

  • Dano

    Hey Ramsey Fan, if you’re so worried about having enough money for those temporary moments on this side of death, then you’re truly missing the peace and confidence that the Lord will provide. Surrender your vain plans and entrust yourself and your family’s future completely to Jesus. Ask for the Grace to live each day with MAXIMUM LOVE & MERCY.
    Ask God to teach you to be poor. Seek holiness, you won’t believe hoe different and happy you will be from the rest of the world.

  • Lukas

    I read on one Catholic blog that Catholics once use to, generally, engage in the
    marital act only when they sensed the desire to procreate (desire to produce
    children). This is called virtuous continence (as approved by the 1930
    encyclical Casti Connubii), not Natural Family Planning. This would naturally
    occur when a woman reaches ovulation where new healthy eggs are produced as the
    hormone system, at this point, is in sync with the natural fertility cycle of
    the woman.

    What does this mean? — It means that if couples engage in the marital act any
    time they please (e.g., natural family planning with intent to prevent
    fertility), they are playing Russian roulette with the human embryo that may be
    spontaneously aborted (as the women’s hormone system was not prepared to
    receive the human embryo in the womb) or the human embryo is fertilized and
    implanted in a weakened state from an aged egg that results in possible
    miscarriages, birth defects, developmental disorders and/or future health
    problems for the child who survives the NFP barrier. There are NFP studies on
    the internet verifying some of the foregoing possible problems with NFP.

    I also found a study from the National Institute of Health that found if women
    plan their births then there are almost no side effects to the births of
    children at delivery. Why are there virtually no side effects at delivery in
    these cases? — Because those who plan their births do so at the height of
    fertility (NEW not possibly aged EGGS) through the natural procreative drive
    (i.e., ovulation) or through reverse NFP (i.e. NFP used to determine when ovulation occurs), in which cases, a woman’s hormone
    system is effectively timed to produce a healthy robust human embryo from a
    healthy new egg, the womb is hormonally and timely prepared to receive and
    maintain that embryo and, finally, the womb is hormonally and timely prepared
    to birth a healthy child at delivery!

  • RoodAwakening

    Another consideration: My husband is far less consumed with worry concerning his elderly parents’ care than I am about mine precisely because he has seven siblings to share the responsibilities with…and I do not! (The one brother I do have is severely developmentally disabled, so also needs care.) Believe me, I sincerely wish I had more siblings!

  • NFP Instructor

    You make so many biologically incorrect statements I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, NFP is hardly Russian Roulette…besides being highly effective, when method or user failures do occur, they are normally before ovulation not after, so I don’t even know what you are talking about with old eggs. Secondly, a husband and wife desire each other at many other times besides the day or two prior to ovulation, so I don’t know how you come to that conclusion. Someone who is not using periodic abstinence is likely to use many days throughout the cycle, including many days which are not fertile or have low fertility. Why don’t you post a scientific source (i.e. article published in a peer-reviewed journal) instead of accusing large groups of couples of doing something that harms their babies?

  • NFP Instructor

    I’m sorry you are having a difficult time! If you want any support, I highly recommend coming to http://www.livingthesacrament.com. It’s a support website for Catholic women trying to embrace the sacrament. Most women use NFP or nothing to plan their family and enjoy the practical and social support. We have many women from military families on there who can definitely sympathize and share their experiences.

  • John Lillis

    Contraception is a mentality, no matter how it is sugar coated. If you “use” NFP to contracept, then your contracepting. First and foremost, if you are using NFP, you must have grave and serious reasons — otherwise, you’re contracepting like everyone else. Sure, it’s natural, but just as Couple to Couple League advertises (and yes they do) — “It’s 99.9% Effective as the Pill.” Hmmmmm…. Who’s fooling who here folks. Either you have a contraception mentality, a misinterpretation of the Infallible Humanae Vitae or you’re just willfully ignorant.

  • NFP Instructor

    John if NFP was contraception, then there would be no situations in which we were allowed to use it because contraception is a sin, so that makes no logical sense. Secondly, here is what the USCCB has to say on the difference: “When couples use contraception, either physical or chemical, they suppress their fertility, asserting that they alone have ultimate control over this power to create a new human life. With NFP, spouses respect God’s design for life and love. They may choose to refrain from sexual union during the woman’s fertile time, doing nothing to destroy the love-giving or life-giving meaning that is present. This is the difference between choosing to falsify the full marital language of the body and choosing at certain times not to speak that language.The Church’s support for NFP is not based on its being “natural” as opposed to artificial. Rather, NFP respects the God-given power to love a new human life into being even when we are not actively seeking to exercise that power.” – http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/love-and-sexuality/index.cfm#contraception

  • NFP Instructor

    Also there is no doubt that NFP can be used selfishly and even sinfully if a couple is refusing to cooperate with God. However, the phrase contraceptive mentality is very problematic as outlined by the good Fr. Ryan Erlenbush: http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2011/09/natural-family-planning-with.html

  • John Lillis

    Righhhhhht. And that has nothing to do with what I said. The sin of contraception is internal and external, hence in the Confiteor we confess the things we have done and the things we have failed to do. Let’s not waste time talking around the issue, either you obey the Church or you don’t, there is no happy middle-ground; therefore, if you use, underscore “use” NFP as contraception, the sin is in your heart; just as Jesus said that if “a man should lust after a woman, he hath already committed adultery.” If you have grave and serious reasons for NFP, then, and ONLY then does the Church authorize its closely scrutinized use. Furthermore, NO ONE should use NFP who has not been to see their Priest, for this decision is NOT one of freedom of conscience as the conscience of our collectivness has been decieved.

  • slainte

    “…NFP says “I recognize the gift, I am in no position to receive the gift, I offer the gift back to the Giver in gratitude…even when it’s a difficult offering to make.” And it’s sometimes a very difficult offering — both the abstaining part and the ‘maybe we really are ready to welcome another child’ part…”
    .
    But one cannot engage NFP indefinitely for the purpose of exercising control over the size of one’s family…I had a conversation with a woman in Catholic bible study who claimed NFP could be engaged indefinitely to limit one’s family size and that she was taught this in Pre-Cana classes. A person’s intent with respect to the use of NFP matters as it does in most things.

  • John Lillis

    Sorry, didn’t see that in the original vein… I want to read what he says before I comment, thank you for sharing it.

  • John Lillis

    Well, I read it… There are significant academic and logical errors on both sides of this argument; however, even if one were to scrutinize “Just Causes” as opposed to grave and serious, the net result is the same when the American Church teaches this in Pre-Cana as Catholic Birth Control and sells it visa v the CtoC League as, again, 99.9% Effective as the Pill. No getting around it.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Spouses can use NFP indefinitely as long as the serious reason for doing so continues.

  • NFP Instructor

    It certainly could be used indefinitely (at least until menopause). Consider a wife who has a medical problem that makes having another child quite dangerous. They certainly might decide to use NFP indefinitely. I agree that NFP ought to be used in a way where there is ongoing communication and prayer about having more children, but in some situations the barriers to having more children is unlikely to change.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    “Furthermore, NO ONE should use NFP who has not been to see their Priest.”

    This is not a Catholic teaching. The decision belongs to the couple who are responsible for their decision. A priest or anyone else can only advise them.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    @DaveRamseyFan, Is your comment satirical?

  • John Lillis

    Kevin, that was precisely my point: Spiritual Direction. You nailed it!

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I think you mean to say that if you use NFP without a just reason you are doing wrong. However, you are not contraceptive unless you do something to render the marriage act infertile.

    Here is a comparison of NFP and contraception: http://catholicstand.com/humanae-vitae-nfp-contraception/

  • John Lillis

    Yes, yes! However, that is simply a problem of linguistics.

  • John Platts

    There is a moral difference between preventing pregnancy by abstaining during the fertile period and engaging in marital intercourse during the infertile period and preventing pregnancy through the use of artificial contraceptives. In the first case, the couple does not actively prevent any of the processes essential to natural human reproduction from occurring and prevents pregnancy by engaging in sexual intercourse at a time where the natural conception of a new life is unlikely to occur. However, in the second case, the couple actively prevents a process that is essential to natural human reproduction, such as ovulation, fertilization, or implantation from occurring through one or more mechanisms of an artificial contraceptive.

  • Andrew

    You are dead wrong. Unless you have a “grave reason” to avoid pregnancy as Pope Paul VI said it is the mortal sin of contraception.

  • Laura Patten

    No, it’s not a problem of linguistics. It’s the fact of an action (sterilization, pill, condom) and a non-action (abstinence during fertile times). It is physically, biologically impossible to use NFP to contracept. A couple might use NFP to avoid pregnancy for entirely selfish reasons, but the sin there is in the being selfish, not in using contraception — because they’re not.

  • slainte

    Apologies I wasn’t clear.
    .
    Absent a medical or other compelling reason, NFP should not be used indefinitely for the sole purpose of limiting one’s family size. Am I correct?
    .
    The lady in my bible class thought it could be used like birth control without a compelling reason just to control the size of her family. I disagreed with her.
    .
    Further, I married in 1998 and don’t recall learning about NFP in pre-cana…did it exist back then and, if so, was it widely taught? Thanks for your imput.

  • slainte

    Thanks for responding.

  • Dessy12

    Brilliant article — truth with humor. As a baby boomer, I regret embracing the
    contraception mentality. Hope your generation can correct it.

  • D

    A female is born with all her eggs.. there are no new eggs that spontaneously form. A newborn baby girl has all the eggs she will ever have.

  • vito

    by its objectives as well as results, there is no doubt it is a type of birth control. And I think it does fall withing the broad definition of contraception. It would certainly seem so to people outside the Church, as well as in terms of traditional Catholic teaching before the rather recent legalisation of NFP.

  • Darran McDonnell

    It is outright semantics. Humanae Vitae defined what NFP is, and it defined it infallibly. Anything outside of this is outside of the Church and morality.

  • Ryan Mayer

    “by its objectives as well as results…”

    The intention to avoid conception is not itself immoral, as Humanae Vitae attests. The “result” of avoiding conception does not come about because of something the couple does (as in contraception) but because of the woman’s natural fertility cycle.

    “It would certainly seem so to people outside the Church…”

    Because they fail t make the necessary distinctions and are probably consequentialists.

    “as well as in terms of traditional Catholic teaching before the rather recent legalisation of NFP.”

    The Church has always taught that contraception is immoral. Before the advent of reliable contraceptive methods, people understood that if you are not ready to conceive then you should avoid intercourse (*gasp*…shocking, I know). This discussion around NFP is only “recent” because of the now widespread contraceptive culture and because the methods of observing fertility signs have become more sophisticated. NFP in reality means just not having sex during particular times if you’re not willing or ready to conceive a child. How that can be called the same thing as taking a carcinogenic hormone to alter one’s body-state or strap on a piece of latex to avoid actually touching genitals with someone is beyond me.

  • Marsha

    I finally gave myself permission to get grumpy with the kids in public. We have 10. Too many people either have total misconception about a big family–or they have pie-in-the sky ideas about how blissful it is, and how rich we must be because I stay home, etc. I don’t have to impress anybody. Haters gonna hate. There’s nothing I can do about that. I came from a combined family (after divorce) with 8 kids. My stepmom insisted we give the world an impression that we were soooo happy. People at church looked to us as a model family. We got an award from the local government entity for being so “awesome”. Truth was that there was every kind of abuse going on at home. Be real. Screw the haters. The kids matter and parents’ sanity matters. What other people think doesn’t even need to be on the radar screen. We’re very happy and our kids are high achievers.

  • Marsha

    So what you’re saying, John, is that /not/ having sex is a sin?

  • Marsha

    Look into the Marquette Method. All their info is online. It uses the Clearblue Fertility Monitor. Soooo much easier than the messy and complicated alternatives.

  • Marsha

    NFP was definitely around. The Couple to Couple League was founded in the early 70′s. They’re one of the bigger NFP apostolates. Every diocese used to have its own NFP office until the apostolates became the default in most dioceses.

    I’m using NFP “indefinitely” because of health problems. That said, we do reevaluate every single cycle. That’s the thing about NFP, it’s not like getting a tubal ligation. A couple has to constantly recommit to the abstinence and recommit to the reason that keeps them from postponing conception. It’s always a sacrifice, even when used with less-than-noble intention.

    I knew a lady who was a doctor’s wife. He wanted children and she “wasn’t ready” because she really liked showing her dogs. Yeah….I wonder about that one.

  • Marsha

    *and recommit to the reason that keeps them postponing conception.

  • Lukas

    Whatever point you are making, my comment only states that the after ovulation, the eggs age; more specifically ovulation releases healthy eggs that eventually degenerate and then ultimately die. Also, I have know of no scientific reference that states all possible eggs are already present in the body of a female at birth.

  • Lukas

    As a NFP instructor I would ask that you pray to the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the grave immorality and dangers of NFP. If another Christian and/or the Holy Spirit warns those involved with NFP of the evils of this practice and they continue in this evil practice anyway, they are engaging in grave sin (according to the 1930 Encyclical, Casti Connubii, which is still in effect).

    I have studied the NFP process very carefully and am fully aware that there are pre and post ovulation methods of NFP (along with the sympto-thermal method). I am also fully aware that an egg may be fertilized at any point during the women’s cycle (please do your own research on the internet about this possibility). Obviously, there are times that fertilization is extremely rare, but it can happen. I am also aware that many women who use NFP do not follow the NFP procedure to a T as they sometimes forget (based on their own admissions on some of the blogs on the internet) which could open them up to miscarriages or babies born with birth defects and/or health problems because the baby was conceived when the egg has aged!

    NFP is claimed to be 96% or more effective only when correctly followed; however, from my understanding many women find it very difficult to follow the strict NFP regimen. Moreover, independent of how well the NFP regimen may have been followed, I also believe that untold numbers of embryonic babies MAY have been spontaneously aborted through NFP practices because the the womb was not prepared to receive (as explained in my previous post) the fertilized embryo.

    NFP is in fact natural contraception because the intent of the couple is to avoid fertility; however, what happens when the baby is conceived, anyway, during these infertile periods? Christian NFPers claim that they ultimately use NFP with the will of God in mind that He ultimately decide whether they will have babies despite their very obvious attempts to prevent fertility. This is the height of presumption and not only endangers the couples’ eternal souls involved in this evil practice, but also the welfare of innocent children fertilized and birthed under these dangerous conditions. The primary purpose of the marital embrace must always be procreation (intent to have children), not other claimed motives.

  • Lukas

    NFP is in fact natural contraception because the intent of the couple is to avoid fertility; however, what happens when the baby is conceived, anyway, during these infertile periods? Christian NFPers claim that they ultimately use NFP with the will of God in mind that He ultimately decide whether they will have babies despite their very obvious attempts to prevent fertility. This is the height of presumption and not only endangers the couples’ eternal souls involved in this immoral practice, but also the welfare of innocent children fertilized and birthed under these dangerous conditions (see my other post for explanation). The primary purpose of the marital embrace must always be procreation (intent to have children), not other claimed motives (see Encyclical, Casti Connubii, which is still in effect).

  • Lukas

    You are mistaken, Humanae Vitae is not an infallible teaching of the Church! The only part that is correct is with respect to immoral use of artificial birth control practices. Humanae Vitae is incorrect with respect to the use of NFP because NFP contradicts the laws of nature by attempting to prevent fertilization of human embryos (and most likely endangering them in the very process) and, moreover, because it directly contradicts the teachings of the earlier 1930 encyclical, Casti Connubii, which strangely enough is still in effect. Virtuous continence (abstinence for married couples) is the only licit means of spacing children out in cases of necessity (according to Casti Connubii).

    Humanae Vitae is also not infallible because the Vatican’s papal spokesman, Msgr. Fernando Lambruschini, who released this encyclical to the world’s press in 1968, stated twice to the world’s press that Humanae Vitae was “not an infallible pronouncement.” Cited from the “Catholic Mind”, September 1968; and page 59 of the book, “Human Sexuality in Our Time”, “What the Church Teaches”, 1979, and edited by George A. Kelly, St. Paul Editions.

  • Lukas

    If the the Holy Family could do it, so can all Christian Couples who live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The best methods for self control in or outside of marriage are prayer, common sense fasting, and receiving the sacraments as often as possible. Never choose evil as a easy way out of temptation. Artificial contraception and NFP are both dangerous to the soul and the innocent babies that may be aborted or endangered by these immoral practices (see my other posts for explanation).

  • Lukas

    I found a study from the National Institute of Health that discovered that when women plan their births then there are almost no side effects to the births of their children at delivery. Why are there virtually no side effects at delivery in these cases? —

    Because those who plan their births do so at the height of fertility (NEW not possibly aged EGGS) through the natural procreative drive (i.e., ovulation) or through reverse NFP (i.e., NFP used to determine when ovulation occurs), in which cases, a woman’s hormone system is effectively timed to produce a healthy robust human embryo from a healthy new egg, the womb is hormonally and timely prepared to receive and maintain that embryo and, finally, the womb is hormonally and timely prepared to birth a healthy child at delivery!

    Using common sense, the aforementioned explanation reveals why NFP is always wrong when used to prevent fertility.

  • Lukas

    THE CHURCH SHOULD HAVE ALL KINDS OF PROGRAMS ON PREPARING COUPLES FOR MARRIAGE AND TEACHING THEM THAT THE GREATEST FULFILLMENT OF THEIR MARRIAGE IS THE CHILDREN THEY PRODUCE FROM THAT MARRIAGE. THE CHURCH SHOULD ALSO BE TRAINING COUPLES ON HOW THEY CAN ENDEAVOR TO PRODUCE HEALTHY ROBUST CHILDREN BY STRIVING TO ONLY ENGAGE IN PROCREATION AT THE THE HEIGHT OF FERTILITY (see explanation in other posts in this thread).

    Instead all I hear about is the immoral ecclesiastical leaders in the Church telling married couples how to avoid children at all costs so they can engage in self-centered lustful love, instead of the agape love that begets a quiver full of beautiful Christian children. And in cases of necessity, there is always the tried and true method of virtuous continence (abstinence for married couples) that has always been approved to this day as a licit means of spacing out children. Mary and Joseph would have used this method, perpetually, throughout their marriage. Please pray (everday) to them and generally, the Holy Family, to intervene with God for you to give you the necessary grace to not stray from the narrow path (i.e., virtuous continence when required) that leads to Heaven and away from the broad and open road that leads to hell (i.e., artificial birth control and NFP).

  • John Lillis

    If you are married, not having sex can be a sin in many cases, yes. First and foremost, there is the “marital debt.” To withhold sex in marriage, without just cause, is sinful. In the same way, if couples desire NOT to have children for unjust reasons, their abstinence is sinful. As I stated elsewhere, even Christ taught men: “If a man looks upon a woman with lust, he has committed adultery in his heart.” See? No sex, but sin nevertheless. God bless your day.

  • NFP Instructor

    Contraception is wrong because it interferes with the sexual act or, not because it is avoiding fertility. If that were so, than every form of abstinence would be wrong. NFP does not interfere with the sexual act. Also you have still prevented no evidence that NFP is a dangerous condition for pregnancy and each time you say that I end up laughing because it is so silly and misinformed.

  • NFP Instructor

    I pray all the time for my NFP ministry and for the couples I teach, because the fact is that almost all of the couples that marry in our parish were previously living together and use contraception. I have seen NFP and the truth of Church teaching change many hearts and open up couples to more children. I pray that I can be an example of generosity and a fruitful marriage to others.

    I have a bachelors in biology and a master’s in health education with an emphasis in maternal and child health. I have permission from my pastor and endorsement from my archdiocese to teach Natural Family Planning. I’m not going to argue with you about whether NFP is licit. The Church has said it is for just reasons and if you choose to disagree with our Holy Mother Church and her popes than I don’t see how someone on the internet would convince you.

    Let’s see…Here are some facts on ovulation for you since you don’t seem to understand it very well….

    -Ovulation occurs about two weeks before the start of a new cycle. Several eggs my start developing but in the end only on e (sometimes two in the case of twins) is released.

    -The egg bursts out of the follicle during ovulation into the fallopian tube. There it has about 12-24 hours to be fertilized or else it disintegrates.

    -After ovulation the follicle becomes the corpus luteum which produces progesterone. Progesterone takes a number of actions to protect a pregnancy should one occur. Progesterone also causes the uterine lining to thicken (you see, that happens AFTER ovulation, not earlier in the cycle as you seem to think).

    -Conception may occur from intercourse as much as five days before ovulation not because the egg is fertilized early, but because the sperm can hang out and wait for the egg to be released if the right conditions in the woman’s body are present.

    Here are some easy to read links for you: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/understanding-conception

    http://americanpregnancy.org/gettingpregnant/understandingovulation.html

    I would highly recommend learning more about human reproduction before spreading falsehoods and conjectures about.

  • NFP Instructor

    Also you keep referencing some NIH study about planned pregnancies but do not produce a link to it nor do you cite it. References speak volumes, I am more likely to seriously consider something that actual scientists published than take your word on research matters. I assume though that you are referencing some sort of study that says planned pregnancies have better outcomes. How much does anyone want to bet that the authors lay out really good reasons for that….the fact that women with planned pregnancies were likely taking prenatals with folic acid, had any medical problems well controlled, were off of medications that could damage a fetus, and probably were financially prepared to afford the medical care that of course results in better outcomes. Again though, this is all conjecture since you haven’t posted any references to what study you are talking about.

    For what it is worth, I tell every couple I teach that no form of NFP is 100% and that it is prudent to take prenatal vitamins throughout their fertile years, stay in good health, and avoid medications that cause birth defects if it is possible

  • Darran McDonnell

    I stand corrected! Thank you for this information.

  • Lukas

    No problem! I have the best interests of the embryonic humans and unborn babies in mind with respect to revealing this information. Please see my other posts on this thread with respect to the dangers of NFP with regard to the souls of those who engage in NFP and the unborn babies who may suffer from its use.

    I have found two study abstracts on the internet which indicate there are serious potential dangers from the use of NFP when used to avoid fertility. The first study I will describe to you and others in the next post to this thread.

  • Lukas

    THE FIRST ABSTRACT STUDY:

    A. “Timing of conception and the risk of spontaneous abortion among pregnancies occurring during the use of natural family planning.” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995 May;172(5):1567-72 (available online by searching foregoing title in in your browser).

    This first study concluded that “among women with a history of pregnancy loss, there is an increased risk of spontaneous abortion associated with preovulatory and or postovulatory delayed conceptions.” The miscarriage rate in the foregoing instances was found to be 22.6% as compared to optimally timed conceptions with a 7.3% miscarriage rate.

    The foregoing conceptions/miscarriages occurred because, even though the couples in that study tried to prevent fertilization, conception occurred anyway since NFP is not foolproof for a variety of reasons.

    However, my observation is that this is no small problem regarding women who have previously suffered miscarriages because one online source (as well as others) called hopexchange indicates the following: “Sadly, miscarriages are a very common occurrence. Sources vary, but many estimate that approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage; and some estimates are as high as 1 in 3. If you include loss that occurs before a positive pregnancy test, some estimate that 40% of all conceptions result in loss.”

  • Lukas

    The miscarriages before the positive pregnancy test I would describe as spontaneous embryonic abortions. One source of spontaneous embryonic abortions is believed to be caused by the use of abortifacients, such as the common birth control pill, RU-486 and the after morning, as well as other forms of drug associated contraceptive practices. I believe based on common sense that the use of NFP to avoid fertility may also result in a potentially high spontaneous embryonic abortion rate (without the couple even knowing it) because fertilization of the egg occurs out of sync with the woman’s normal reproductive hormone system (since trying to avoid fertility) – this means even if the human embryo survives the NFP barrier, the womb of the woman may not be hormonally prepared to receive the fertilized human embryo and is then spontaneously aborted.

  • Lukas

    THE SECOND ABSTRACT:

    A. “Aged gametes, adverse pregnancy outcomes and natural family planning. An epidemiological review.” Contraception. 1984; 30(4):297-309 (available online by searching foregoing title in in your browser).

    This abstract, in part, states: “Unconfirmed epidemiologic studies suggest a possible increased risk of birth defects associated with Natural Family Planning (NFP) use, and an increased incidence of spontaneous abortion or frequency of chromosomal abnormalities in abortuses associated with conceptions outside the most “fertile period”. The risk is approximately two-to four fold, but the evidence is by no means conclusive.”

    The first abstract study already discussed above, eleven years later confirmed that NFP does increase the rate of spontaneous abortions in women who have previously suffered from miscarriages.

    Based on the foregoing, this abstract’s observations should be common sense once they are explained light of a women’s reproductive hormone cycle. In this respect, I found a study from the National Institute of Health that discovered that when women plan their births then there are almost no side effects to the births of their children at delivery. Why are there virtually no side effects at delivery in these cases? –

    Because those who plan their births do so at the height of fertility (NEW not possibly aged EGGS) through the natural procreative drive (i.e., ovulation) or through reverse NFP (i.e., NFP used to determine when ovulation occurs), in which cases, a woman’s hormone system is effectively timed to produce a healthy robust human embryo from a healthy new egg, the womb is hormonally and timely prepared to receive and maintain that embryo and, finally, the womb is hormonally and timely prepared to birth a healthy child at delivery!

    Using common sense, the aforementioned explanation reveals why NFP is always wrong when used to prevent fertility.

  • Lukas

    I have more fully explained these abstracts in the above posts to this thread. Additionally, the very possible deaths of embryonic humans and babies in the womb from immoral sexual practices, such as NFP, is not a laughing matter. I am revealing this information out of love for my fellow Christians and to lead couples to a healthy and moral marital relationship that potentially could (as nothing in this world is foolproof) lead to the births of healthy robust children.

    THE FIRST ABSTRACT STUDY:

    A. “Timing of conception and the risk of spontaneous abortion among pregnancies occurring during the use of natural family planning.” Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995 May;172(5):1567-72 (available online by searching foregoing title in in your browser).

    THE SECOND ABSTRACT:

    B. “Aged gametes, adverse pregnancy outcomes and natural family planning. An epidemiological review.” Contraception. 1984; 30(4):297-309 (available online by searching foregoing title in in your browser).

    COMMON SENSE ONCE FERTILITY CYCLE EXPLAINED:

    C. Based on the foregoing, these abstract’s observations and findings should be common sense once they are explained in light of a woman’s reproductive hormone cycle. In this respect, I found a study from the National Institute of Health that discovered that when women plan their births then there are almost no side effects to the births of their children at delivery. Why are there virtually no side effects at delivery in these cases? –

    Because those who plan their births do so at the height of fertility (NEW not possibly aged EGGS) through the natural procreative drive (i.e., ovulation) or through reverse NFP (i.e., NFP used to determine when ovulation occurs), in which cases, a woman’s hormone system is effectively timed to produce a healthy robust human embryo from a healthy new egg, the womb is hormonally and timely prepared to receive and maintain that embryo and, finally, the womb is hormonally and timely prepared to birth a healthy child at delivery!

    The foregoing common sense explanation reveals why NFP is always wrong when used to prevent fertility.

  • Lukas

    You need to prayer a lot more because your are involved in teaching the grave and immoral practice of NFP, its primary purpose to thwart the creation of new human lives.

    With respect to your claim that female eggs/ovum only survive 24 hours, there are no definitive studies that verify the maximum life span of the female egg/ovum. From the studies that I reviewed, in this regard, there have never been any direct experiments on how long the egg(s) survive in women after ovulation. Rather the studies that raised the 24 hour window for the survivability of female egg(s) are based on indirect studies based on conceptions occurring at different times of the menstrual cycle — this is fuzzy logic at best.

    Most women do not even know, themselves, how long their eggs (the plural is in reference to all women) survive after ovulation. From reviewing the information on the internet, there is considerable disagreement over how long female eggs (the plural is in reference to all women) survive. It appears the common belief is the average lifespan maybe 24 hours (which is not backed up by any known direct scientific studies); however some women in the medical field claim that the healthy female egg(s) may survive up to 72 hours and I am certain I read a study (I will try to find it) that claims the female egg may potentially survive even longer.

    Here is one example from one women in this regard on the internet: “ok so some of u are prob thinking and yes its true i have some info on female egg life span from a friend i haven’t spoken to in years, she is now and IVF specialist and has been now for 4 years, i was talking to her last night about bnb and how hard some of the women try to concieve without joy, i went on to say to her “well what do we expect when our egg only lives for 24 hours”……she started laughing and i was totally confused as to why so i asked her she said this..”the female egg CAN live upto 72 hours” (a good egg) but then she did say this “studies have shown that our eggs DO live longer than 24 hours and her opinion is more around the 48 hour mark rather than 72, as, if she were to advise women that 36 hours is sufficiant she MAY be dropping there chances naturally for concpetion.”

    Here is another example:

  • Lukas

    In a similar vein, I have found absolutely no scientific evidence/studies demonstrating that the female egg only survives 24 hours. Most women have bought into the unproven claim that the female egg only survives 24 hours. Some women, as indicated above, based on years of experience believe (probably based on anecdotal experience), that the female egg can survive up to three days. My position is that based on the the two scientific abstracts (I already discussed, above, referencing the dangers of NFP) that the female egg may survive much longer than most people assume. In this respect, it may be that just as the male gamet is claimed to potentially survive up to 6 or 7 days, so the female egg/gamet may similarly, potentially survive up to 6 or 7 days.

    Just as I was asked to provide studies demonstrating the dangers of NFP (which I have provided), please provide your sources for definitive scientific studies demonstrating, based on direct evidence, that the female egg only survives up to 24 hours.

    The devil is the great beguiler and his purpose is to destroy the sanctity of marriage, along with the babies conceived through these marriages. Since the primary purpose of the marital embrace must always be procreation (see 1930 encyclical, Casti Connubii, which is still in effect), all attempts to relegate this primary purpose to second place (as with artificial birth control and NFP) do not make the couples involved with these immoral practices — “Temples of the Holy Spirit” and do not seek to protect the sanctity of human life with respect to embryonic humans and babies conceived under these dangerous conditions (i.e., attempts to avoid fertility).

    Before the fall, God intended that man and woman perfectly follow the natural law (and also the supernatural law). If Adam and Eve and had not fallen, then it can logically be deduced that they would both have been in complete control of all their faculties and would have only engaged in the marital embrace at ovulation since the woman would have a natural urge to procreate (intent to have children) at this point in her hormone cycle and that a healthy baby and safe delivery would also naturally result from this outcome. The animal world does not do it any differently.

  • Lukas

    Here is the clinical study abstract, obtained from the NIH website, you asked for showing the negative outcomes for the mothers’ deliveries with respect to to unplanned pregnancies while using NFP to avoid fertilization:

    “Pregnancy complications in natural family planning users.” Adv Contracept. 1997 Jun-Sep;13(2-3):229-37 (available, online by typing “ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9288340″ in your browser).

    This clinical study states, in part, the following: “A multicenter cohort study was designed to assess pregnancy outcome among natural family planning (NFP) users, and provide the opportunity to address complications in NFP users by planning status and by timing of conception with respect to day of ovulation. There were 877 singleton births in this sample. Complications evaluated were abnormal vaginal bleeding, urinary tract infection, vaginal infection, hypertension of pregnancy, proteinuria, glycosuria, and anemia. . . .More differences were observed in pregnancy complication rates by planning status.”

    . . .”Unplanned pregnancies were associated with SIGNIFICANTLY MORE late pregnancy bleeding, vaginal infections, proteinuria, glycosuria and medication use than planned pregnancies.”

    . . .”Women with planned pregnancies had even fewer complications during pregnancy than women with unplanned conceptions, suggesting that women using NFP to plan their reproduction may be at particularly low risk.”

  • linred

    So much that is said in this article and in the comments is so sad, and even wrong headed. Make no mistake about it. NFP is behavioral birth control—and that is ok. Most married couples need birth control for all good reasons of sanity, solvency, and general health. No need to apologize for any of that! What kind they use is between them and God. The teeming, boisterous life of many children closely spaced is not for everyone. God made us all different. In any case, reproducing must stop sometime for every couple. For lots of women there is a 15 -20 year period when pregnancy must be avoided, depending upon the age of marriage. We should remember that our boast is of our Lord Jesus, not the number of children we have. Moreover, we are not promised a higher place in Heaven based on the number of children we have. Personally, I was advised by another Catholic mother not to have 5 children as she did. She felt no need to put on a false smile about it. She was true to herself, and I appreciated her honesty. Surely, God did, too.

  • guest

    Anon, well said. It’s good to read some real humanity here. God Bless!!!

  • guest

    Lukas, do you claim private revelations directly from God on your views? Or do you just not like sex? I think you need to look into yourself and really ask why. You are NOT doing a service here. BTW, nobody really can know what Mary and Joseph did without being presumptuous.

  • guest

    Where do you get your authority? You are NOT doing a service here. Moreover, no one could know what the Holy Family did without being totally presumptuous! Get some humility!!!!!!

  • guest

    Peter, I would sincerely like to know how your children are going to college without loans. It is beyond my imagination. I forbid my 2 children from making college loans since I never did; I wanted them to finish up debt free as their father and I did. By the grace of God with the resources of their parents they did. Just real curious.

  • Theo

    Life isn’t about having enough money…its about having the emotional and material resources to raise the children you have in good faith and to the best of your ability.

    It shocks me how cavalier some people with large families can be about their kids’ upbringing. I wonder how many developmentally challenged kids in large families aren’t getting treatment not because their parents don’t care because they don’t have the time or resources to care.

    I have two autistic kids and the amount of treatment they require is staggering. I’m talking occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, ABA therapy, an Individualized education Plan, gastro intestinal treatments, and socialization therapy. All this just so they can function as close to neurotypical kids as possible.

    My wife and I vowed when we had children that we would never deny our kids a treatment we knew of and were able to provide them. We accepted whatever God gave us.

    My 4 year old still cannot say two word phrases and my 6 year still struggles with toilet training.

    My wife and I pay 1800$/month for insurance (we have to get the most expensive so the many treatments get covered) in addition to 5,000$+ in yearly deductibles, plus I don’t how much in 25$ Co-pays. Last year we were able to claim the miles we drove our kids to appointments as a tax deduction. We drove our kids to 1,924 miles of appointments. for those of you keeping score at home, that’s like driving from LA to Chicago. (Thank God for credit cards or we wouldn’t eat.)

    I’m not complaining (too much!) I love my two babies so much it hurts. but it would be dishonorable for us to have another, not when my current childrens’ disabilities are piling up (new this summer: my son’s severe dyslexia!) and we are bankrupting ourselves.

    It’s annoying to hear people with large families whine about mean comments in the check out line and plead for tolerance and non judgement–to then have them turn around and assume people who chose to have small families did so because they wanted more money for vacations, and nice cars, or that big house.

    Some of us with small families are taking excellent care of their children.

  • DJ Hesselius

    “I forget to chart. Often.”
    .
    If a person isn’t charting regularly in some fashion (day beads count!) then I don’t think one can honestly saying they are using NFP. I don’t think it is fair to the NFP movement (or any NFP provider) to say one is using NFP and not chart. (Yes, I know; nothing in life is “fair.”)
    .
    It is okay NOT to chart. It is okay NOT to use birth control. And I don’t think it is anything to be ashamed of. Indeed, if someone asks us what we are doing with regards to birth control (or not doing), maybe we need to be honest and say “Well, not much.”

  • DJ Hesselius

    NFP is not contraception. Contraception does not help low fertility couple become pregnant.

  • DJ Hesselius

    I learned about NFP in 1996, but not from marriage prep. We used CCL’s third edition of the Art of NFP which may have come out in the early 90s.

  • Chip

    Your premise is incorrect. Charting is only one part of NFP; one charts *and regulates one’a sexual intercourse based in the information provided by the chart, only when, for serious reason, a couple discerns a need to space births. If there is no need to postpone another pregnancy, what is the point of charting?

    A couple who are not charting are still naturally planning their family. They’re saying, “We will have our next child when God decides we should.” They are admitting that their family has no serious reason to attempt to limit itself to its current size.

    What could be more natural?

  • Chip

    It’s great that the Catholic mom to whom you spoke was “true to herself”; i forget the verse citation, but I remember that “To thine own self be true” is one of the foundational tenets of Roman Catholicism…wait…that was Hamlet. Never mind.

    Your Catholic friend was wrong. And your biological information is off base as well; what defines this 15-20 year period when a husband and wife should only selfishly use one another for their own sexual gratification while withholding the gift of their mutual fertility, exactly?

    The time when reproducing *must* stop for every couple has a name: menopause.

  • Chip

    The CCL could *not* advertise as stated. Oral contraceptives are not 99.9% effective; NFP practiced according to the guidelines (be they Creighton, Billings, or whichever) *is* 99.9% effective. Which isn’t the point, of course.

    The question of efficacy only comes up as a topic of conversation on the way to convincing couples to trust *God* (whose method is *more* effective than “the Pill” at helping couples space births, without all the nasty physical consequences of hormones, or lack of intimacy of condoms) rather than J & J.

  • http://www.themamaminute.com/ Joy Adan – The Mama Minute

    “I forget to chart. Often”
    This line had me hooked to reading this article because I can totally relate. We charted really well before and after our first baby, then…. I just… kept forgetting (despite the convenience of the Ovuview Android app). Oops!
    Anyway, that opening remark speaks simply of the difficulty and effort behind charting and self control. I think, though, that this difficulty is where the grace and the beauty of NFP lies.

    You are right that there is much in our culture that defies openness to life; contraceptives are so common place it has become the default for so many of my married friends (even Catholic ones) and I am saddened to get looks of disbelief when I tell our GP that we use NFP.

    Praying that, with posts like this, more and more people will see the benefits of NFP, not just for the family planning/spacing children aspect, but for the way it opens a couple’s understanding and respect for the human body, and an entire family’s understanding and respect for life.

MENU