What NFP is NOT

When we were first married, close friends would ask, “You pregnant yet?” They were convinced that we would conceive immediately. (The queries had long ceased when our first child Christopher arrived — FIVE years later.) In an attempt to reassure the wary, here are five things that NFP is definitely NOT:

  • It's not RHYTHM. We've seen women's magazines and even medical

    brochures refer to modern NFP as “the rhythm method.” It's not. That early version of family planning, developed in the Thirties, was based on average cycle lengths instead of on the unique cycle of each woman. For someone with a very regular pattern, it worked well. Caroline's grandmother reported using rhythm for all of her childbearing years with perfect success!) It was ineffective for women with irregular cycles.

  • It's not UNRELIABLE. NFP does not stand for “Natural Family Producing,” as a friend of ours once joked. Studies show that when the rules of NFP are followed correctly, it is 99 percent effective, which is as good as or better than any artificial forms of birth control. Neither the Pill nor even common sterilization procedures can claim 100 percent effectiveness.
  • It's not merely CATHOLIC BIRTH CONTROL. Rather, it is learning how the body works and prayerfully planning one's family size, combined with God's grace and a little effort. It's as much about making babies as it is about postponing them. John Paul II describes it as acting as the ministers and not the arbiters of God's divine plan.
  • It's not JUST FOR WOMEN. It takes two to make a baby and two to postpone one. With most of the current artificial methods, the burden of using the method and coping with the many side effects falls on the woman. With NFP it is an equally shared responsibility, requiring constant communication between spouses. Perhaps that's one reason why the divorce rate for couples using it is under five percent.
  • It's not IMPOSSIBLE. Periodic abstinence may seem like an unattainable ideal, but if we can survive it (nine years and counting!)anyone can. The time of abstinence varies, but 10 days per cycle is about average. And actually, our love has grown stronger BECAUSE of the times of abstinence.

Don't believe it? We invite all engaged and married couples to give it a try. Check with your diocesan marriage and family life office for information on NFP classes, or visit www.ccli.org to find a series in your area. You just may be amazed at how your marriage transforms!

(Tom & Caroline McDonald are Co-Directors of the Office of Family Life for the Archdiocese of Mobile, AL. You can email Caroline at caromcd@cs.com and Tom at cornhuskertom@cs.com.)

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage