Natural Family Planning
Note: Because there are already many great resources available for NFP, this website will just provide a basic overview and links to other resources.
What is Natural Family Planning?
Natural Family Planning, NFP, is also known as fertility awareness. It is not the calendar method, which tracks fertility based on days of the month. Instead, NFP methods are based on scientific research that helps a woman identify the days she is fertile based on natural signs her body gives. Many couples find NFP to be a valuable resource in practicing responsible parenthood while following the Church's teaching to not use artificial contraception. If a couple using NFP discerns it is a time to delay a pregnancy, they will abstain from intercourse while they are fertile. (Methods have been scientifically studied to be up to 98% effective at delaying pregnancy, which is more effective than most artificial contraception.) If a couple wishes to have a baby, they have a better understanding of when intercourse will most likely achieve pregnancy.
When should I start learning?
Ideally begin 6 months, but no later than 3 months prior to your wedding day. Know that ovulation can be more difficult to track when a woman is stressed (i.e. while trying to plan a wedding!). Some women have already been trained prior to their engagement and may just need a refresher. If couples want to ensure a high level of effectiveness, formal instruction from a trained instructor is necessary.
Who should learn?
Some methods require both partners to learn together and other methods keep this optional. While the woman will be the one checking her ovulation signs, many couples recommend learning the process together. It can be helpful for the man to learn and gain more confidence in how it works. Many formals methods suggest that the husband is the one responsible for completing the chart notes at the end of each day.
Which method should we choose?
There are several effective methods to use. It is not recommended to teach yourself. The most popular methods come with trainers who can help make sure you are using the method most effectively. The website www.managingyourfertility.com provides a comprehensive overview of each of the methods and resources to help you decide which may be the best method for you.
How do we know when/if we should be open to children?
The Church never dictates how many children a married couple should have. Rather, it provides guidelines for discernment and encourages "responsible parenthood." Couples are encouraged to openly communicate each month of their marriage and discern, with God, if this is in a time in their lives they should delay or seek a pregnancy. Humanae Vitae asks couples to consider "physical, economic, psychological and social conditions" (10). Couples should remember that children are always a gift.
If you feel like you need guidance with your discernment, talk with a priest, deacon, or spiritual director.
Do I have to learn NFP?
Learning NFP is certainly not a requirement. Some couples may choose they do not wish to delay pregnancy at any time. However, artificial contraception should never be utilized. Couples who learn NFP before marriage can feel empowered by learning how their bodies work and find it helpful knowledge to have, even if they plan to have children right away.