NFP: Natural Parenting Can Start Before Conception

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Some might label my parenting style as “green” or “crunchy,” but all labels aside, I simply seek to be a good steward of the earth’s resources and keep my kids safe from toxins and as healthy as possible.

What I do, I want to do naturally.

For those who are proponents of unmedicated childbirth, breastfeeding, babywearing, and wooden toys, it only makes sense that natural parenting would begin before conception.

There are plenty of opportunities for considering parenting before the first pink plus sign.
• Many women choose pre-conception diets to detoxify and prepare the body for a healthy pregnancy.
• Engaged couples are often encouraged to discuss what they think their parenting will look like when the time comes.

Wouldn’t you want your reproductive system to receive the same natural care you give your nutrition and your children’s health?

Oral contraception is the only drug approved to treat a healthy condition as a disease and rewire a normally working system so that it malfunctions. The Pill’s effectiveness lies in ultimately stopping your reproductive system from performing properly, thus preventing pregnancy.

For those who want to be natural parents, who don’t give their children over-the-counter medications or antibiotics when we can avoid them, it is a natural extension of our parenting philosophy to keep our children’s first home – the womb – chemical free.

It’s organic parenting at its finest.

To Conceive or Not to Conceive, Naturally

Everyone knows that sex can result in pregnancy, and each couple must make their own decision about whether they want to achieve or avoid pregnancy at a given time.  If children just aren’t in your short-term plan, you have some options to prevent or avoid pregnancy, and each impacts the earth and your health in various ways.

Option Impact on Earth Impact on Body
Oral Contraceptives Increased estrogen in water supply (that cannot be filtered out), plastic waste from packaging, “feminized” and sterile fish – possible serious animal kingdom impact Irritability, decreased sex drive, increased risk of many diseases, especially breast cancer, infertility/trouble getting pregnant later, losing already fertilized eggs
Condoms, other barrier methods Plastic waste never breaks down, spermicidal pollution Invasive chemicals and materials – what might be leaching from these items?
Injected Hormonal Contraceptive Increased hormones in water supply, hazardous medical waste Similar to oral
Natural Family Planning/Fertility Awareness Zero Zero negative impact; see positives below

When my husband and I got married, there was never any question about our choice of birth control. I was “green” enough to know that I never wanted to put drugs in my body when I didn’t need them, and my husband didn’t want to ask me to deal with all the possible side effects of oral contraception.

Our parenting began when we used to pray for our possible future children as we took evening walks as freshmen in college.  Long before we even thought about registering for a baby sling, our parenting was “natural” as we made the choice each month whether to seek or avoid a pregnancy and act accordingly, without the help of drugs or products.  I had never purchased organic spinach, but I was keeping my uninhabited womb as organic as possible with natural family planning.

What is Natural Family Planning?

Natural Family Planning, or Fertility Awareness, is the process of observing a woman’s naturally occurring physical cues to fertility, including basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and other symptoms.  Fertilization can only occur during a 24-hour stage each cycle, and fertility is easy to determine for a few days on either side of that window.

Charts help a couple keep track of the woman’s fertile and infertile stages, and they can decide whether or not to be intimate based on their desire for a child (or not) at the time.  Natural Family Planning is not the rhythm or calendar method.

Benefits of Natural Family Planning

Beyond simply avoiding the harmful physical side effects of artificial contraception, the advantages of Natural Family Planning are many:

For the Woman:

Her body is respected and preserved from chemicals, and she can become aware of health issues related to her fertility, including stress-induced illnesses and more.  The decision to avoid pregnancy is completely and immediately reversible.  Financial cost = $0.

For the Environment:

There are no chemicals, no packaging waste, and no trips to the doctor for injections or prescriptions.  Breastfeeding infertility, often encouraged in natural family planning, even results in fewer feminine products entering the landfills and sewage systems. Contrast this with oral contraceptives, which have caused an increase in estrogen in our water supply that is very troubling.  Estrogen (and other synthetic hormones) cannot be filtered out of drinking water, so children and adults alike who drink city water are getting greater exposure to these female hormones.

With 100 million women worldwide using oral contraceptives, this risk is no small potatoes.

For the Marriage:

Longevity is the major benefit: less than 5% of NFP users divorce, compared to 50% in the rest of the (American) population.  This is likely a result of NFP’s other marital benefits:

  • increased communication (discussing “child or no child” every month)
  • deep respect for one another and each one’s life-giving abilities
  • cycles of “courtship” and “honeymoon” keep the intimacy fresh, as couples abstain during the fertile period (Yes, when choosing to avoid, it’s like a honeymoon when the fertile phase is over!)
  • the self-discipline practiced through intermittent abstinence increases both spouses’ self-control in other aspects of life
  • decreased fear of unwanted pregnancy – you know immediately if you are taking a “risk” or not, unlike the failure rate of oral contraceptives

Photo by Mike Baird

Information on Natural Family Planning

I cannot say enough good things about NFP.  If you truly want an organic, natural home, consider learning about how your body can tell you when you are fertile and when you are not. There are a few different methods, all 99% or more effective at achieving the desired result:

This may be a touchy subject for comments.  I do encourage discussion and assume everyone will be respectful with their opinions.  I welcome any questions for me as an NFP user.

I am indebted to Colleen Martin of Martin Family Moments for her connection between NFP and “going organic”.

Do you have a success story about natural, organic conception that you’re willing to share?

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About Katie Kimball

An at-home mom who is passionate about food, her two kids, the good green Earth and her faith, Katie Kimball blogs about all that and more at Kitchen Stewardship.

Comments

  1. Pamela O. says:

    My husband and I stumbled into NFP, but in a very loose sense. When we got married, almost ten years ago, I started the pill like everyone else I knew. I was only on it for about 6 months when my husband and I decided it would be best to stop. The reason? Well, I would freak out every month at the thought that maybe I was pregnant and wondering what harm I could be doing by starting the next dose of pills.

    Of course when I talked to my OB/GYN about it, she ‘assured’ me it was safe. I did a little research and couldn’t seem to find anything that told me, with 100% certainty, that the pill would not abort a baby. This proved to be too much for me and my husband and thus we came to our decision.

    Back then I didn’t really know the term NFP or all the stuff that goes with it. I wouldn’t recommend this but we pretty much just asked God to give us a child when the timing was best and we were pretty sure we weren’t in a good place to have one. We wanted to wait till my husband finish his BA and MA.

    Long story, short…we had our first child (first pregnancy, no miscarriages) just shy of our 6 year anniversary(3 months after the MA was completed). And in case you are thinking that maybe we have fertility issues…we just had our third child (and I did have a miscarriage as well, so 4 pregnancies total).

    I breastfed my first (on demand) and didn’t have a period until he was 11 months. Got pregnant my next cycle but then miscarried at 11 weeks. Had one period and got pregnant again. I breastfed (on demand) my second child and never had a period! I found out I was pregnant with my third a year after the second. :)

    My baby is only 3 months and is sleeping 7 hour chunks at night. My other two didn’t sleep through the night until they were over a year old! We are open to more children but a year apart is a little too close for comfort, I think I may need to freshen up on my NFP! So, Katie, thanks for the links and the post!

  2. Thank you so much for posting about this very important, and very misunderstood, topic! My wife and I practice Natural Family Planning and promote it every chance that we get. We initially found NFP through religious connections (we’re Catholic), but the use of NFP is really spreading among those that value their health and the environment as well.

    While we started NFP for moral reasons, our primary motivation for using it now and spreading the word is its marital benefits. NFP is one of the *best* things that has happened to our marriage!

    I have written quite a bit on this topic on my own blog, including the story of how we discovered Natural Family Planning (after many struggles seeking an alternative to artificial birth control) and details about how it benefits marriages. Even though my site focuses on a wide range of healthy-marriage topics, NFP remains one of the most popular topics!

    Thank you again for spreading the word about NFP as a healthy alternative!

  3. My husband and I just started NFP a few months ago. I was on the pill for almost two years, 6 months married, and it wasn’t until I got off the pill that I realized how awful it was making me feel (mostly emotionally)! I feel much more energetic and less moody now. We started NFP for religious reasons as well, but the being green is certainly an added benefit. I feel so much more comfortable knowing my body and, in reality, having control of my fertility, rather than holding out for a pill to do the work.

    I think any couple practicing NFP could tell you that it comes with its own set of difficulties, especially in the beginning and as newlyweds ( which my husband and I are experiencing now!). It takes a while to get it down, but I know it will benefit us in the long run.

  4. Stephanie P says:

    Thanks for the post.

    We made the decision to stop “the pill” not long after I started. My husband and I had done some research prior to getting married and just didn’t feel comfortable with the lack of conclusive evidence regarding pregancy termination with many birth control methods. I had expressed concerns with my obgyn regarding the pill and she had even told me that “only perfect use yeilds perfect results.” I was always forgetting to take the darn thing on time so I obviously wasn’t doing things perfectly.

    On top of that, the artificial hormones and my severe family history of breast cancer just put the decision in a clear light. No more for us.

    After getting married, a friend of ours told me a little bit more about this method and recommended the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler. I’ve yet to read it through and I know that it does endorse using barrier methods during the fertile times of the month, but the aspects of getting to know your body and how it works seem really great! My DH and I had been using barrier methods but it seems as though I might be developing an allergy to latex so it seems as though a more natural take on family planning might be coming our way!

    After several conversations with several friends who have differing opinions, I understand that this is an extremely private issue. My only hope is that more women can become informed about alternatives that really do exist. Whether they’re used or not, these methods carry a great deal of knowledge in understanding how our bodies actually work and that’s something modern medicine seems to be losing touch with – both in family planning and in OB care in general.

    • As a follower of TCOYF and a former Moderator on the TCOYF message boards, I would like to point out that Toni does not “endorse” barrier methods. She strongly suggests using alternative forms of birth control if you prefer to have intercourse during what could be risky times. Following TCOYF (FAM), you would know the symptoms of impending ovulation and could then choose to abstain…no barrier method needed.
      .-= Tiffanie’s last blog: Runny noses and sore throats! =-.

      • Stephanie P says:

        My apologies.

        That’s what I had gathered from what I’ve read but I haven’t finished the book yet, as I stated.

    • Your OB would have a fit with me and the “only perfect use yields perfect results”. I took the pill exactly as directed and am now nearing the end of my first trimester! The insert with the pill states that there is a 1 in 1000 chance of pregnancy even with “perfect use”!

      • Stephanie P says:

        Yeah Leah, there’s a reason I don’t see her anymore ;-)

        Congrats on your unexpected bundle of joy!

        She also tried to tell me that there was absolutely no correlation between the hormones given in the pill and any female cancers/disorders. I would’ve had so much more respect if she had told me things were unclear in that area, but to flat-out deny it, come on!

        • I completely understand that. Thankfully the birth control for me is more to try and control endometriosis as oppossed to preventing pregnancy although we didn’t plan to have another this soon (my DD just turned one last Friday!). I am looking into alternatives but haven’t found much other than other hormone therapy which doesn’t thrill me either.

          • Rebecca K says:

            Leah, contact the Pope Paul VI Institute! They are the founders of the Creighton method of NFP mentioned above. The entire clinic is devoted to natural women’s health care. Since they are unique in their mission, they do phone consultations as well so you needn’t be in the Omaha area. You also needn’t be Catholic – the clinic is Catholic but of course not exclusive!
            They will try to actually address the underlying issues with your endometriosis rather than just mask it.
            http://www.popepaulvi.com/about.htm

          • Leah, I suffered from intense endometriosis symptoms and was wracked with pelvic pain so bad I was on narcotics daily and at times, could not even stand straight. In Dec. 2005, I had surgery with Dr. Mark Stegman, a Natural Procreative Technology-trained OB/GYN (Camp Hill, PA) for endometriosis. This was after seeing five different doctors in my home state, all of whom told me my options were 1) the Pill or 2) a hysterectomy. I refused to accept either, and after surgery with Dr. Stegman, I have been symptom-free for the past five and a half years. I wrote a story about my surgery and experience for our diocesan newsletter that I’d be happy to e-mail you. Dr. Stegman is a fantastic surgeon and exceptionally compassionate doctor…I encourage you to contact him ASAP! =)

          • I should also mention that Dr. Stegman found the endometrial lesions in the muscles surrounding my cervix, NOT anywhere in the uterus itself, so a hysterectomy would have been pointless.

            And had I agreed to it, I would not only still have endometriosis, but I would not have our two beautiful children who came after the surgery, Ben and Bella.

            What makes me sad is that I put on a conference a year later with Dr. Stegman as the keynote speaker. I personally invited more than 100 OB/GYN and fertility doctors (including my own) to attend his presentation on NaProTechnology and learn more about the science–and not a single one showed up. But Dr. Stegman did give free consultations before the conference to more than a dozen couples with a whole range of problems, from infertility to repeat miscarriage to endometriosis to PCOS.

  5. Christina says:

    I love this post and the comments! I’ve always used NFP (initial religious motivation), and I really hope that with the advent of the “green” movement and more people wanting to monitor what they put into their bodies, the method will rise in popularity. Unfortunately, at this moment in time, it is really a very misunderstood practice. It is a bit of a chore finding a doctor who will support a couple’s decision to use NFP, but I hope that as scientists and professionals become more open to considering low-waste birth control and birth control that doesn’t involve putting women (and men!) in contact with chemicals, people will start to shed their misconceptions of NFP. It deserves a chance to at least be considered without all the stereotypes!

  6. A question:
    Is it tricky to be sure of when you’re fertile when you first go off the pill? I’m interested in doing things naturally, but I’m afraid that because my hormones will be messed up by going off that it will be difficult to tell when the fertile time is in the first couple months. Is that usually a problem, or am I just being paranoid? :)

    • Maybe you could use barrier methods for a month or two while your body is re-adjusting.
      .-= Princess Leia’s last blog: Guest Post =-.

    • Christina says:

      April,
      That is a valid concern. I’m not an expert, but I suggest that you talk to one. It may take a few months of building up a resource of personal charts and getting rid of the hormones before NFP reaches its highest level of effectiveness.
      So, yes, it’s usually a special case that needs addressing and figuring out, but I know of many couples who have transitioned. Good luck!

    • It is definitely difficult to determine fertility when you first come off the pill. Your body needs to rid itself of the hormones and then learn how to do things on its own again. This can happen quickly or it can take months to get back on track. You would definitely need to consider another form of BC while waiting for this to happen.
      .-= Tiffanie’s last blog: Runny noses and sore throats! =-.

    • April,
      I went of the Nuva Ring and into NFP and the recommendation was to abstain from sex for 30 days since you don’t know exactly when you would ovulate.

      • It’s important to work with a professional during the beginning. The Creighton Method is taught by a certified teacher over the course of a year (but you are ready to go after the first meeting), and handles each case individually. Coming off of hormonal BC is tough, and can make the first several cycles irregular, but the method prepares you to handle that effectively. Try this site for practitioners: http://www.fertilitycare.org/

    • April, you should really read through all of TCOYF by Toni Weschler. It’ll probably answer most, if not all, of your questions. DH and I have been using FAM/NFP since November and I had been on the pill for over 10 years, mainly for the convenience of having a regular cycle, always knowing when my period was going to come, and being able to manipulate my cycle so I didn’t have my period on trips (yes, I know, SO unnatural). When you first go off the pill, depending on your body and how long you were on, your cycle is definitely not normal. I’ve been ovulating normally, but the other signs have taken a few months to start to regulate. In the beginning, you may just want to only have sex during the post-ovulatory part of your cycle to be sure. Hopefully, by the time we start to TTC, my fertility will be much more ideal. BTW, don’t rely on your OB/GYN to know anything about FAM/NFP. I told mine about it and she just gave me this flippant “that’s like the Rhythm Method isn’t it? Be sure you’re ready to be pregnant if you’re off the pill.” How rude! I’m definitely finding another doctor for my next annual.

    • It can be tricky, as your hormones are adjusting to not having the pill, so I’d suggest having an instructor at first to help you. (Speaking from personal experience of going off the pill to use NFP, specifically the Billings Ovulation Method).

    • I was on the pill for a few years and then went off before I got married. I got my period pretty much 4 weeks later to the day. However, when I started NFP (Creighton method), I learned that my cervix probably hadn’t recovered from the pill just yet. I was producing almost daily mucus and had to learn to distinguish my “normal,” infertile mucus from my fertile mucus. Having an instructor to go over my charts with me and guide me through the process really helped. I also did NOT get pregnant during that time either! So, it may be difficult for you, but with a good, experienced instructor you can navigate through the tricky time and just know that with time–both for your body to recover and for you to learn how to read your body–it does get easier.

  7. Julie S in VA says:

    I didn’t learn about how to properly implement NFP until we were trying to conceive, unsuccessfully. I highly recommend the book mentioned above in the comments, “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler. She has a website at http://www.tcoyf.com, and http://www.fertilityfriend.com is another good resource.

    I’ve now practiced NFP for almost 5 years, both for conception and for contraception. Will never use any other method of contraception again!

  8. Shannon says:

    My husband and I use NFP… Although obviously not very well! : ) We just found out that I am pregnant. This is a complete shock to us!! I think to some extent we are still in denial (regardless of the 3 preg tests I’ve taken. Ha!)

    We had a baby last year (she is 7 months old) and now we are expecting again. NFP is 99% effective. We must be the lucky 1%!

    • We’re in the 1% too :) I just don’t have very consistent/reliable fertility signs. But the kids are a blessing and we’re always open to more if that’s what happens, although we have been getting more spacing lately by creating our own NFP variation on Creighton with a little calendar rhythm thrown in :)

      • We must be in the 1 % too. I breastfed my first child on demand. I practically lived sitting on the couch all day long and sleeping with her at night, feeding her. She wanted to eat all day long, and she was definitely getting plenty. I found out I was pregnant again when she was 3 months old!

        • For breastfeeding to work to space children ALL of the following must be met:

          1) exclusive nutrition at the breast (no pumping, no pacifier, etc)
          2) baby is 6 months old or less
          3) no bleeding or spotting after day 56 postpartum.

          If you have all three, there is a 2% chance of getting pregnant. If you have any one of the above, then you should go back to charting to avoid pregnancy. (Most NFP methods have breast-feeding instructions since it’s a tricky time.) But, that 2% has to come from somewhere!

      • Kids truly are a blessing. We have 11 and wouldn’t send any of them back!

    • Shannon,
      The return of fertility after childbirth is such a tricky time! I’m at 22 mos. without a period, if you can believe that, and I have no idea what’s going on with my charts. Well, some idea, but they’re a little nutso. The Couple to Couple League now has a special class just to navigate breastfeeding fertility, and the Creighton Method also has various ways to address it. May you have an angel baby for no. 2!
      :) Katie

  9. Rebecca says:

    NFP is great, IF you have regular menstrual cycles. Otherwise it doesn’t work. Many women can’t use this unless you can accurately predict when you will ovulate, and for people like me, you can’t tell, and may not even ovulate at all. My cycles run from 4 weeks to 6 months apart, and have only somewhat regulated after 3 children. They still vary greatly, and I would be constantly worried I was pregnant if we hadn’t used other BC, though after our 3rd, I had my tubes tied, so no more worries.

    • I’m certainly not an NFP expert, but from what I’ve read, there are enough approaches out there that it’s possible even for women with really irregular cycles – mostly because there are more indicators available to pay attention to than just when you get your period (although that is the most obvious one!). Also, If she works with a doctor who is very familiar with NFP, the doctor can often identify potential hormone and/or other imbalances that are causing the cycle irregularity, and those specific imbalances can be addressed. A lot of women have found doing NFP really helpful not just for postponing pregnancy, but for *conceiving* – something that’s also pretty complicated with really irregular cycles.

      • I think you’ve hit on a very important concept here, Heidi. I love the concept of NFP, but never had the ability to try it myself, due to ridiculously hard fertility challenges, irregular cycles, etc.

        Because I suffered for so long feeling “abnormal” and “weird” and went through so many miscarriages (4) when we longed, prayed, and tried to have children, I’m probably hyper-vigilant for others who struggle the same way.

        NFP is fantastic, if you can do it. I ache for those who might take away condemnation from the topic, feel worse about themselves and/or their bodies, or feel as though they are somehow “failing” if they have medical issues that require hormonal intervention. Please, as you talk about NFP, remember the 10%+ who cannot conceive easily, naturally, or would give their eye teeth to be able to use NFP. It’s a good reminder that we’re not all the same and that different means work for different people.

        I disliked hormonal birth control, but my body simply wouldn’t have a normal cycle on its own w/o it – and we tried for years (in vain) to let that happen. For some, it’s a God-send and can be part of an active, healthy, and good medical care plan.

        Just some thoughts… :)
        .-= Sue’s last blog: is wasting food sinful? =-.

        • Rebecca, Sue, Heidi, Catherine,
          Irregular cycles are the perfect place for NFP, actually. The Creighton model in particular is so scientific I almost can’t believe it, and rather than “get” regular cycles by tricking your body with artificial hormones, your Creighton teacher would help you figure out what your body is missing/overproducing/etc to truly “achieve” regular cycles that are actually regular – ovulation and all. Please don’t read that as judging those who choose artificial contraception to regulate cycles – it’s all too common, but in light of striving for a natural body, I truly believe that NFP can work for any cycles.

          I myself have cycles between 27-54 days. Nice. My body always tells me when fertility is coming, however, and I also know if I’ve ovulated or not with the basal body temperature sign. NFP is holistic medicine for women, no matter what your cycles are like. Thank you all for giving me a chance to address the irregular cycles issue!

          :) Katie

          • I also have very long cycles. I am an Episcopalian, so no religious beliefs against contraception, and for years I followed various doctors’ instructions for “regulating” my cycles by taking various regimens of artificial hormones. Oral contraceptive pills made me so sick I didn’t stay on them long, but I used a cervical cap for years and have no regrets about that.

            However, when we wanted to conceive and it was taking a while, I learned about Fertility Awareness. When we finally did conceive, I was aware of every part of the process, and that was so special and wondrous! Meanwhile, my reading had convinced me that most unintended conceptions using FAM/NFP are caused not by the method failing but by the couple being unwilling to abstain at the right time. For people whose beliefs require absolutely no sexual contact except that which is “open to life” and who have a high sex drive, it can be very difficult.

            After our child was born, we found that the cervical cap I had used is no longer made, and we tried other barrier methods without finding any that were comfortable. Once my cycles resumed, I found that detecting ovulation is now very easy for me–especially after my child was fully weaned, it became almost impossible to ignore.

            Not only are we avoiding pregnancy without polluting the environment, but I NOW KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON IN MY BODY, which is a gift that conventional “medical science” was never able to give me!
            .-= ‘Becca’s last blog: 7 Lessons from Lent =-.

    • Catherine says:

      I would have to say that actually NFP (as described above by the original poster, who explained that it is not the rhythm method) is fantastic for people who have irregular cycles, and especially during nursing (when you may or may not be ovulating). It’s because you’re watching your personal body signs, and not looking at a calendar.

    • Rebecca,
      I had that problem as well. I use the Creighton Model and it’s been very effective for us! It took over 1 year of trying for our first child, but using that method and consulting with a doctor, we were able to figure out that I wasn’t ovulating on my own and fixed the problem. I’m not sure about the other methods, but after a couple months doing the Creighton Model, it was fairly easy to tell if/when you ovulate.

    • Rebecca, I respectfully disagree with you. I have irregular cycles – not a six month break like you have, but I can be 28 days one month and recently had a 43 day cycle! We have used NFP (sympto-thermal method) for 3 years now. I like this method because you use three different indicators of fertility/ovulation (temperature, cervix and vaginal mucus). If one is “iffy” you still have two others to help you navigate. I ovulated twice in one month and am proud to say we knew what was happening, because my body TOLD me what was happening! That’s one of the big reasons I love NFP – I understand my body and what it is doing. It’s beautiful!

      My daughter is 9 months old, so we got through the post-pregnancy/breastfeeding phase without getting pregnant. Can’t wait to have baby #2 but plan to wait a few more months before trying. We learned NFP through Couple to Couple League – I recommend them. I also can’t speak highly enough about the the benefits of NFP in marriage. Communication is good, and great respect for each other and our bodies, plus the benefit of treating fertility as a gift – not a disease. THANK YOU, Katie, for this post! I hope more women learn about NFP and decide to research it and try it. You won’t be sorry, ladies! You deserve it!

    • I have used NFP for nine years and I have VERY VERY irregular cycles. I think you are thinking about the rhythm method, which is NOT NFP. If you are using NFP, you observe your day-to-day fertility signs, so you know if you are fertile or infertile. I’ve used NFP to conceive, postpartum, while breastfeeding, while formula feeding, while doing both, post-miscarriage…you name it. And considering that we have had four kids over 10 years, we are NOT abstaining!! ;)

      Just wanted to clarify that you absolutely CAN use NFP w/irregular cycles. Cycle length has no bearing on its effectiveness.

    • NFP does NOT depend upon regular cycles. You simply learn how to monitor your body’s signs of fertility and then use that information how you wish. If you have irregular cycles, then you just have to chart and pay attention and watch for the signs of fertility that may come 2 weeks or 2 months (or longer) after your period. (I make it sound easy……and for some women it is. For most, though, an instructor can really help so that it eventually becomes second nature with practice.) There have been cases of people told that they couldn’t conceive because of irregular cycles who learned NFP and watched for that moment of fertility and now have a child (or children) because of it. Also, NFP can help to pin-point some problems in fertility that can then be corrected. As one example, some women have a short period of time between ovulation and their period. If that window is too short, there’s not enough progesterone to sustain a pregnancy and she could be miscarrying regularly before she even gets a positive pregnancy test. Charting with NFP can point that and and she can then work to fix that problem. Obviously there are no miracles and so even with NFP some couples will still struggle with infertility and others may get pregnant unintentionally. (It depends upon the method, but NFP methods are generally 97-99% effective–about the same as the pill.)

  10. What a great post!!! My husband and I have used NFP/FAM since we got married. It worked for us for 7 years. I got pregnant with our daughter in ’08. I’ve never been on the pill. We didn’t choose this method for moral reasons—I just didn’t want to mess with my hormones. Since my daughter was born, I still haven’t used the pill or mini-pill, and she’s almost 16 months. Once you get in-tune with your body, it’s not a ton of work. It becomes second nature . . . just like popping a pill. I feel so much more educated about my body and how it works, because of using this method. It’s ironic that our bodies tell us when we’re fertile and when we’re not, but so often we choose to ignore it. Thanks for spreading the word!
    .-= Leslie P.’s last blog: Bargain Brag Wednesday, 4/7-4/13 =-.

  11. Oh, and my cycles are irregular. NFP/FAM still worked! You don’t have to have the standard 28-day cycle. It still works! You just have to pay attention to your body’s signals.
    .-= Leslie P.’s last blog: Bargain Brag Wednesday, 4/7-4/13 =-.

  12. @Rebecca (and anyone else worried about cycle regularity and this method), NFP takes a more concentrated effort if you have wacky cycles, but you can still follow the fertility signs (mucous changes, cervical position, etc). They’re just spread out further than on a “normal chart”. The ovulation temps are even generally consistent with “normal charts”, it’s just that the number of days between the ovulation series’ is higher. :)

    That said, I was on oral contraceptives from age 14 until my 20 or 21. My doctor referred me to an OB/gyn who put me on The Pill (well, really all of “The Pills”, I swear I’ve taken every single one of them at one point or another) in an attempt to fix my ovaries’ tendency to create huge internal cysts that were super painful and risky. That time on The Pill was terrible. I am not an outwardly emotional person, and suddenly I was crying constantly, throwing up like I had morning sickness, and nearly a real crazy person. I didn’t put the two together, of course, because I was a teenager … and they don’t always think about the direct impacts of things very important doctor people tell them to do.

    Now, I have even wackier cycles than before. Once, one that was 11 months long. I haven’t been on The Pill in years and while the emotional side effects are gone, I find myself so far unable to conceive even after years of doing it the natural way. It’s frustrating to think I may have destroyed my fertility by swallowing that little pink pill every morning just because a doctor in love with all things modern told me to. Boo.
    .-= Em.’s last blog: Holy Week 2010: The Weekend =-.

    • I have the same issue with my ovaries creating cysts when I ovulate, and my doctor suggested the pill also. Reading this article really makes me think about doing NFP, but I am worried about the cyst problem if I go off the pill. Do you have any suggestions? Did you have any problems with cysts once you stopped taking the pill? Does anyone else have suggestions?

      • @Sara –
        I have cysts, a thyroid condition, and my doctor suspects some endometriosis, and I’m still a very happy NFP user. It is possible! NFP charts in the hands of a doctor who knows how to read them and how to address organic fertility issues are an invaluable tool for diagnosis and treatment (check out http://www.fertilitycare.org to find a Creighton Model doctor or instructor near you). My doctor knows I have cysts and is doing his best to help me eliminate them. I’m having surgery later this month to deal with the endometriosis, cysts and some other things–all with the goal of preserving and enhancing my fertility. That will help me conceive when I want AND will help my charts look more normal so that my husband and I can use them to avoid or achieve pregnancy.

        Most doctors prescribe the Pill for ‘treatment’ of ovarian cysts, but really that does not address the root of the problem, and it could make you worse off if you ever do plan on trying to have children. If you have cysts, you probably have reduced fertility as it is, because you are not really ovulating (the cyst is formed when the egg does not fully release from the ovary, and therefore doesn’t trigger the necessary hormonal changes in the body to bring about the luteal phase and eventually menstruation, making PCOS sufferers often have really long cycles.) The Pill prevents ovulation from taking place, so you really won’t have any ovulation-related cysts…but it does not address the issue of the cysts forming at ovulation, which is typically the result of complex hormonal issues and other factors.

        Don’t be afraid to try NFP!
        .-= Rachel’s last blog: April 2010 Kitchen Goals =-.

        • I have heard that some women with these types of problems may, in fact, have gluten intolerance and/or celiac disease that has been misdiagnosed because the symptoms appear to be unrelated to digestion or food issues. Perhaps you could research the connection of gluten intolerance and the problems you are having to see if going gluten free may help you.
          .-= Lori’s last blog: Dairy Free Cheeze Dip =-.

      • Sara,
        Rachel said it so well, that the Pill only hides the real problem. (Thanks, Rachel!) I have a friend who bled 95% of the month – can you imagine? – and she sent her charts to the Creighton Institute, where they could say w/o even seeing her in person: “You have A, B, and C and we’ll need to do X, Y and Z to fix you up.” She had been on the Pill to “fix” this problem for 10 years, and no doctor could have diagnosed all 3 without the incredible background of the Creighton Method and allowing her body to do what it needed to do, then reading the signs. She had a surgery and has successfully conceived 3 children, with some medical (injections) help, but nothing extraordinary or against her faith. Talk about a happy NFP user! I bet anything Creighton has a fix for cysts too.
        Good luck!!!!
        :) Katie

  13. NFP has been so effective and helpful for us. I wish more people knew about it. My doctors never told me about it, they just prescribed a pill. Thank goodness for the internet.

  14. While I respect your opinions you share in this post and the fact that NFP is by far the greenest and most organic choice, my brother and I are living proof that NFP doesn’t necessarily work best. My parents were using NFP because the doctor told my mom she wasn’t a candidate for the pill and they didn’t want to use condoms. They thought they were being careful and doing everything the way they were supposed to and they still ended up with two unplanned kids. While they don’t regret us, they were not exactly thrilled when they found out either.

    For DH and I this is just too much of a risk for us to take. We have had several discussions about children and have agreed that neither of us wants to have our own children. We might someday choose to adopt to give an older child a chance at a loving family, but we do not want to create any new life, planned or unplanned. I have been off the pill now for several months due to increased iritability and lack of desire. However, both of us are too young to have sterilization surgery even if we had the money since most doctors won’t do the procedure on a young person unless they already have kids. Therefore, we choose to use barrier methods. While I realize that this has environmental impacts, we also have to take into consideration the environmental impact that bringing a child into an already over populated world has and decide which is less.

    Like I said, I acknowledge the fact that NFP is a legitimate choice and the greenest one especially for couples who someday want to have a child. However, I would just like to put it out there for other couples who are in the same boat as DH and me that there are other things to consider. (Not trying to step on any toes, just offering a different point of view.)
    .-= Jen’s last blog: Lots of Stuff Going on in the Garden! =-.

    • Are you sure your parents weren’t using the Rhythm or Calendar Method? I’m not sure how old you are, but I’m pretty sure that is likely the case and, at the time, those methods were often referred to as “natural family planning.”

      Modern NFP is not based on a dependable or predictable cycle like the Rhythm Method of the past. It’s based on sympto-thermal fertility signs that you observe and chart on a regular basis. These modern methods are based on extensive medical research over the past two decades (or so). And they are just as effective at preventing pregnancy as artificial birth control.

      This is one of the biggest misunderstands about NFP. Modern NFP is NOT the Rhythm/Calendar method of a generation ago! There I feel better for sharing that. :)
      .-= Dustin | Engaged Marriage’s last blog: Do You Pray With Your Kids? =-.

    • Jen, I completely agree with you. If you can not afford to take the chance then you might want to consider another form of birth control. As stated below, I have used FAM since 2002 to avoid, achieve and for general GYN health. I have used the pill in the past, the diaphragm after my first son was born and most recently I had the Mirena IUC before my second son was born. I actually intend to have another Mirena inserted once my son has chosen to stop breastfeeding. I am a huge supported of NFP/FAM but only for those who can strictly adhere to the rules. I, myself, could not at a certain point hence the different forms of BC. As far as your parents, I would have to say that it was misinterpretation of your mother’s fertility signs that led to two unplanned pregnancies (as was the case with my first son…we knew we were taking a risk but went ahead anyway)…not method failure. That should not scare you away from trying NFP/FAM. I think you are being very mature and responsible in your decision and I commend you for knowing what will and what will not work for you.
      .-= Tiffanie’s last blog: Runny noses and sore throats! =-.

      • Rebecca says:

        It also may be considered that the barrier methods (condoms) are less reliable birth regulation methods than Natural Family Planning! As Dustin stated, “modern” natural family planning methods have only been around since the early 1970′s, and not used commonly even since then. Prior to that it was the calender rhythm methods which commonly failed. According to Wikipedia, the modern barrier methods offer a 15% failure rate.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_birth_control_methods

        Natural Family Planning, when the woman watches her body signs and patterns, is much more effective.

    • Jenn,

      A major German study showed that NFP is as effective as the most effective hormonal contraception:

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070221065200.htm

      I certainly respect your decision to have children or not, but I did want to point out that barrier methods are actually far less effective in preventing conception than NFP is. Especially when you consider that the effectiveness rate of condoms–87-90% or so–is the average rate when the barrier is used during the woman’s entire cycle–most of which is infertile anyway. I have always wondered what the effectiveness rate is of barriers during the known fertile period, because basic math would show it must be higher during the fertile time to get its overall average, since it’s 100% effective during the infertile time.

  15. Thank you for helping spread the word about NFP as an option. I definitely would love to have free, non-toxic, non-polluting and reliable contraception. However, comments like @ Shannon’s are exactly my concern with NFP! I read Toni Weschler’s book in preparation for conception, copied the charts, prepared to get in touch with my cycles, and then got pregnant 2 weeks after stopping the Pill (after 10 years of more or less continuous use)! We are either extremely lucky or quite fertile. I am at a loss for what to do for conception after this child is born, but am concerned about the effectiveness of NFP. We are only planning to have one biological child and I’d hate to face a hard decision in regards to an unplanned pregnancy. While its great to hear that some of the commenters have had years of success with NFP, we are looking at 15-20 more years of needing contraception, and part of me just feels that the pain associated with a possible unplanned pregnancy outweighs the concerns associated with other contraception methods that have proven themselves reliable for me in the past.

    • The article skirted over the copper IUD. It might be worthwhile to discuss with your OBGYN. It’s not hormonal, but also not immediately reversible like the pill or NFP. I still think it’s pretty green considering there are no hormones or waste.

      • thanks!
        .-= Anne L.’s last blog: Ummm, no thanks. =-.

        • Just want to point out that the IUD can actually make already heavy cycles worse. Also, if you believe life begins at conception the IUD would not be the right choice. Due to its being a foreign body, the IUD/IUC can not be considered a truly “natural” option.
          .-= Tiffanie’s last blog: Runny noses and sore throats! =-.

          • Actually, the copper IUD’s primary – and probably only- contraceptive function is spermicidal and ovicidal. There’s not much well-vetted evidence to suggest IUDs interfere with implantation or development of implanted embryos.

    • Anne,

      It would have been recommended that you abstain or use another method of contraception if you were not looking to become pregnant so quickly. Most doctors will tell you that you are extremely fertile the first few weeks coming off the pill and the possibility of pregnancy is likely. Depending on how quickly your body rids itself of the hormones, ovulation can happen at any time. If you are seriously considering NFP/FAM then you would have to abstain or use another BC method until you had enough information to determine your most fertile days. Once you had your first 3 charts under your belt you could then determine the days when you could actually go unprotected without worry. When using FAM to avoid you must abide by a stricter set of rules and you must be dedicated to following those rules each and every day….no exceptions.
      .-= Tiffanie’s last blog: Runny noses and sore throats! =-.

  16. This is a great post about NFP! We didn’t get introduced to it until we were trying to conceive, and it was very helpful. I also highly recommend the Taking Charge Of Your Fertility book.

    My only small, minor quibble is with the section of your post titled “For the Marriage.” I love the benefits that you describe, but the engineer in me cringes a little at the implication that using NFP will decrease your chance of divorce. The statistics you cite indicate a *correlation*, but your phrasing implies cause and effect. Put another way, we might just as well interpret your numbers as indicating that only couples who already have a strong, committed relationship with good communication are willing to pursue a contraception method like NFP, and do so effectively.

    • Holly,
      Good point! Usually I am a stickler about numbers and research, so I’m glad you called me on that one.

      Outside of statistics and as a believer in anecdotal evidence, I do think NFP can help a marriage become stronger, but like anything, it could be used as a divisive wedge in an already unhealthy marriage.

      Katie

  17. Katie, thanks for a great post! This was such a great approach to the NFP and organic living topic, something that I’ve been pondering for awhile.

    To reiterate what others have said…Modern NFP is a reliable, scientific method. It is not the “rhythm method” of days of old. It can work for any woman, based on her intentions to avoid or achieve pregnancy, and has the added bonus of helping to identify underlying fertility and women’s health issues. It might be more difficult for a woman with irregular cycles or fertility problems to get the hang of NFP, but that is why most methods involve intensive instruction and follow up. During the first 6 months of learning the Creighton Model, my husband and I met at least every month with our instructor, and she is available for follow-up every 4-8 weeks if we need it.

    My experience with NFP has helped me to treat endometriosis, hypothyroidism, PCOS, and PMS. I just can’t say enough good things about NFP–it’s good for women and good for the environment. It is empowering to be able to identify what is going on with my body and be regarded by my doctor as a credible source of information about my body. The underlying assumption of NFP is that charting enables a woman to understand her body better than any outside observer does. I am the one who assesses my symptoms each day, and I’m taken seriously when I suggest there might be a problem. This is entirely different from most OB/GYN patients’ experiences, I’d think.

    For me, using NFP and discovering the health issues I have has led to an even greater commitment to organic/natural living. For example–A lot of recent research has pointed to a link between PCOS and insulin resistance, and many women have reported success with getting their PCOS under control by changing their diet (typically what is prescribed is a low-glycemic index diet, though clearly that just means cutting out sugar and most refined carbs). Additionally, because most women’s health issues are so hormone-sensitive, I try to stay away from hormone-added meat and dairy, avoid the ‘dirty dozen’ of produce (pesticides are estrogenic), and try to avoid other environmental endocrine disruptors.

    To be honest, a lot of people in the organic movement know all about BPA and go to great lengths to avoid it–as they should–but don’t bat an eye at estradiol, the active estrogen in hormonal contraception that has been shown to be even more damaging than BPA for both women’s bodies and our environment. If we are outraged that cows are given estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone to force them to grow and fatten quickly in CAFOs, why would we ingest the very same substances ourselves?
    .-= Rachel’s last blog: April 2010 Kitchen Goals =-.

  18. So, I just went off of BC after 6 years of being on it due to the myriad of concerns you addressed in your article. I’ll be honest though and say the reason I stayed on BC so long was my complete inability to keep track of things, so I doubt a method of any sort would work for me. My question is how you view the copper IUD Paragard? I was a little surprised you didn’t mention it, as it and tubal ligation are the only sure-fire non-hormonal long-term options out there. I’m only 22 and my husband and I can’t have kids until we both get a Masters, so…4 years from now at least. Thanks for the great article!

    • Alex,
      I’m pretty clueless about the IUD, but I’m sorry I missed it in the article. Personally, I’m so committed to being open to life for religious reasons that I wouldn’t consider any artificial contraception. I know lots of people (even unorganized ones!) who have been able to postpone conception for 4 or more years. The great thing about NFP is that if you lose track, you’re not screwed. What a terrible pun, eh? If you forget to pay attn to your fertility, that’s just it – you can abstain and start over the next day. It def. takes self-control, but that’s marriage for ya!

      Sorry I’m no help on that one – but I’d encourage you to visit some of the resources listed at the bottom of the post, because I bet there are some references to the IUDs there.

      Thanks!
      Katie

  19. I have used the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) in one form or another since 2002. I have used to to avoid, to achieve and to keep track of my general feminine health. I am a huge supporter and willingly share what I have learned over the years with anyone who is willing to listen. I actually wrote a popular lense on Squidoo to assist both men and women in understanding that FAM is not just a “woman’s issue”. This form of birth control or pregnancy achievement works best when both partners participate.

    I noticed that you have a statistic of a 99% failure rate but it should definitely be pointed out that when there is an unexpected pregnancy, it is usually not a method error. In most cases, user error, impatience or misinterpretation are the cause. It is important for those who read this and want to give it a try that you can not immediately beginning using this method as a natural form of birth control. You definitely need to be charting (taking your basal temp and recording other symptoms) for the bare minimum of 3 months. To have a clear understanding of YOUR fertile vs. non-fertile times, you need time to see your body’s natural fertility pattern…non-fertile, gearing up, optimal fertility and its return to non-fertility. In the meantime, you need to either abstain or seek another form of birth control.

    You must be completely dedicated to following the rules if you choose to use FAM to prevent pregnancy. You can not let passion or getting lost in the moment make the final decision for you.
    .-= Tiffanie’s last blog: Runny noses and sore throats! =-.

  20. I got married at 18 and I was on the pill for 10 years – my parents agreed to our marriage on the condition that I go on the pill and finish university (since none of my sisters had). After school and a few years of work, when I went off the pill, I realized that it was really making me feel awful — my energy level went up, my ability to think quickly increased and I found it a lot easier to lose the extra weight I had been carrying for the last 4 or 5 years.

    We waited until I was 28 to have our first child, and I wish we had had children younger, and that I had not been on the pill for so long. We have not had trouble conceiving, but I value my three children so much that I am sad that I am feeling “old” already and don’t feel like I have the energy to have any more. And we have decided we want to use NFP in the future, as we now see conception as such a precious thing. Thanks for the links to information.
    .-= jill’s last blog: Quilt Bee Update =-.

  21. We stopped using “the pill” in Feb. 2007 and I got pregnant in May 2007. DD Jan. 2008. DS July 2009. We haven’t used anything since Feb. ’07 and are committed not to doing so. It really is awesome, although at this point mildly frustrating (we want another baby but I still haven’t *really* become fertile against since my last!). We know how much better it is for our family in so many ways! Thanks for this post!

  22. Rebecca says:

    Also, the Couple to Couple League out of Cincinatti has recently updated their way of teaching Natural Family Planning, and in it they have specific rules and recommendations for women coming off the pill as that is a very specific circumstance to monitor and show caution in if you wish to continue postponing pregnancy.

    http://ccli.org/nfp/index.php

    They offer a very complete class that you can do in a group with an instructor or by home-study. I would highly recommend learning from professionals like them, Billings, Creighton or Family of the Americas. They are the experts!

    • Thank you so much for this link! This is exactly what I have been looking for, as I have been on the pill for all 4 years of marriage and have recently discovered everything that’s been discussed in this post & its comments. I have become more and more convicted about our choice of contraceptive and I was trying to figure out how to transition from the pill to NFP. Thank you!!!

  23. Catherine says:

    We used NFP after having received training, and I just wanted to be honest about some of the struggles we had with it.

    After having two children and two miscarriages all very close together, all unplanned and three of those whilst using (sometimes multiple) contraceptives, my body was exhausted and we knew that if we wanted more kids we wanted a little more spacing. It took us a few months to get the hang of NFP – not because my body signs were difficult to read or because we lacked self control, but because I was still nursing and my cycles varied wildly. Also because it takes some getting used to – the lifestyle change, the unavailability of the woman vs natural desire and instinct – it almost always fell that I was ovulating when there was a birthday or anniversary or weekend away. That was really frustrating, but we felt that it was part of the consequences of the method we’d chosen, albeit an unfortunate one.

    Once we found ourselves in a semi-regular 28 day cycle, with the way that my body operated I was only “available” 7-10 days. That is less than half the time, and most of that was condensed into the week before my period when I had zero libido. And when I had the most interest, and the highest libido – I was ovulating. Again, part of the overall design, but frustrating nonetheless.

    All of that combined with being the one solely responsible for reading my body’s signs correctly, having borne all the physical side effects of my previous pregnancies and losses and desiring to be wise in planning for our next child, made the process very very stressful for me.

    You can imagine that all these things combined crossed the area of “self discipline, communicating with each other, being close in other ways” etc (which is all GOOD for a marriage) into the area of frustration, disappointment and feeling like I could never, ever again act on my body’s natural function, design and desire for my husband unless I also wanted a child. He had his own struggles, watching me deal with my side of it, and also because I simply wasn’t available to him very much, and often my “available” time fell when he was busiest at work, out of town, and I wasn’t interested. Temporarily these things can be worked on, yes, but repeatedly and over time these aspects can be just as destructive to a person’s psyche and the marriage relationship. Also, I felt like similarly to the pill, the design of NFP seemed more male oriented – the female makes the most sacrifice, carries the most weight of responsibility, has the most side effects physically (if she gets pregnant) and also emotionally, mentally. The idea that those things are equal with NFP sounds nice, but isn’t very realistic in practice – not because men are jerks or because they don’t have any responsibility overall, but just because specific to this particular method of contraception, responsibility is different. They aren’t the ones whose bodies are being watched, or end up carrying and sustaining life.

    Despite all of this, we still support NFP. There are many advantages that others have expressed here, which are true. If you are trained, and you follow the rules, it can be a very healthy, beneficial method. In the interest of full disclosure, even in following the rules, we welcomed the conception and arrival of our third child, a month earlier than we had planned. (From what we can tell, and in talking to our doctor and midwife, the egg appeared to have stayed in my body longer than normal.) Sometimes, even when you use a method of contraception, a child is simply meant to be – and for us that will always be a joyous thing.

    Now, having grown our family, and as we try to consider wisely, in an informed, responsible and prayerful way whether we continue to do so, NFP has not been our choice this time. Just as with NFP, we carefully weighed all the consequences to our actions, which have both benefits and disadvantages, and tried to make the best decision for our family.

    Perhaps, ultimately, that is all each of us can do?

    • Catherine,
      Thank you so much for being open with your story. It’s good to have a balanced perspective, because you’re right, there are always struggles with anything human. I feel guilty telling my husband that it looks like fertility signs are evident – like it’s “my” fault that I’m unavailable – and that is difficult. We try to keep the husband involved by putting him in charge of handing me the thermometer each night and sometimes even filling out the chart. That helps a LOT.

      The Creighton method teaches that no phase 3 (after ovulation and before menstruation) should be less than 12(?) days I believe. I wonder if you have some underlying medical issue that’s affecting your luteal phase?

      I truly appreciate and respect your comments and ultimate decision, and I’m happy that you shared that you still support NFP (and a little sad for you that it won’t continue to be the best choice for your family). Enjoy those lovely children and your husband, doing the best you all can do – that is the ultimate answer, isn’t it?
      Katie

      • Had to pipe in here – if husbands take active role in NFP, it really helps keep the burden off of you. My husband turns off the alarm, hands me the thermometer, and he is the only one who records on the chart. I don’t touch it. I know couples who have husband AND wife do the cervix/mucus check too! So the more involved your husband is and “in the loop,” it’s not your sad duty to say “not tonight – I’m fertile,” because he already knows! : )

  24. In my humble opinion and limited experience, NFP has been the best thing that’s ever happened to our marriage.

    My husband and I will celebrate our 11th anniversary this May. I got on the Pill before our wedding because I was going to be on my period during our honeymoon. After the honeymoon, I stayed on it for about another 6 months. I couldn’t stand the way it made me feel. We quit and went to barrier methods, mostly condoms. Hated it.

    Then we decided it was time to start our family. When my 2nd son was just a baby, we listened to Janet Smith’s tape “Contraception: Why Not?”, and we became believers.

    For the next several years, though, we had no opportunity to practice what we had learned because we were having babies.

    Five children later, we’re hoping for a little break between the last and the next, so we’re having to practice NFP “religiously”. Is it easy? No. I have desires for my husband during my fertile times and less desires during my infertile times. I have to remember to take my temperature and read my cervical signs.

    What have I learned? SEX IS NOT A GIVEN. EVEN IN A MARRIAGE. No where does it say in the exchange of vows, “We will make love and more love and more love and you will be available when my libido is up and leave me alone when it’s not.” What if my husband were in a terrible accident and was unable to have intimate relations anymore? Would my love for him be any less??? No! Tell all those military wives whose husbands have come home – sometimes literally – half a man that their marriage will probably not make because they can’t make love. It’s just not true. It’s our society that’s told us that sex is so important.

    Yes, I’m a Christian. I believe that God gave us the “desires of the flesh” to propagate our species; however, we are also called to control ourselves and those desires. Our final destination is not of this world, and our desires should be toward the same place. NFP helps train the person to that end.

    I love my husband so very much. Much more as the PERSON GOD MADE vs. the GORGEOUS HUNK OF A MAN he is, and I thank NFP for that.

  25. I stumbled upon NFP while trying to conceive our 2nd child and have been a believer since. I am one who does not like to fill my body with synthetics and will now use NFP as birth control.

  26. Thanks for this perspective – that first bolded statement really struck me. I was on the pill for seven years before we started TTC, and I already knew I’d never go back. For me, the copper (not hormonal) IUD is a good choice right now – no interference with my natural cycle, very minimal waste, and especially with a baby (who’s now a toddler) often knocking my routine off balance, it doesn’t require extra thought on my part. NFP may be in our future later.

  27. Katie, Just want to say thank you for this info! I have been on the pill since the birth of my 3rd child. I really do not want to be, but have chosen to due to my husbands wishes…also I am currently without insurance and require c-sections (unfortunately)so that plays a big role in our family planning … We have just began to talk about changing out method of birth control. This gives me some great info to share with my husband. With this kind of information, and prayer I am hopefully we can find a better way!
    Thanks again!

  28. I love NFP! And especially how it has brought another dimension to my marriage. I started out on the pill in the beginning of marriage but quickly went off of it 3 months later when hearing how the pill works by making the uterine lining inhospitable and sometimes causing fertilized eggs to be unable to implant. “Breakthrough ovulation” is most likely to occur when you’re on a low dose form, which I was on, and if you’re not 100% compliant with taking the pill at the same time every day. I was as “noncompliant” as you can get and it almost became a joke between my husband and I because I was horrible at remembering to take my pill. Plus, it made me feel horrible and it certainly was “birth control” because I had no libido anyways.

    I have never read TCOYF, but I read Your Fertility Signals: Using them to achieve or avoid pregnancy naturally. It was an excellent book! It took a couple cycles to really get in the habit of things, but I cannot tell you how truly easy it is. It is so empowering to me to understand and know my body better. I have longer cycles and this has made me understand that the 28 day-cycle perpetuated in our culture is really just a myth and that there is nothing wrong with me. Also, I really feel like using NFP has brought my husband and I closer together because we both feel a shared responsibility to deciding our family size and timing instead of it being a “woman thing” and being placed squarely on my shoulders. In this way, we’re truly acting as a team.

    But TBH, we are simply not at the point yet of feeling a conviction to abstain during my fertile window. (All of 5-7 days) We have always simply used barrier methods, because as many couples will find, this is when you’re most drawn to each other. I only put this out there for other couples who may be drawn to NFP, but turned off by this ideal. You have to do what works the best for your relationship. Maybe someday we’ll be at that point, but not right now, and other people need to know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

    Anyways, NFP has really enriched our marriage and I know I will never be going back on hormonal BC. There’s simply no need to!

    • I have to add, too, that though we don’t use barrier methods, we do find ways to be creative and still enjoy intimacy during my fertile window. It actually is a lot more interesting to experiment and be creative during those days each month! As Olivia said, don’t be turned off by the avoidance part of NFP. Intimacy can still happen!
      .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog: Spring Cleaning My Bookmarks =-.

    • Just reading all the comments here now and I wanted to say ‘amen’ to this one. I think that too many people feel it’s all or nothing when it comes to BC, especially FAM/NFP.

      Unless you have a religious belief that excludes barrier methods, there is nothing wrong with using a barrier at a time when you know you’re fertile. You need to be aware that there is a risk of barrier failure, but if you’re ok with the risk, it’s not a problem.

      I see combining FAM with barrier methods as a huge benefit. Increased awareness of the body and its cycles. Knowledge of infertile times so I don’t have to use barriers all the time (YAY!). The ability to decide whether we want to risk the failure of a barrier at fertile times. Environmentally, only using condoms at fertile times cuts down on a huge percentage of waste, which is a big step in the right direction. And when we do want to conceive, we’ll know exactly when to try for it.

      The point is, I don’t like seeing how people get turned off of FAM because they think they have to do ONLY that and they can’t choose condoms, say, for a weekend away that falls at a fertile time. If you’re ok with barriers but want something better, you can use them judiciously at the necessary times and still be mostly ‘natural’ in your family planning.

    • Forgot to add that this allows couples to be fully intimate when they most desire it. Women are biologically wired to be most desirous of sex when they are most fertile.

      For me, ‘other intimacy’ is not nearly as fulfilling as intercourse. And in our marriage, it would not be a positive thing for either of us to forever deny intercourse at the time when I’m most likely to be satisfied. So I think that’s something worth considering when deciding about how FAM would work in your own marriage.

      • I am really happy to see this discussion of a “mixed” method being used here. I feel like it can be embarrassing to talk about because most people seem to feel so strongly that it’s all or nothing. I also appreciate the links to natural living choices that others have made.

        To share my experience, my husband and I felt strongly that we didn’t want to use the pill or other chemical bc, both because of our concern of the unnatural chemicals introduced to my body, and because we hold some religious beliefs about it. That being said, we really struggled with being fully confident in our charting and with the abstinence required during the most fertile times (especially as newlyweds). I know this must make some diehards cringe, and trust me sometimes I struggle with guilt about it, but our solution has been to continue tracking my fertility signs and then to choose to use condoms when we desire to be together but aren’t actively trying to conceive during peak fertility times.

        We are fully aware that barrier methods do not have a 100% guarantee and are actually really happy about that. I know it probably sounds a little twisted, but nonetheless, religiously we always hope to remain open to children but reducing our chances while not entirely closing ourselves off to conception during a time when it’s not ideal (big company layoffs, a big move to a new area, etc.), has turned out to be a positive choice for us. We enjoy knowing that when we choose to be “together” there is still a chance of conception, but just a less likely chance. If during a certain month the idea of a pregnancy is really too much for our circumstances, we can choose to abstain completely.

        Currently I am pregnant with our first child (on purpose : ) and NFP was helpful in understanding when my fertile times were. It was also nice to not have to worry about any extra chemicals in my body from the pill affecting my fertility or our baby. I hope by sharing, I can encourage someone who is on the fence about NFP and particularly nervous about the abstinence part. Although we practice in a funny way, the communication it requires has been very beneficial to our marriage, and the joy of beginning to understand how my body actually works had been amazing. All that without worrying about extra chemicals!

        Thank you Katie for starting this wonderful discussion! and also thank you Simple Media for a safe place to be real and freely talk about all ways to incorporate NFP methods into our lives, even unconventional, often unpopular, ways : )

        • B,
          It’s been so interesting and enlightening to watch it unfurl! Thank you for sharing your experience – I do believe that any step away from contraception is a good one for marriages and like the way you talk about the communication between you and your husband. I’ll always be a die-hard NFP-only girl, but I also have high regard for those who are doing the best they can. Any guilt or moral decision-making is always between husband, wife and God, and I’m just the writer who gives information and asks questions! ;) I’m so happy that Simple Living Media does provide a safe place for such fascinating and open dialogue. Thanks for joining in! :) Katie

  29. Jennie L says:

    Thank you for this post! I never liked taking birth control and quit about a year after we were married. I didn’t like what it did to my body. It just didn’t feel healthy. However, I’ve always felt like it is a selfish choice and I should just suck it up and “take one for the team”. Several times I’ve received a new prescription (there is one in my drawer right now), but just can never bring myself to take it. Now, after nine years, I finally have some reasons it’s the right decision and not just a selfish one. Thank you!

  30. Oh my goodness. LOTS of discussion here! I read this article this morning (ugh, technically yesterday morning now!) and am just now able to comment.

    Katie – this is such great information. I am a woman who has always had irregular cycles. I can’ t imagine how I would navigate fertility/abstaining if it weren’t for NFP. Thankfully, even though my cycles vary erratically, my fertile signs are so very clear that we have no problems (so far) with knowing my fertile times.

    It took me nine months post-Pill to conceive our first daughter. After she was born, I read TCOYF because I couldn’t handle the mini-pill but wanted to continue breastfeeding. We have managed to avoid pregnancy every month since then (over five years ago) except for the ONE month when we tried for our second child – and conceived right away.

    I know it doesn’t work this way for everyone, but I did want to add my voice to the chorus of happy NFPers!

    Thank you again SO MUCH for providing such great information, Katie!
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog: Spring Cleaning My Bookmarks =-.

  31. Great post Katie! It often bothers me that so much is said about the environmental effects of pesticides and animal hormones, but very little about the hormones we directly put into our own bodies and its effects on a woman’s health, her future children’s, human health in general and the environment. I heard of an article that pointed out how the pill has contributed to feminized male fish and infertility in men – but the solution was not to find alternative fertility-control methods but to for men to take a testosterone pill!

    We’ve used NFP since we got married, and it can be difficult, especially for my husband. I haven’t heard of Creighton before, and will recommend it to some friends who also use NFP but have difficulty because of she lacks some hormone.

    Interesting comments!

  32. Maridyth says:

    A great post… and a couple of comments.

    –I use a small thermometer/computer called a LadyComp to take my temp each morning. It keeps track of my periods and my ovulation days and gives me a ‘green light’ (no, I’m not kidding) for days during the month when fertilization is not possible.

    –You mentioned a 24 hour lifespan of the egg… but you failed to mention the 5-day lifespan of the sperm. So if you have sex up to 5 days before the ovulation day, and then abstain on the ovulation day, it is still very likely that you might get pregnant.

    –What I love about the LadyComp is that it takes this into account and gives me a ‘red light’ on days when fertilization is possible (it blinks red on ovulation day). Rather than abstaining for this 5-7 days, my husband and I use condoms. We’ve been using this for years, and it works great. All of my sisters (3) and many of my friends have this little computer and use it also. No unplanned pregnancies yet!

    • @Maridyth – If you’re not monitoring your cervical fluid quality, how do you know when you’re about to ovulate? Is the machine just estimating based on past cycles? It sounds like the LadyComp would work okay for women who have very regular cycles, but there’s no way it would be accurate for someone with irregular cycles.

      • Maridyth says:

        The machine takes your basal temp each morning. It uses this reading (and my period) to determine my ovulation pattern. It is a very precise reading… to the hundredth of a degree. If you skip a reading or have an irregular reading (due to illness) it takes this into account and plans accordingly.

        Here is the website, check it out: http://www.raxmedical.com/index.php

        I didn’t do a lot of research into other methods before purchasing the LadyComp so I’m not positive that it is the best way. It has been great for me though. All of my friends that use it love it, too. Like I mentioned, there have been no unexpected pregnancies (except when my sister STOPPED using the LadyComp because she thought she knew her cycle… the mucus and all that… oops!)

        What is also nice is that my husband can check to see if it is a ‘red’ or ‘green’ day, so I’m not always the one to say ‘we can’t today.’

        • I always thought that the temperature reading was only retrospective when it comes to ovulation. It can detect whether ovulation has already occurred, but does not predict it–that’s why the sympto-thermal method relies on the mucus or cervical position sign to predict whether ovulation is set to take place. I guess my question is how the computer knows five days before ovulation is going to take place, as the temperature shift doesn’t take place until AFTER ovulation has occurred.

          I’m glad you’ve had success with the LadyComp, but I just wanted to throw out there that the computer-based methods alone are typically great for TTC, but not always the best for trying to avoid. The Marquette Model is a modified version of the Creighton Model that uses the ClearBlue Fertility Monitor, so that might be a great option for a lot of people, and can be used to avoid or achieve pregnancy.

          Also, I know that the computer helps people feel more secure in their observations, but it is not necessary for all women. Typically the pencil and paper (or thermometer, as the case may be) are all that is necessary for successful charting and successful use of NFP according to the couple’s wishes.
          .-= Rachel’s last blog: April 2010 Kitchen Goals =-.

    • Maridyth,
      I’ve never heard of that one! Same question as Bonnie, though – how does it predict impending ovulation other than “calendar method”?

      You are right about the life of the sperm, if and only if there is proper fertile cervical mucus, which is why that’s a sign to keep track of.

      Thanks for adding even more resources to the post!
      :) Katie

    • Thanks for mentioning this, Maridyth!
      I also have many friends that have used this for years successfully and have been able to conceive on their timetable! I also use it and love being able to listen to my body.

  33. I like the idea of NFP but have never tried to use it. I have been put on oral contraceptives to try and control my endometriosis but it does not seem to help. I need to look into this more because I am now pregnant with my second child (conceived while on the pill-taken as instructed-God is in control!). Does anyone know of any alternatives for treatment of endometriosis besides being stuck back on the pill once I have this blessing?

    • The only real treatments of endometriosis involve laparascopic surgery to remove the adhesions (I am scheduled to have this done next week), and dietary changes to prevent them from occurring. The Pill does NOT treat the hormone imbalances (typically estrogen excess) that cause endometriosis!

      Contact the Pope Paul VI Institute (don’t be scared off by the name if you’re not Catholic–it’s the leading center for NaProTechnology in the world and Dr. Hilgers there is an expert and has pioneered new methods for detecting and treating endometriosis) in Nebraska.

      http://www.popepaulvi.com/ or http://www.fertilitycare.org
      .-= Rachel’s last blog: April 2010 Kitchen Goals =-.

  34. I am so glad you are writing on this topic. Recently, I’ve been reading the statistics on the dramatically increasing chronic health problems of young children, including cancer, that we being linked more and more to environmental chemicals. It’s so sad. Getting a pure start pre-conception is a wonderful gift to offer to your child.
    .-= Sandra Lee’s last blog: The power of one =-.

  35. Brooke Kingston says:

    I’d just like to add my praises for this well-written post on NFP. My husband and I have been successfully practicing NFP since we were married. Prior to marriage, I was on The Pill to help regulate abnormal and painful menstrual cycles. I am Catholic and our Church’s teachings led my husband and me to NPF. After giving birth to our first child and breastfeeding for a year, my cycles returned more normally and with much less pain. I was prescribed the mini-pill shortly after the birth of DS#1 and decided not to take it. NFP gave me the awareness that, even while breastfeeding, I knew my body best. It also gave me renewed confidence to trust the God that I believe in, and who always provides for what I need. The faith implications of this family planning decision have been wonderful…thought that might be an important component to add to the discussion. :)

    • Brooke,
      I too am Catholic and have a hard time not responding with my “no contraception at all” morality to some of the diaphraham and IUD suggestions, but for
      Simple Organic, I’m just trying to make sure NFP is seen as a fabulously green option…and maybe some people will stumble onto the beauty of the Catholic Church because of it! ;) My own blog is decidedly from a Catholic perspective.

      What a great testimony you share – thank you so much!
      :) Katie

      • Brooke Kingston says:

        Katie, I really appreciate your measured responses here, and the way you’ve made this topic very accessible and true. I also appreciate the chance it’s given me to bookmark your wonderful site, so I can continue reading things you’ve written. :)

        Loving this new Simple Organic site, and the fresh perspective its writers provide. Thank you for fostering a safe, open environment to share ideas on how to live our best, greenest lives!

      • Katie, it was wonderful to stumble upon your blog. I too have it in my reader now. It is so refreshing to me to find a like Catholic-mind! Best-abbie
        .-= abbie’s last blog: food for thought =-.

  36. This is a great comprehensive post about NFP. We actually recently received the home study course from the Couple to Couple League and I have to admit: I’m intimidated. I truly wish I had studied these issues pre-kids – when I had more leisure time to spare.

    Despite feeling overwhelmed, we are planning to move ahead. I just need to carve out a few hours to read the material…
    .-= Stephanie’s last blog: There’s a good chance =-.

    • Stephanie,

      I wish you all the best! We had the benefit of a live teacher, but I’m sure you can figure it out with the at-home course. I hope all these positive comments give you motivation to sit down with your husband and work through the material together. It’s utterly fascinating all you can learn about the human body that you didn’t know about!

      :) Katie

    • we went to a Couple to Couple League life class because I too got the home-study materials and was totally overwhelmed. I hope that there is a class in your area. Our teachers were wonderfully open about their experiences and were able to point us in the right direction if they didn’t have the answers we sought. NFP has helped my husband and I so much. Good luck to you!!
      .-= abbie’s last blog: food for thought =-.

      • Just so you don’t feel you are all alone, I found the at-home study material really overwhelming as well. That was even with a “coach” to email/phone call with. In the future I would like to look for a class, and possibly switch over to the Creighton method which seems to have more real life instructors in our area. : )

  37. I have seen WAY too many of my friends get pregnant while using NFP. The failure rate with NFP is very high compared to other methods mostly because it is a bit more difficult to follow. That being said, I had concerns about taking oral contraceptives long term, so we switched to the diaphragm. The diaphragm is non-hormonal, doesn’t contribute to waste because the device lasts for years, and it isn’t as intrusive as condoms.

    It is so frustrating that the gyn never suggested it as a legitimate method of birth control and just pushed the pill on everyone! I would definitely suggest looking into the diaphragm if you aren’t ready for NFP, but you want to get off of hormones.
    .-= Amanda’s last blog: Redeeming an ugly kitchen =-.

    • Just wanted to say that the failure rate of NFP is ~1-3% (depending upon which study and which method). That’s the actual method failure where if you follow all the rules and still end up getting pregnant. Naturally, some people end up getting pregnant because they didn’t follow all the rules or they misinterpretted something (ex: they thought it was safe to have sex “today”, when it was really safe “tomorrow” because they didn’t double check the chart). And, there are those who know that pregnancy is a risk and that they are in the fertile phase but decide to just go with the flow anyway. Those are not method failures though. (I also want to stress that NFP isn’t always easy…..however, it’s not NFP’s failure rate but rather the difficulty that may come from being able to abstain when the method calls for it.)

  38. I used to think that I needed to be on the pill for medical reasons. I had 45 day cycles, lots of bleeding, debilitating cramps, foggy-brain, headaches that stole weeks from my life. The pill helped ease these PMDD symptoms. I went off the pill very shortly after getting married and conceived my first child. After 2 1/2 years of being pregnant or nursing 2 babies, I finally got my cycle back. And the PMDD symptoms returned. And then I found out that I have celiac disease. I cut the gluten and presto, all the symptoms disappeared.
    I believe that if I had been on the pill, I would have been battling still. With NFP I was able to focus on my body, and find out what I truly need. I am so lucky to have a OB doc who supports NFP.
    NFP has helped us conceive and NOT conceive. But most importantly practicing NFP makes you dig deep into your soul, into your marriage, and into your relationship with God. It is like a daily journey that helps us know our bodies better, live our green-natural lifestyles better, and know each other and God better. I am so pleased to read your article about NFP. Thank you so much for sharing.
    .-= abbie’s last blog: food for thought =-.

  39. I love this post! We use NFP & find it a wonderful way to plan a family. We weren’t always NFP users, we didn’t start until after our 3rd child (we have 4 now–#4 was planned). We began using NFP after the birth of our 3rd–yep during the postpartum period & I breastfed (with no cycle) & used NFP to help see when my fertility was returning. And used it during all sorts of wacky cycles, so it is possible to use NFP in all these cases. Even to try for our 4th! It did take a bit of getting use to since we hadn’t always used NFP but it helped us grow so much in our marriage & communication in this area (which wasn’t easy but well worth it!)

    We use the Marquette Model of NFP which is taught through Marquette University’s Natural Family Institute. http://nfp.marquette.edu/ It helped us through all the different cycles & the staff (along with the online forum) is very helpful.

    Also, with NFP you have to follow the rules if you are avoiding. I have helped many women with NFP & find that most surprises come from NOT following the rules–having sex during the fertile period, using a backup method during the fertile period that *fails*, or guesstimating data not tracking data like the methods tell you too (e.g. they were using a calendar method). And then remember that no method is 100% but if you follow NFP correctly it will be pretty darn close if you discern it’s necessary to avoid. And if you are part of the “did everything perfect but ended up pregnant” then Congrats! Because really no method is 100% (unless don’t have sex at all) but you’ve been given a great gift in your new child :)
    .-= beth aka confusedhomemaker’s last blog: Boneless Leg of Lamb Roast =-.

  40. Thank ;you for posting this information. My husband and I have a beautiful 1 year old daughter. She was conceived after 2.5 years of trying. We never were on birth control from the time we got engaged as we knew we wanted a child soon after being married.
    Had I known some of this NFP information, I possibly could have foregone some of the fertility treatments we used (100mg of clomid and an HCG trigger shot)…I’m not ashamed of having to use these drugs, but had I known the tricks of O’ing and family planning…I wouldn’t of had to use the clomid over a period of 5 months more than likely.
    We are now trying for baby #2 and are starting with NFP well as much as possible. I have PCOS, so I don’t O on my own, so we must work around it…thank you so much for the links you posted.

    Also, for those of you who make your own baby food. A great book is “Super Baby Food”….I used it all the time and still use it as a reference on occasion.

  41. Also, if any of you have advice…

    I exclusively breast fed my daughter until she was 1, never have cycled since then…
    it’s been 23 months now with no period whatsoever…it makes me kind of nervous, how do you record your cycles…when you don’t even know where to begin?!?!

    • Samantha,
      23 mos. after baby or including your pregnancy? I’m right about there, too, at 22 mos. after baby’s birth w/o a period. It is a crazy time, but you watch for similar cues as within the normal cycles – stretchy, slippery, clear mucus, the sensation of wetness during the day, and so on. CCL has a special return of fertility after childbirth class now, and you can take it for free if you’re a member of the organization. Creighton is very well-versed in this phase, but it’s pricey to start out with them. Different people notice different things – I can tell mine is *trying* to return because I’m breaking out with zits! Some people lose their last 5 lbs of baby weight all of a sudden, for example.

      Then again, since you’re trying anyway, you may just want to not chart and have fun! ;)

      Best of luck interpreting this tricky time!
      :) Katie

      • 22 months without a cycle (we conceived June of 08) so that was my last cycle…
        12 months since my daughter was born…

        I don’t have any clue when it will come since I only got AF when it was induced by Provera or Metformin…..so I am hoping I am watching all the signs correctly.

        Thanks for the info! :)

        • Samantha,
          Many women ovulate between 6-12 mos. after baby’s birth, but many also go much longer! I was totally dry for at least 18 mos, so I didn’t even start charting until then.

          I had 19.5 mos. infertility (post childbirth) with my first, and 22 so far with the second. You could be in for a long wait!

          :) Katie

          PS – I find it funny that we NFP people are so open about our cycles and such. It’s not uncommon to be sitting at a table of all NFP-using women and hear the words “charts” “mucus” “cycles” etc tossed around like “soccer” and “video games”. !!

  42. Thank you for all the information on NFP. I haven’t looked into the idea too much, as I am only now thinking of getting off “the pill” but really appreciate the introduction to it. I, too, have really bad PMS symptoms (I think its more like PMDD, but haven’t really ever talked to the dr about that). I got off the pill for a few months last year, and the PMDD returned with a vengeance – enough that I am afraid to get off of it again for fear of those symptoms. After reading your story though, I am interested to see if perhaps getting off of birth control and getting more in touch with my own body would help to alleviate these symptoms. I’ve been on the pill for 5 years without a real break (aside from those 2 months last year), so I don’t really even know what my body would do if I got off of it long term.
    When I was a teenager, I had horrible mood swings, and after I got on the pill those stopped, which I attributed to the pill. After reading what you’ve written though, I question whether or not something else is going on. I have always been a carb lover (that is an understatement…I could eat all carbs all the time), so if something like a food allergy could cause the same symptoms as PMDD, then maybe that is my problem? I’m not sure, but I think its worth exploring.

    Thank you again for your information!
    .-= Lauren’s last blog: English Muffins =-.

    • Lauren,
      I would definitely check into the Creighton model for medical issues. They’re amazing. See my comment above (no. 41) for my friend’s experience with AW-ful cycle issues – believe me, she was afraid to go off the Pill, too, but now she’s all taken care of!

      So glad to give you somewhere to begin!
      :) Katie

    • When my cycles returned postpartum, I had much worse emotional PMS symptoms than ever before. Then I started taking magnesium supplements in hopes that they’d help with migraines. They did, some, but there was also a dramatic reduction in my emotional PMS, and the only time it’s been bad again was when I ran out of magnesium for a while. I’ve since read that magnesium (or calcium) deficiency can cause PMS.
      .-= ‘Becca’s last blog: 7 Lessons from Lent =-.

      • Thank you for that information! I am definitely going to look in to a couple of these things and see if I can’t figure out why I have such bad PMS! If it weren’t for the fear of that monster returning, I would love to get off the pill, so I appreciate the information you all have shared!
        .-= Lauren’s last blog: The Help =-.

    • Just wanted to give some input from the other side.
      I went on the pill before I was sexually active, for PMDD. And I loved it. It was great not to have severe depression and mood swings, suicidal thoughts, etc for that 1/4 of the month. I felt I could be myself again.
      The pill also controlled my heavy painful periods. Without it I was missing school and class, vomiting and writhing from the most intense pain I’ve yet to experience. (More painful than childbirth, and i’ve had 2 babies.) With the pill I was able to carry on.
      I haven’t returned to the pill between pregnancies, but periods are lighter. I have been able to manage the mood swings with cutting out sugar and processed carbs, but it’s still a very difficult time each month. I am pregnant with my 3rd and last child, and would consider returning to the pill for a time if it helped mentally/ emotionally.

  43. Good stuff, Katie! I LOVE to see others using and teaching NFP. We have used it in order to try to achieve pregnancy during a season of infertility, and it was absolutely invaluable as a way of learning more about my body and being able to determine why conception wasn’t taking place. I wish that every engaged women could have someone tell them all about NFP!
    .-= Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home’s last blog: Homemade Beef Tallow: A Simple and Convenient Way to Store It =-.

  44. My husband went to the arctic for work last year for two months and I went off the pill while he was gone (more because I put off going to refill my prescription). I didn`t get a period for 6 months after I stopped taking the pill. They had to force one with a Progesterone withdrawal. Fast forward a few months and my husband has been doing predeployment training to go overseas. Needless to say we didn`t want to conceive during that time, and didn`t want to have to abstain if my fertile time fell during the weekend when he was home. I was on the pill for a few months, but then missed a pack – again because of not refilling my prescription – and so I wasn`t concerned when I didn`t get a period in December. I started my next pack as normal, but with Christmas holidays and all of our travelling I forgot to take a couple, and a few days later we found out I was 8 weeks pregnant! This baby girl we`re expecting is the biggest blessing to us right now, and I never would have anticipated how much comfort she would bring me while he`s gone to Afghanistan. Long story short, I`m definitely proof that the pill can totally mess up your hormones. I think when I go on the pill my body starts relying on it fully to produce/control the hormones and has trouble taking over again when I`m off it.
    .-= Jen @ Canadian Rhapsody’s last blog: the tough stuff =-.

    • Jen,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story; I find it truly fascinating and touching. I’m so glad you are seeing the blessing in this. What incredible designs God has for us, even to work around our efforts to be in control! May you have much peace (and a quick return!) while your husband is serving our country! God bless you both.
      :) Katie

  45. Thank you so much for your wonderful post about NFP. I am a Creighton Model teacher in the Houston, TX area and I have witnessed the benefits of NFP on women’s health, fertility awareness, and marriages not only with my clients, but within my own marriage and struggle with infertility.

  46. Thanks for the great article. NFP IS a healthy natural method of family planning.

  47. I wanted to mention that if anyone is nervous about learning an NFP method because they are unsure of their ability to make the observations etc., there is a method that uses a fertility monitor to help identify peak hormonal indicators, the Marquette method, and they are currently running a study and looking for participants. Participation involves being assigned either to a monitor use group or a mucus only group, learning the method (with support), and charting online. Participants receive a financial incentive and a free monitor and strips. I’m in the mucus-only group and I’m enjoying how simple the method is, though I’m really looking forward to receiving my monitor when we finish!

    The website is http://nfpstudy.marquette.edu/register.php to register.

    • Another method of watching for ovulation is to look at your dried, magnified saliva for a “fern” pattern. I have a gadget called Ovulens that makes this easy, and it is completely reusable for years without buying any extra supplies. I wouldn’t recommend it as your ONLY method of fertility awareness, but combined with checking cervical fluid and being aware of other physical sensations (like breast changes), it’s very useful.
      .-= ‘Becca’s last blog: 7 Lessons from Lent =-.

    • My husband and I just finished this study. We were assigned to the monitor group. (And we were previously trained in the Creighton method.) I can see how the monitor would help some people with observations. However, it can’t be used alone. You either have to use it with an algorhythm (sp?) that the study is currently studying now or along with mucus observations. For us, it was fun to participate for a year and to contribute to giving couples another method of NFP. However, we are now back to doing Creighton because 1) I learned how good my mucus observations were when then correlated really well with the monitor readings, 2) my husband distrusts relying on a machine (although I guess there’s the potential for error with whatever method you choose–artificial or natural, machine or observations), 3) the strips cost us $12-15/month whereas Creighton costs us $7.50 for the year (for the charts and stickers)–the study only gives you the monitor and one box of strips: you’re responsible for paying for the rest yourself, although they will give you a gift card for some money after the study is done and 4) since this is an organic website, the strips do create waste. Having said all that though, I’m really glad that we did the study and I’d recommend that others check it out. If nothing else, using the monitor made me more confident in my ability to read my own body’s signs of fertility. And, even if you use strips, it’s less toxic for your body and, likely for the environment as well, than artificial hormones.

  48. How does this method work with nursing mothers?

    • Joy,
      As fertility returns after childbirth, of course for most people breastfeeding holds it off for a while. That impacts the fertility signs, but they are still ultimately the same as a “normal” cycle. You just have to be really in tune with what you’re seeing and ready for some potential ambiguity. Most methods have special rules and adaptations especially to help navigate this stage, and Couple to Couple League just launched a whole class (one night) on the subject. Hope that helps! NFP definitely still “works” for nursing mamas!
      :) Katie

  49. Thank you for posting this! As a huge advocate of FAM, I think women need to be educated about their bodies. Women’s bodies are so amazing, and if we listen to them instead of shutting them down, it’s amazing what we’ll find out :)

  50. Hmmm, my sister-in-law turned me on to this after my first child was born and I definitely did NOT want to take the pill anymore. However, after successfully not having a child for 2 years we were then unable to conceive for 9 months. I’m a huge proponent of natural, but I don’t think this is a foolproof method either because many women are not completely regular. And, I’m inclined to think that my period of fertility doesn’t actually line up with my body temperature/mucus due to the fact that I finally got pregnant (and miscarried twice before finally carrying to term with the third one) only when we “tried” much earlier than the chart would say we should.
    Which also makes me think that we’re “lucky” we didn’t get pregnant in the 2 years when we weren’t trying!
    Just my thoughts!

    • I do remember reading in “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” that your temperature was the least accurate way as many women didn’t have the “typical” temperature drops and elevations. I am one of those ladies and for my husband and me we go by cervical fluid and checking the cervix (is it low, high, open, closed, etc…).

      We have one wonderful (just) 2-year-old boy, but it has been difficult for me to get pregnant again even though I have been ovulating since August my hormones are still wacky. Recently, my little guy and I cut out all but a nap-time nursing and keeping my fingers crossed that it helps us to provide a sibling soon! I love NFP/FAM and how much it teaches me about my body. Too bad my doctors are a little condescending of me and my birth/life choices. (Nursing my toddler, waterbirth with midwives, no birth control. I am just a problem patient!) Thanks for a great post, there is no way I would ever use birth control, and people think I am crazy and will end up with 20 kids. I seriously doubt that as I am having trouble getting to #2!

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