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. Thanks for this great topic. I was on the pill for about 4 years. It caused me to gain 15 pounds in the first 6 weeks and changed my appetite for food forever (it taught me to really want food.) Right before my husband and I married I went off the pill because we knew we wanted a baby fairly soon, and we had our son a few months before our second anniversary.

    I did not realize until I was off of it how much it affected me and my labido, and I was glad to be off of it. It wasn’t until later it is considered by the World Health Organization as a Class 1 carcinogen along with asbestos and gamma radiation! Why are we not told this! Here is some good information about this: http://www.jillstanek.com/contraception/did-you-know-th.html

    After my second baby’s birth 8 years later (oh, how I wish I had NFP to help us figure out why we did not conceive!) I did a lot of research. I discovered Couple to Couple League – CCLI (I’m personally not familiar with Crighton or Billings so I can’t comment on them) and also the book “Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing: How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies” by my hero Sheila Kippley. Because I practiced Ecological Breastfeeding (no bottles, no pacifiers, no babysitters, sleep with baby) and not “cultural breastfeeding” which is the norm here in the West, I did not have a cycle for 11 months. We then bought the Home kit at CCLI and learned how to do NFP.

    I can’t tell you how fantastic this is. Yes, it does take sacrifice to not have relations on fertile days. BUT…I now know my body. NOBODY teaches this stuff to women except NFP programs. I learned how my body works. I’m much more in tune to it. Because I keep charts I can see the changes my body has undergone. I had really long cycles, yeast infections, etc. but because of the Sympto-thermal method of cross checking temps, mucus and cervix, I knew what was going on. I feel so much more empowered. Plus, I spend no money each month for pills and I’m not polluting the water supply. Companies make a lot of money off the pill, they don’t with NFP. That is why NFP is not popular.

    I highly recommend it for both spacing babies and trying to conceive. Many, many of my friends and their husbands practice NFP with great success. The best thing to do is not be afraid and to ask questions. You also might find this book helpful as well: Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition 4th Edition by Marilyn Shannon.

    I’m planning on doing a blog post about this soon at my blog LiveCatholic.net. Thanks again for addressing this topic of how it affects us and the Earth.

  2. What a wonderfully written post. My Husband and I have been using Natural Family planning since we were married almost 4 years ago, and we were able to conceive our twins naturally and thus avoid pregnancy since. I do believe it’s the best for our family and the easiest less invasion thing I’ve ever done.
    .-= Jenna @ Newlyweds’s last blog: Summer Garden week 2 =-.

  3. “Longevity is the major benefit: less than 5% of NFP users divorce, compared to 50% in the rest of the (American) population.”

    This has to be the most worthless statistic I have ever read. This statistic is a reflection of the type of people willing to practice NFP rather than the actual effects of NFP.

    I am not arguing for or against the merits of NFP. Just arguing against the justification of the statistic.

  4. Good post. :-) The only thing is that NaPro technology is not the Billings Ovulation Method. Creighton and Billings are not the same. Sorry to be a stickler – I’m a Billings Ovulation Method instructor. ;-) Both are good methods, of course, they just aren’t the same method, and it looks a little confusing with having them listed on the same line. :-) Thank you again for the post, though. :-)

  5. Thanks so much for the information. I linked to this article/blog on my FB account for Earth Day. I wish more people (especially doctors) accepted NFP/FAM. However, its great to see the comments here & see that people are slowly getting the message!

  6. Great post, Katie! I\’m currently engaged so I\’m looking into things =) and I really, really like knowing more about how my body works, even if not necessarily using it as birth control… I saw a couple of commenters wrote about being on the pill because of PMS symptoms/regulating periods etc. Did any of you look into red raspberry leaves?? After drinking tea made with raspberry leaves I noticed a VERY positive change in the length of my cycle and it is no longer painful as it used to be, nor am I as irritable. It\’s worth a try? And it\’s certainly \”natural\” =) It\’s NOT \”just a pregnancy herb\” it works for the whole female reproductive system. Common Name: Red raspberry leaf Latin Name: Rubus idaeus You can read more here: http://www.bulkherbstore.com/RRLC?s=raspberry%20leaf

    • That’s cool Abigail! I’ve had raspberry leaf tea to help with cramps but I didn’t know it would help other monthly issues! :)

  7. I’ve been on the road to all things natural after we started trying to have our first. I’m convinced being on the pill for 2.5 years prior made it more difficult to conceive. After that, I had no desire to go on the pill until we were done having our family. Now, I’ve been convinced (after natural childbirths, breastfeeding, eating an organic, more plant-based diet, and reading Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health) that I NEVER want to take the pill again. We use the barrier method to avoid pregnancy (which is really just an extra precaution since it appears that I do not ovulate while breastfeeding). I figure if the condom fails, it was God’s plan. :) I wish I could do NFP, but I couldn’t even figure it all out to help me GET pregnant, so I doubt my skills to avoid pregnancy. LOL When we’re all done, dh will get “fixed” and if we get pregnant after that… well then it REALLY must be God’s will. ;)

  8. I also love “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni W! My husband and I have been using it successfully now for 1.5 years to avoid pregnancy. We use condoms in the fertile phase.
    I wanted to mention that a friend of mine has a forum called The Christian Family Planning Network http://christianfamilyplanning.net/ where people can discuss all kinds of these issues according to different topics (pregnancy, avoiding pregnancy, menstruation, parenting, etc.). Check it out! :)

  9. I’ve been reading “Garden of Fertility” by Katie Singer, and I’m finding it to be a great primer on NFP. We’re going to try to get pregnant this spring, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to nail the timing!
    Maggie´s latest post: My Favorite Frugal- Nourishing- Grain-Free- Comforting- Stretchable- Versatile Dinner Recipe

  10. I find the effect of ‘the pill’ on the Earth and the environment surprising, however, I really think that its pros out weigh the cons. Not everyone, infact most of us have had indulgences sexually, beit as a teenager or an adult teenager. Some information seems to be loaded with old Catholic values.
    James Anderson´s latest post: baby walker

    • James,
      You’ve got me pegged! I myself am loaded with old Catholic values, which are still new and current to my lifestyle as a young mother. I cannot think of one benefit of the Pill that doesn’t have an equally or moreso devastating side effect, both for the person’s emotions, physical health, and the health of the environment. Maybe you could explain what you’re thinking a bit more about the pros? That might help me understand where you’re coming from a bit more. Thanks for chiming in! :) Katie

  11. I appreciated NFP, but only from Toni Weschler’s book. It was highly informative and there were no traces of guilt when giving that information (i.e. the feeling was that the reader was exploring NFP for any number of reasons and didn’t need to be convinced, but informed). I believe that it was what led me to be more aware of my body, and this helped me find out–on my own, because doctors told me that abnormalities are normal–that I have low progesterone. I do not know if this will be an issue later on, as my husband has azoospermia and we are focusing on him right now.
    The one part of NFP that I did not find to be true was the stronger marital bond from it. This is highly dependant on how the marriage is to begin with. With my husband and I, it was painful to be “hands off” because he was terrified of getting pregnant. I thought we were doing NFP because we acknowledged that God was in control of our bodies. I also found myself doing all of the “work” to find my fertile and non-fertile times, so I had to yell “unclean! unclean!” whenever he came near me around “that time”. :-P

  12. Natural family planning is also so good for a couple’s relationship. It enables them to truly communicate and work together.

    http://what-about.co/
    Nicky´s latest post: Natural Home Made Beauty Recipes

  13. My husband and I have been married almost a year and half now, and have been off the pill for almost six months. I begged to go off when I realized that my depression was significantly better during my period (no one should be looking forward to their period so that they can feel normal again.) We’ve been using a mix of condoms and guesses about NFP ever since. We both like the idea of NFP, but honestly it frightens me a little, I’m not hugely regular, and what if I measure something wrong? It seems very difficult, is it? I would love some advice!
    The Little Wife´s latest post: Strawberry Cake Recipe

    • The beautiful thing about NFP is that it does work with very irregular cycles. Mine are almost always over 35 days, sometimes up to 45, which doesn’t at all mess up my charting. Once you learn the method officially, it will seem SO much less daunting. Hard to measure difficulty, but as far as mental effort and time expended, it’s really not that tricky. And if you get really nervous that you’re misinterpreting something, you just wait an extra day or two. There’s no “no going back” with NFP like there is for other methods. Most classes also have some sort of support after the fact if you have a tricky question. No more guessing and making yourself nervous – find a class. You’ll appreciate it! :) Katie

  14. I’m really surprised by that divorce statistic…only 5%. That’s incredible. I can see how that would be though. People in NFP give more thought to their lifestyle and choices in general and they seem to know themselves better than the average person, so I can see how they would make better choices as to who they marry. This was a really fascinating article. More and more, I’m starting to go natural in all areas of my life.
    Ben´s latest post: Greens Gold Review

  15. Thank you for this great info about NFP and for spreading it. I hope more people will know about it so more people will be knowledgeable and support this method.
    Jamie´s latest post: blu cigs

  16. “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. ”

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Most over the counter drugs fit this description. Painkillers treat pain, which is natural and a sense that’s very important for health, and rewires your normally working system so that it malfunctions. Same with antihistamines. Or cough syrup. Or anti-emetics.

  17. Oh my god! Katie, you have given up to end information. Its a whole life cycle representation with each steps. thanks a lot for this information.
    hetvi @ pregnancy miracle´s latest post: Pregnancy Miracle: Great Way to Get Pregnant Naturally

  18. Really really informative content…
    I am totally agree on your point of real parenting can be start even before conceiving….
    Some real cool pregnancy info has been given here…pregnant
    I really like your article and will come back soon….

  19. Sally Thompson says:

    I will definitely support this.. This should be promoted and taught to other mothers that uses contraceptives.. I will surely share this with my other mother friends! You have a very interesting blog here.. Thanks for sharing.. Wish to spread this to others..
    Sally Thompson´s latest post: goodyear coupons

  20. This is an interesting post for me to read, as it is a topic my husband and I have been giving some serious thought. We are trying to study and learn what God tells us about children and child-prevention in the Bible. In the beginning we used the Pill, completely ignorantly – never questioned it to learn that it can actually act as an abortifacient. Then we’ve had 5 pregnancies and 3 miscarriages in 12 years, so haven’t had much time to try anything else :) Our question lies in the issue of child-prevention itself, regardless of method. It is curious to me that so many who cite religious reasons for not using artificial contraception are comfortable with preventing children naturally, as I was under the belief that it was the act of preventing conception that was at the heart of the issue. In scripture we read that children are a reward, a heritage, a blessing from the Lord, and our question is, “is it right to actively try to prevent something that is described as God’s blessing and reward?” (I am not preaching – this is honestly still a point of question and study in our home, and since I hadn’t seen anyone mention this viewpoint yet, I thought I’d bring it up.) We also see Paul instruct married couples to only abstain for reason of prayer – I’m not sure how this fits into the context of family planning – still seeking wisdom. On one hand, the idea of a huge family is very intimidating; yet, as my husband says, we don’t have one we’d like to put back yet :) Anyway, just another perspective that I’d like to throw into the mix…

    • Jennifer,
      I definitely appreciate your perspective, and you are not alone in trying to figure out God’s plan for our fertility, believe me. As a Catholic, I sort of get off easy because I can just follow the tradition of the Church, which says that NFP is acceptable and working with the rhythms that God created…but also that avoiding pregnancy should be done only for grave reasons. Discerning what “grave” reasons are brings us pretty much back to your question pertaining to Paul’s instructions about abstinence. So maybe I don’t get off so easy! ;)

      May your discernment and prayer be fruitful and wise…

      Thanks for the perspective!
      :) Katie
      Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship´s latest post: Recipe Connection: Dairy-Free Coconut Eggnog Smoothie from Primal Toad {GUEST POST}

  21. More than NFP says:

    The problems I have with Natural Family Planning are partly stereotypes, which the comments on this post have erased, but partly very real concerns about its efficacy. While it may have a 1-3% error rate when used perfectly, perfection isn’t always possible. For someone who doesn’t want kids at all (will be getting my tubes tied as soon as I can afford it/when I’m 30 – the “magic” year when a women can decide not to want kids according to the medical establishment), the potential user error is something I don’t want to chance. I was on the pill for a couple of years and while I took it regularly while in a relationship, I did not once I was no longer sexually active. Since I wanted to limit hormonal exposure, I looked into different birth control methods. I currently have a copper IUD – no hormones, minimal waste. I won’t have to think about birth control for ten years (talk about peace of mind!).

    However, the real reason I am afraid to try NFP (and I’m only saying this because my side of the fence seems unrepresented here) is because of the religious overtones present in conversations about it, and I would imagine in support groups for women practicing it. It is known as FAM (Fertility Awareness Method) outside of religious circles to try and limit the religious affiliation. As someone who isn’t religious, my main concern is preventing pregnancy – period.

    It comes off as condescending when women talk like preventing pregnancy through any of the modern methods available (hormonal contraception, spermicide, etc.) is immoral and undesirable. Reading these comments one would think that the only respectable way to prevent pregnancy is to practice NFP. It’s also off-putting when you talk about unplanned pregnancies like it’s no big deal: it is a very big deal when you don’t want kids ever.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that while there are misconceptions about the method itself, it is a viable method for those that trust their body and are able to maintain due diligence. However, the culture that surrounds NFP is often very demeaning to women outside of Christianity. I would feel judged for my atheism every time I talked to a practitioner or support group, more than I already do for not wanting children.

    Just my two cents.

  22. I stumbled on this webiste after doing some research on different non-hormonal birth control methods. Let me say that it has been awesome and such a learning experience reading all of these comments!
    I got married in july of last year. Hubby and I have decided that we would like to conceive our first child this summer- hoping to become pregnant in July (I know, stange to have it narrowed down to a month, but this works best with our work schedules). Anywho, I have been on the pill for 11 years. I had many problems with the pill, but felt I had been on it for so long that I wasnt sure which problems could have been attrinuted to the pill, and which were not. When doing natural birth control research, I discovered that likely all were caused by the extra hormones I was putting into my body. Yuck!
    I am now due for my period and will be using NFP from here on out. If anyone has been in my situation (being on the pill for many years, getting off of it, using NFP and wanting to conceive within 6 months) I would appreciate any pointers or advice, or how long it took you to conceive.
    Do any of you ever use ovulation test strips, or should NFP method take away the need to test?
    This is all very new to me but i’m super excited to start on this journey!

  23. So glad/inspired to hear so many are into NFP! We have been using this on & off, if that makes sense, since my 4th stopped nursing over a year ago. Sadly we miscarried our fifth baby at 14 wks. I will say that, even tho the pgnancy had been a huge shocker, the charting helped immensely with realizing earlier on that I might be pg and it helped to look back and compare past cycles. Any way you go about it babies are truly a blessing, expected or not! Don’t dwell on “down sides” or what if’s too much and too long. Live expecting the unexpected. Always ask why you’re doing what you’re doing in regard to many aspects of your life and trust the truths in your life. Trust the Creator of it all! My hubby and I have literally just been learning this all over again and talking about going back to NFP whole hog! It’s tough after a miscarriage but there is hope and renewed trust. So glad for this topic!

  24. Rachel, I have PCOS, and some of my symptoms are pretty severe. I was recommended birth control pills as a way to treat this. I began taking the pill but was encouraged by my sister to do more research on it before continuing. I got married shortly after being diagnosed and starting on BC. I started experiencing unwanted symptoms from the birth control and I was feeling a personal conviction about being on it. So I have since quit taking the pill because I\’d really like to practice NFP but I am still struggling with how to treat my PCOS naturally. Do you have any suggestions as to where I can find more research and what I can do to treat it while following NFP? I feel like so many women with hormonal issues are told that birth control and other unnatural methods are the only way!

    • Sarah,
      I haven’t had personal experience with PCOS, but a good friend had incredible success with the Creighton Model and the docs at Creighton’s home base in NE (via mail, she didn’t even see the doctor, just sent her charts). All the links I had bookmarked are dead, phooey, but I’m sure a Google search could help you find a practitioner in your area even. Good luck – it can be done!!!
      :) Katie

  25. We have used NFP successfully for years. In addition to the benefits of protecting life and protecting the earth, I believe that NPF is essential so that a woman is in tune with her own body. Our hormones affect more than just our fertility, they affect our moods, energy levels, thought processes, and our health. When something is amiss, I can immediately reference where I am in my cycle and know if my hormones are likely the cause. :)

    I highly recommend the book Love and Fertility, available through Family of the Americas: http://www.familyplanning.net/

    It simply and logically explains NFP based on the Billings Ovulation Method (solely using observation of cervical mucus, no basal temperature tracking or physical examination). It has been 100% percent effective for us. :)

  26. I’ve always been a small concerned in making bread but something always held me back. I’m now attractive freaking’ moved :) So thank you so much for that!

  27. I stopped the pill 6 months before. Can’t say it had an impact or not, but i kind fell better doing it that way
    Diane´s latest post: Votre guide complet

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