By: Allison Ramirez
This week, July 24-30, is Natural Family Planning (NPF) awareness week! In supporting the Catholic culture of love and life, I’m happy to be able to shed some light on this so rarely talked about beautiful teaching of the Church that both married couples and single women and men can benefit from. Natural Family Planning is a completely natural way to chart a woman’s fertility cycle through understanding fertility signs and patterns in cervical mucus, basal body temperature, cervix positing, and estrogen and luteinizing hormone levels. In understanding the natural signs of women’s fertility, young women and men (whether married or not) can gain a full understanding of exactly what is happening in a women’s body at any point in her cycle. This cannot only help identify the fertile and non-fertile days of one’s cycle to help couples both achieve and avoid pregnancy with high levels of accuracy but can also help to pinpoint any potential problems or irregularities in one’s cycle and help better understand the beautiful process that God gave women.
A lot of people balk at the Catholic teaching against contraceptives and misunderstand the teaching completely. I am also well aware that is a sensitive topic for many, and this short article does not seek to condemn or pass judgment on everyone for their fertility decisions. I can’t and won’t pretend to understand anyone’s unique situation, but I do feel that it’s important for Catholics to know that contraceptives are not the only option, and that the Catholic view on contraception does NOT mean the church wants you to have as many children as possible or that the Church is anti-intimacy (two often cited criticisms of this teachings that are frankly, just not true). In fact, it is the complete opposite. The Church recognizes the unique gift that is women’s fertility and wants to empower both men and women to embrace and understand this gift. In marriage, NFP is an opportunity for both spouses to communicate openly, practice self-sacrifice and, discern together where it is they feel God is leading them in their marriage regarding their family.
NFP is not the “rhythm method,” and is scientifically tested and proven to be effective (99.6% in fact), which I think many people just don’t realize. There are numerous NFP methods including Sympto-thermal, Marquette, Billings, etc. with trained professional instructors and classes available to couples and individuals. There are also online Catholic charting forums to ask questions and support one another.
If you are intrigued to learn more, I would recommend browsing the resources on the “National NFP Awareness Week” page on the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) website or you’re more than welcome to email me personally, and I can get you connected with instructors or other resources. As a personal testimony, my husband and I have been married for 1.5 years, having used NFP the entire time, and we don’t have any children as of yet. NFP has been both a challenging and fulfilling journey that constantly calls us to authentic conversation, prayer, and love.