Natural Family Planning is based on the observation of naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile phase of a woman's menstrual cycle. Couples using NFP to achieve pregnancy engage in intercourse during the woman's fertile phase. Couples wishing to postpone pregnancy simply abstain from sexual relations during the time of fertility. No drugs, devices or surgical procedures are used in the practice of NFP. NFP reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of every child. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP can enrich the bond between husband and wife.
NFP enhances a couples sexuality. The couple learns that true
human sexuality is
spiritual, physical, intellectual, creative and emotional. Couples who
testify to the importance of periodically avoiding genital contact in
the growth of their
overall marriage relationship. Mutual respect deepens.
NFP is not
Rhythm. The Rhythm or calendar
method was in use more than 50 years ago. It was based on the theory
that ovulation could
be determined by calculations based on the number of days from previous
This method often proved inaccurate because of the unique nature of
each women's ovulation
cycle: some women have very irregular cycles and almost all women have
a cycle of unusual
length once in a while. Modern methods of NFP are the result
of over 30 years of
scientific research in human fertility. They are based on the
day-to-day observations of
the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile
phases of the
menstrual cycle. NFP methods take advantage of the changes associated
treating each cycle as unique. NFP allows
couples to adjust their behavior to the naturally occurring cycles of a
woman's body. It
is not a contraceptive, i.e. it does nothing to work against conception.
body provides three basic ways to
identify the fertile and infertile times of her cycle. Recognizing the
pattern of these
physical signs forms the basis for all methods of NFP. A
primary sign of fertility
is the mucus released from the woman's cervix. A woman learns to
identify the normal,
healthy, cervical mucus which indicates the days that intercourse is
most likely to result
in a pregnancy. This is simply done by looking and touching the
external secretions that
come from the vagina. The second sign is her basal body temperature.
Due to hormonal
activity, a woman's resting temperature changes during the menstrual
temperatures indicate that ovulation has not yet occurred. Higher
temperatures indicate a
rise in progesterone which signals the end of the fertile time. The
third sign of
fertility is the change in the shape or texture of the cervix.
that intercourse during the fertile
time can result in pregnancy , couples using the natural methods must
be clear regarding
their family planning intention- that is, do they wish to achieve or
pregnancy? If a couple wishes to achieve pregnancy, they have
intercourse during the
fertile time. If a couple wishes to postpone or avoid a pregnancy, they
intercourse and any genital contact during the fertile time.
When couples are taught by competent teachers and follow the rules of the methods precisely, NFP is highly successful in achieving the intended family plan. Studies, including one by the U.S. government, have shown that some NFP methods can be used at the 99% level of effectiveness for avoiding pregnancy. That is equal to the birth control pill and far better than all the barrier methods.
Effectiveness of Natural Family Planning in postponing pregnancy can be measured by the number of pregnancies among 100 couples in one year using periodic abstinence. When couples are taught well, understand the method, are clear about family planning intention, and carefully follow all the rules for avoiding pregnancy they can expect the following:
|NFP Method||Effectiveness (Number of unplanned births)||Measurements|
|Cervical Mucus and Temperature|
Contraceptive Technology, 17th Revised
edition. Robert A. Hatcher,
Irvington Press: New York 1998.