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Mary and Martha Moment: Why I Choose NFP

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Having kids really changes the way most people look at the world, and for many, myself included, children are the motivation to begin improving one’s nutrition and really caring for the earth. Photo by Mike Baird

I’ve always been green, but I’d never thought all that much about what I put into my body before I had kids…except in one pretty big situation: I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as a single person that I never wanted to go on birth control.

It didn’t feel right to put chemicals into my body, every single day, to treat something that wasn’t broken. In fact, the Pill breaks a perfectly healthy, working system. That didn’t sit well with me.

In college I learned about some of the physical side effects of the Pill, including irritability, nausea, decreased sex drive, increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, blood clots, liver tumors, and breast cancer. With long-term use, the constant thickening of cervical mucus and thinning of the uterine lining can be difficult for the body to recover from (i.e., infertility). It also doesn’t get at the root cause of a super heavy period

The risk of breast cancer is so severe that the Women’s Health Initiative ceased a research study five years early because the women taking a combined estrogen/progestin pill had a 24% higher chance of developing breast cancer than the placebo group. The combined pill is on the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s “Carcinogenic to humans” list.

Even with all that stacked against artificial birth control pills, I still never would have imagined young women to have to call 911 just because of their Pill. A recent article in the Couple to Couple League’s Family Foundations magazine cited a firefighter’s story of conversion to natural family planning, which began when he was a first responder to multiple emergency calls due to complications from the Pill.

It blows my mind that anyone would willingly do this to themselves, honestly. And that’s before we even touch the issue of morality, or that of the environmental consequences, both of which are immense in themselves.

NFP and the Environment

Is natural family planning really the “green” way to go? When you consider the massive impact artificial hormones are having on our earth, I say the answer is an unequivocal YES.

I wrote about NFP as an environmentally sound way to space children and plan a family at The Art of Simple. The highlights of that post include:

  • The Pill’s environmental impact:
    • Increased estrogen in the water supply – that cannot be filtered out, even with a Berkey, so children and adults alike who drink city water are getting greater exposure to these female hormones, including babies on formula.
    • Plastic waste from packaging
    • Research shows that male fish exposed to birth control’s estrogen become “feminized” and actually grow eggs along with their male parts. The entire fish population in the study became sterile as a result. It is unknown the extent to which synthetic estrogen is affecting the animal world – not to mention the human one.
  • With 100 million women worldwide using oral contraceptives, this risk is no small potatoes.

NFP and God’s Design

It seems that everybody knows Catholics “can’t use birth control.” It’s a doggone controversial topic for Catholics to yammer on about, probably because it’s one of those rules people just don’t want to follow. Did you know that 80% of Catholic couples use artificial contraception in spite of the rule? ‘

If you ask me, it’s that level of disobedience that causes the Catholic rate of divorce to be equal to the rest of the culture’s, even though the Church puts in place measures (like NFP) to prevent divorce. (NFP users have a very low rate of divorce; I’ve seen 4% and as low as 0.2%.) People just aren’t listening.

God created man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply,” and He also created cycles of natural fertility and infertility (for the woman) with traceable signs, such that couples can simply avoid intercourse when the woman is fertile if they’ve prayerfully discerned that they are not in a place to increase their family size at the moment.

Marital relations have two results: unity and procreation. Both must be open to the working of God, every time. To put something, chemical or physical, as a barrier between the man and woman with the intent of interfering with the procreative end of intercourse is both morally wrong AND has the side effect of putting up a barrier between husband and wife, and between each spouse and God.

The joy of saving oneself for marriage, or at least understanding the foundational meaning of sexual intimacy, is that it’s a profound and physical way of saying, “I give myself to you, fully, completely, and without reservation.” To put anything – the Pill, a condom, an IUD, a sterilization – between husband and wife, is saying with your body, “I give myself to you…except for my fertility. I’m not sharing that.” It’s either an incomplete gift or a lie, neither of which build up marriages.

I cannot tell you how joyful my husband and I are because we chose to use natural family planning in our marriage. Although it isn’t always easy, we know in our hearts that it is the best thing for my body, our marriage, our children, and our earth.

Benefits of NFP, all of which I’ve experienced, include:

  • increased communication (discussing the question “do we increase our family size” 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, including resisting the temptation to allow the eyes to wander to other women/men
  • decreased fear of unwanted pregnancy – you know immediately if you are taking a “risk” or not, unlike the failure rate of oral contraceptives

UPDATE: I neglected to mention another aspect of artificial birth control that should not be overlooked. Because the Pill doesn’t always prevent ovulation, especially the new “low dose” versions, it has a secondary line of attack against life: it hardens the lining of the uterus, making it inhospitable to implantation. That’s all a fancy way of saying that countless couples around the world are inadvertently allowing (causing…?) their own children to die soon after fertilization. It’s the “abortifacient” property of hormonal contraception, and it’s not one I could stomach.

Natural family planning, when used correctly, has a 97-100% success rate in avoiding pregnancy, depending on what source you look at.

If you’ve ignored the idea of natural family planning in the past, been wary of it, or just plain never understood the beauty of it, I strongly encourage you to look into some classes.

Important Note: Take a Class

You can find classes:

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

163 thoughts on “Mary and Martha Moment: Why I Choose NFP”

  1. I’m very thankful for your article (years after it’s written!) I’ve always struggled with birth control, it never has had negative affects on me, but clearly it does elsewhere and I didn’t really know there were alternatives (why would doctors tell you about a FREE option!?) I was trying to check out Fertility Flower, but the link and website seem to be gone or missing, any thoughts as to why? Thanks for all you do, God Bless!

  2. I agree with not using chemical birth control methods like the pill, IUD, depo….and I also don’t believe in sterilization methods like vasectomy or tubal ligation. But I’ve had 3 c sections (unfortunately) and my husband and I have agreed to use condoms. We are both very fertile so I feel like if I didn’t do something then we would get pregnant every year! My husband does not want that for me. He wants me alive and healthy and well. I also want that so I can BE a mom and wife. If I didn’t have c sections it would be a completely different story. I would love more children naturally. We have a heart for adoption and feel God calling us to that. We feel that if God puts it on our hearts to have a 4th child we WILL be obedient to him, just like we were with the other 3 🙂 I would love to hear from somene in my (similar) situation! Most of the ladies I know haven’t had c sections…..

    1. Steph,
      That is a specific situation – but the fail rate on condoms is higher than NFP, used properly. I love your heart for children and your husband’s goal of healthy mama, healthy family – perfect! I would just gently encourage you to read a little more about it and pray as a couple. God knows His plans for you, and I can tell just from a few lines that you’re a lovely faithful woman – so glad you visited today! 🙂 Katie

  3. Pingback: On Having a Baby Early, Broke, and Young: Part 2 | A Rich Household

  4. So many posts on this subject. It saddens Our Lord that even the true Catholic teaching on this matter has been so distorted and misunderstood.

    I skimmed through most of the posts and saddened to see such a a wide range of comments defending and justifying NFP in most cases. Yes, NFP avoids using harmful abortifacents and the like which are mortally sinful but it is still not a practice that can be taken lightly and moreover in order to practice it one needs a dispensation from the priest.

    Anything that frustrates God’s design of the primary purpose of marriage (procreation) is gravely sinful to the soul.

    Entering marriage is a contract made by the husband and wife to be open to any children God may bless them with. Any form of birth control artificial OR natural is an affront to our Reedemer, God, himself.

    When entering the marriage contract the husband and wife are counseled by a good priest that their bodies belong to their spouse and any reasonable request for the martial act can not be denied by the other. Simply because one spouse “doesn’t feel like it” is not a justifiable reason and would put the soul in mortal sin. Justifiable reasons might include several miscarriages in a row when a risk of another pregnancy might cause physical harm to the woman (this was my case–my priest gave us a dispensation for a set amount of time to practice abstinence (NFP, essentially) during fertile periods–he advised not to abstain completely in order to not frustrate the physical needs of either spouse and risk grave mortal sin for other reasons).

    There, of course, are other justifiable reasons but in every case, the priest should be consulted to properly advise the couple so that grave sin is avoided.

    This has always been the official Catholic teaching of the Church. I would encourage all you Catholics who are learning otherwise to find an offical church document that has given latitude to the layperson to practice NFP at will, with their own dicernment. It is a serious matter and you should do some thorough research on this matter to understand why the modern church as led so many Catholics to believe that NFP is “acceptable”. *Avoiding* conception is still a form of birth control if when practiced “naturally”.

    To Jesus through Mary,

    rosarymom

    P.S. I just gave birth to my 6th child and have suffered 7 other miscarriages/hemorrhage during my marriage. I am so grateful and thankful to God for giving me those trials and losses in order to help me understand beautiful doctrine on accepting whatever children God sends us no matter how inconvienient it is for us, financially, physically or otherwise. He makes up for all that we are lacking when we follow His will!

  5. When we got married, I knew that I wasn’t okay with the pill– I actually got the prescription and had it in my nightstand, but I could never convince myself to take it. My husband and I are just starting to use NFP so I don’t know if we love it yet or not, but we have made the decision to put off having children for a year or two for a few reasons. (We don’t have any yet– just five months married.) The thought I wanted to mention was simply that finances aren’t necessarily a selfish reason to avoid children at a given time– of course God will provide, always has and always does, but there are so many factors in providing things for a child from an emotional, spiritual and natural standpoint. If there are financial strains on a family, it’s not just that you have to get by with less– often the marriage suffers and the child suffers from the strain of that. (I’ve known this both from personal and others’ experiences.) It’s not necessarily that we’re trying to buy all the toys we can before we have kids– absolutely the opposite. We live very frugally so that our FUTURE will be better, our marriage less strained by things we can avoid by working hard now and waiting a bit for children. (And trust me, that’s not always easy- we’re both just waiting for the day to come!)

    Both my husband and I are completely open to becoming pregnant at any time if it should happen, and it very well may, but we both feel strongly that it’s best for our marriage and future children to have financial situations minimized by the time they come, as well as having some time for he and I to get used to living together and facing life as a team. It’s a new experience for us and I’m thankful we’ve had even the little time we’ve had so far to just get used to that.

    That said, everyone is different. We know ourselves, and we know that adding a child to the mix before we have the time to get these new marriage things sorted out would be a stressor on the whole family. Some folks don’t have that problem, at least not in a way that is detrimental to the family unit. If we WERE to get pregnant previous to our ideal time, we’ll both be very happy about it and accept it just fine and pray hard for help to minimize the struggles that will come with that particular timing. 🙂

    I don’t know that I have a bottom line– I’d just like to echo many others who acknowledged that it’s simply between each couple and God, and must be carefully and prayerfully considered. That’s all that really matters, in the end.

    1. Kjirstyn,
      Your situation sounds so similar to mine when I was first married! “Our plan” was to hold off on kids for about 3 years so I could get my permanent teaching certificate in place before taking time off to be an at-home mom, something important to both of us. Plus, my husband had just lost his job when we got married, so my meager Catholic school teacher income was all we had!

      After a year of being married, we decided that we’d figured out how to be a couple, had two jobs, and were “more open” to kids. We relaxed our practice just a little…well, God must have noticed that we opened the door a crack, because our son was conceived within a few weeks of our 1st anniversary! I was initially scared to death, but now that I look at all the parts of our lives (the house we bought, friends I have, etc.) that were determined solely by the timing of his birth, I remain amazed at God’s providence. I’m so thankful we were in a position to learn to trust Him and have that communication and prayerful, open-to-life mindset in place. I still haven’t pursued my permanent teaching certificate and mine is now expired…but look what I’m doing now! Maybe Kitchen Stewardship wouldn’t have even happened if we had waited one more year like we “planned”. 😉

      You have a wonderful outlook on your marriage, and your husband is blessed to have such a wife! May God continue to bless you both –
      🙂 Katie

  6. okay- I don’t know if this is still on topic but it was weighing heavy on my heart… I have been reading through the comments and have been hearing wonderful stuff about NFP, and God’s blessing people with children and not interfering with his plans etc. I agree that is all wonderful…when it actually works. I am wondering what is to be said for those that struggle with extended infertility, recurrent miscarriage or other gut wrenching child-bearing issues. I know that there are many natural things to address these issues and I agree that this is important to explore extensively but sometimes even that even does not work. I guess I just get saddened when I hear how children are a blessing and how simply and beautifully God has designed healthy, loving procreation to be, etc. etc. Not because any of you are wrong or I disagree but because it just doesn’t happen that way for some people. I guess I am wondering, coming from a NFP perspective, how you spiritually comfort a woman like me who has had 5 miscarriages and 2 severely premature sons (born at 23 and 26 weeks of gestation) who spent over 8 months in the NICU, months on ventilators, have 10 surgeries between them etc etc. We have run every test known to modern medicine with no answers. We would like more children but we are choosing a vasectomy and adoption. It feels highly unethical to keep trying naturally to have kids. I cannot watch another baby’s heart stop on the ultrasound or sit by another 1 pound three ounce baby as he fights for his life. I am not Catholic but very Lutheran (I know- a lot of history between us all!). I will never understand why everything happened this way for me and my babies and I have had some major wrestling matches with God during these past few years. I am just now feeling more at peace with it all but, to be honest, when reading through stuff like this it still hearts my heart. Anyway- thanks for hearing (reading) me out.

    1. Amanda,
      I can feel your pain. You have been through so much and yet you remain strong because of your faith. I cannot imagine going through so many miscarriages and 2 severely premature babies. God bless you!!!! You also ask some very thought-provoking questions, and I’m not sure if anyone can answer them adequately. Some we have to save to ask God when we see Him! 🙂

      My best answer is this. Though children are a blessing, and we are called to be open to life, but that is not always a formula for a houseful of children. Obviously, that does not make you any less virtuous than someone who has 10 children. Also, you have already hit on the answer of adoption. I believe that adoption is certainly a way to be open to life, by giving a good Christian life to a child whose future might otherwise be rather bleak. God knows who your children are, even if they do not come from your body. Pray and let Him guide you. It really sounds like you’re already on the right path. I will pray for you and your family. God bless.

      1. Thank you. Yes- the Questions we want to ask God! Good thing such concerns will be absent once we actually see him face to face. 🙂

        I like the phrasing “open to life.” I will keep thins in mind as we start out on the adoption journey. 🙂

    2. I’m very sorry to hear of your losses. I know how tough having a child in the NICU is. In the face of suffering, we can do little more than Job, trying to understand that God is God and we are not, and he has his ways that we cannot understand.

      I am reminded of a story told by our Bradley instructor of a couple who discovered their unborn child had a condition that would lead to its death hours after birth, if the child didn’t die in the womb first. Rather than “terminating” the pregnancy, they decided to give their child the great gift of life, as much life as they could. The child was born and spent every moment of its life outside the womb in the arms of its loving parents as it died. How beautiful that they did not do evil (abortion) in order to achieve a good (end of suffering).

      1. My sister in law had to do that very thing. My nephew had a terminal birth defect that they found out about in uetero. The carried him to term and held him non stop the few short hours he lived. The power of their choice is still felt today 18 years later.

    3. Sarah-Anne K.

      I really appreciated the line how Kjirstyn closed her comment: “I’d just like to echo many others who acknowledged that it’s simply between each couple and God, and must be carefully and prayerfully considered. That’s all that really matters, in the end.”

      And that’s all I think matters. I don’t have an answer from the NFP perspective, as you asked, but I just wanted to say that I am sorry for the ways your heart has grieved after reading some of the comments above. You know what is right and best for your family. All of this is truly a matter of the heart. I believe seeking God, wrestling through the hard, hard questions we have, and coming to a place where we are at peace and resting in Him is what matters.

      Your family will be in my prayers, as you continue to find peace, love your sweet sons, and prepare for whatever the future holds. I am realizing it is most important to focus on right NOW, and let go of everything else. May you be at peace with your husband’s vasectomy, and if/when the time is right, be filled with joy when you can welcome home your adopted children to their forever home.

      1. Thank you so much for your kind words. My prayer every day is to just live in the now- you hit it right on the head. 🙂

    4. Amanda,
      I feel badly that I’m so late to find your comment here, sharing your heart with us. Your story is really touching as a mother, and look at those beautiful kids in your photo! I can’t imagine watching my children in pain like you had to…

      My only answer, from a faith perspective, is that we live in a fallen world. Since Adam and Eve, women have been cursed in childbirth (some more than others, for sure). I feel like many of our sufferings are a result of consequences of sins – not necessarily our own, but those of our world. Why do some bodies not work the way they were designed? Perhaps because of some junk or other in our environment, some food your mother ate while you were in utero, some yucky something-or-other that humans shouldn’t have been messing with in the first place. Of course we’ll never know…but I think it’s a consolation that suffering has meaning, as Christ showed us on the Cross. Your boys, your husband, and your own spirit are certainly stronger because of your battles, both the physical ones and the spiritual ones. I also firmly believe that those 5 little souls are in Heaven with Jesus, praying for all of you (perhaps how your sons got through all those surgeries and NICU time). What a beautiful image of the Body of Christ in action.

      When I see friends struggling with infertility while it seems so many unwed young women are cranking out the babies, I get angry, too. It’s not the same, I realize, as what you’re feeling, but it’s a similar foundation: how is it that we’re taught the beauty of procreation in a loving marriage, and sometimes it get so turned around? Again – fallen world.

      My hope is that for the couples struggling with infertility who DID/DO use NFP, their level of communication is higher than those who contracepted, and therefore they can get their marriage through that struggle with more certainty. Sometimes NFP does help infertile couples conceive, but sometimes it can’t. Again, the bottom line is, as Jassica pointed out, to be open to life – which you are!

      I do hope that you can take comfort in the fact that no life, however short, is in vain. Trust that your children, all 7 of them, have the call to love God and serve Him, because once an immortal soul is created, it is never destroyed. Your pain in experiencing their deaths before even holding them allowed them to be with Jesus in Heaven, without even having to undergo the pain of this world. What a gift you gave them! And what a gift you’ve given us and those around you, with a perspective that we must make sure we keep in mind when we talk about children and parenting. I know there are many in your position who need spiritual comfort as well.

      May God be with you as you discern each step on your journey!
      God bless, Katie

      1. Thank you so much for these words, Katie. They have really comforted me. When I first read and replied to this post and the following comments I was feeling very raw and everyone’s replies have given me more healing. I agree- crap that happens is a result of a fallen world. And Thank God (literally!) he has taken it all on himself.

        And I must say- even though I know this too be true, I have never referred to myself as a mom of seven. It kind of shifts the thoughts a bit. From loss to anticipation…of the day all my kids will finally be together with me. Thanks!!

        and ps- get some sleep, mama!- one should not be thinking such deep thoughts a 240am!

    5. whisperingsage

      Amanda,
      Don’t take this wrong, but I knew we were heading into the End Times 30 years ago. This will be a very hard time for people with children, especially small ones. Matthew 24 and 25 is a good summary of what we have in store in the End, Prison, threats to our families, earthquakes, those have sure happened. It says woe to those who give suck in those days (that is poetic for having nursing children in case you didn’t grasp that). Revelation 20 1-6 says we will be beheaded for refusing the Mark of the beast.
      I also encourage you to read Richard Wurmbrandt, founder of Voice of the Martyres, he was beaten daily by communists, trying to break his faith in Christ, and these communists separated him from his wife and son, and lied to him, telling him they were dead. They were later reunited, but their free magazine, Voice of the Maryres tells heartbreaking stories like this. Communists and jihadist Muslims have been torturing and killing Christians for many decades now. Some torment children in front of their parents trying to force them to renounce Christ. This is something we should all prepare for, even if not our children, our parents or brethren. What WILL WE DO when we are faced with this sort of situation? We must make a pact to not give in to the enemy. Threats of death are promises of heaven.
      If you haven’t been able to see it yet, we are in danger of going into the New World Order. The covid is a created crisis, worldwide, an excuse to clamp down on all our rights. The world was divided into 10 economic areas in 1973 by David Rockefeller and Zbgniew Brzinsky, this is the Trilateral Commission. It all will become very obvious to us all very soon. The ten economic areas are called the two horns, the ten kingdoms, and they include 3 special kings, (much of this is in Daniel 7 through 12, and revelation, www.blueletterbible.org, you can do word searches, bible version searches, many great tools). )The World Economic Forum has declared they will be clamping down on all our finances with the Great Reset. This means if we don’t have our own place we can grow crops and animals for food, and a way to get water, many will die because as we have seen in previous articles on this site, people don’t know how to live anymore. They are not prepared. They are baffled at the prospect of cooking real food. If you look up the Georgia Guidestones, they are a huge monument written in several languages declaring the first principle is to “maintain” the world population at half a billion people. That means 6.5 billion of us have to die. And now you might start understanding the pollution, and toxins in our food, the toxins in our meds , the toxins in our water and the toxins raining down on us from the chemtrails, as no accident. They are intentional. These things damage fertility and cause disease. We are now to the point of 1 in 54 children born with autiism. 20 years ago that was 1 in 10,000 or more. There is planning in that. Somebody wants us all dead.
      When things get so bad the world will beg for a savior, the elites will put him forward, they have been grooming him for years. He is the Beast, the Antichrist. Revelation says there are two beasts. One the religious leader. Who will bow down to the false “Christ”. He will torture believers for 3.5 years. And then Christ, the real Christ will return, He will come in the clouds. Isaiah and Zechariah, 12. He will heal the land and the curse will be reversed, Isaiah 11 and 35, Predators will eat straw again. Revelation 22 He will have a spring of living waters where a tree of healing grows. There will be one throne, and both the Lamb and His Father sit in it. I don’t know how that works but we will see. Maybe at that time, you will be healed and be able to have babies. I’m sure looking forward to being healed or in my glorified body. I never thought I’d
      be in this shape as I have been conscientious about my food and environment for years.

  7. Here is an excellent article about use of the word “grave” when discerning reasons to postpone pregnancy.
    http://www.hprweb.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=69:humanae-vitae-grave-motives-to-use-a-good-translation&catid=35:older-articles&Itemid=54

    Also, using self-control when it comes to fertility is a good. We are created in God’s image with free will and intellect; that is a tremendous honor and privilege. Any time we stop to think about the sexual act — rather than blindly giving in to every urge we feel — honors Him. So giving consideration to whether or not it is time to have another child is a good. It is how we go about it that matters. The father who is a bank robber and the father who works legitimately are both providing for their families. The one robbing banks, though, is not using a morally licit means to do so.

    Contraception intentionally blocks new life. NFP gives a couple the information they need to time their intercourse during the naturally-occurring (God-designed) fertile and infertile times. Are we going to argue that we can tell a married couple when they can have relations? Of course not. It is a matter of timing combined with prayerful discernment. The couple using NFP to prayerfully postpone pregnancy by abstaining from relations during the fertile time and having relations during the infertile time is no different morally from the post-menopausal couple having relations with one another. Both are naturally infertile times in a woman’s life — one permanent, one temporary.

    Thank you, thank you, Katie, for this incredible post! As former contraception users and current NFP practitioners and instructors, we believe that this discussion needs to take place more often because of all the misinformation and faulty assumptions out there. May our Lord bless you and your growing family abundantly!

    1. Michelle,

      THANK YOU for sharing that article, clarifying the word “grave” we’ve been discussing. I’m going to bookmark it for future reference!

      Anne

    2. Michelle,
      That article was a breath of fresh air. So glad you shared the link! And your comments about the “good” things in periodic abstinence are also a grand addition to this conversation. Thank you, thank you!
      🙂 Katie

  8. The law of charity also demands that only moral means of regulating birth are used. Naturally, killing newborn infants isn’t charity, neither is abortion. Neither is using artificial means of contraception. Certainly recourse to such means doesn’t necessarily indicate a life bereft of charity. I suppose it’s more like the unmarried couple who engage in intercourse because they “love each other,” not heeding the truth that there is a better way, not damaging to the soul, not damaging to the relationship. Likewise, NFP is a better way, not damaging to the soul or the relationship.

  9. I wish I read through this comment before posting (below) as I feel it really does apply to our family. Thank you Albert for this thought.

  10. This is such a touchy subject for many women (and men too). We recently left a non-Catholic church that believed very strongly in no interference with fertility. None. Many of them had families of 4 children, ranging up to 10 or 12 children. And God did provide for them. I respected that very much about them, and respected their faith.

    What I could not respect was the idea that if you really love God and really trust Him, and really love your spouse, you will never prevent a child from coming into this world. During both of my pregnancies I was extremely ill with morning sickness – including needing frequent IVs and losing a lot of weight. “Parenting” became “lay on the couch sick and watch your toddler watch TV all day” because I couldn’t DO anything. I was just too sick. I couldn’t even feed him. My husband left bowls of finger food on the counter for him before he left for work. That guilt is dreadful. We made the choice after our 2nd child that we just couldn’t do it any more. It took years for my body to recover. To add to that, my oldest has severe epilepsy and high functioning autism. There would be no way to care for him well if I was that sick.

    So we go out of our way (often more than one method at a time) to avoid pregnancy. I hate being told I don’t have enough faith or love God or my husband enough because we have made that choice. I did not get that very much at all from the OP, but that thought is out there in the Christian community, and evident some in the comments as well. The guilt of not loving God enough to have more children drove me into a deep depression. Our family is just now recovering from that dark time.

    That said – I enjoy the educational aspect of these articles. I had no idea that there were nutritional and supplimental options that could help with my long, heavy periods and PMDD. I will investigate that because I would LOVE to get off the pill – I hate some of the side effects. I will even investigate using NFP in more depth because it just sounds too good to be true. I find the thought terrifying. We will be aggressive about not getting pregnant though, whatever means that takes. That is much better for our relationship and marriage than pregnancy or the fear of getting pregnant ever was.

    1. Rebecca,
      Thank you for your openness and honesty. Your story is a vivid reminder that one cannot judge another’s intentions, ever. May you be blessed! 🙂 Katie

      1. I was a bit fired up when I wrote that. I am normal a little more private! However, I am really enjoying exploring your blog – I can’t remember where I linked from, but I like it very much. I love your heart for God and for the community of believers. I think I am really going to enjoy spending more time here.

  11. This is a perspective I haven’t seen mentioned yet. It comes from John Salza of Scripture Catholic:

    NFP is morally permissible only if there are grave reasons why a married couple must defer pregnancy. Because children are a gift from God, it seems to me that such reasons must be grave indeed. In fact, “natural family planning” was never part of the Church’s vocabulary until after Vatican II. The Sacred Penitentiary under Pius IX allowed periodic abstinence back in 1853, but this was only for the gravest of reasons. Same with Pius XI’s Casti Connubi in 1930. Pius XII in 1951 affirmed this in his allocution to the United Catholic Midwives stating that period abstinence would be permissible only in the gravest of circumstances (e.g., sexual intercourse would present life-threatening consequences to the woman as certified by her doctor). Paul VI affirmed the same in Humanae Vitae in 1968. Certainly, “spacing” children or any other objective of convenience are not grave reasons to avoid conceiving a person with an eternal soul. Many apologists and counselors in the Church act like NFP is the sine qua non of healthy, Catholic marriages.

    1. spacing children could indeed be a grave reason, not merely one of convenience. for some, there is a legitimate question of means, for others it is one of health, and still others, one of sanity.

      ultimately, we must not judge the lives of others by assuming their reasons for periodic abstinence are somehow insufficiently grave.

      a prof. from wyoming Catholic college wrote in the Homiletic and Pastoral review that Charity is prime in questions of family size, and that includes charity towards children to come and children already here. a couple with twins, or a special needs child, or who must care for an aging and ill parent, might very well be right in postponing the birth of their next child out of charity. Faith, Hope, and Love remain, these three, but the greatest of these…

      1. Thank you, Albert! I really appreciate the perspective of charity to all…and, um, I can totally relate to the question of a parent’s sanity versus family size. 😉 Katie

        1. Albert and Katie,

          Charity is indispensible, but to my knowledge none of the popes or Church teaching said to postpone conception out of charity. If the situation of health or the responsibilities of taking care of an ill parent or even sanity is serious enough then it is morally permissable. It is the gravity of any situation that is the ultimate determiner.

          Pax, Amy

          1. Amy,

            I’m confused. You write charity is indispensible, yet in the very next clause you imply that charity shouldn’t be a motivation in decisions regarding the regulation of birth.

            Shouldn’t everything we do be done out of charity, whether its tying our toddlers’ shoes or postponing childbearing?

    2. Now, not to be the annoying guy who quotes church documents, but in the following quotation from Familiaris Consortio, JPII’s Apostolic Letter on the family, we have an exhortation for wider knowledge and application of natural means of regulating birth.


      35. With regard to the question of lawful birth regulation, the ecclesial community at the present time must take on the task of instilling conviction and offering practical help to those who wish to live out their parenthood in a truly responsible way.

      In this matter, while the Church notes with satisfaction the results achieved by scientific research aimed at a more precise knowledge of the rhythms of women’s fertility, and while it encourages a more decisive and wide-ranging extension of that research, it cannot fail to call with renewed vigor on the responsibility of all-doctors, experts, marriage counselors, teachers and married couples-who can actually help married people to live their love with respect for the structure and finalities of the conjugal act which expresses that love. This implies a broader, more decisive and more systematic effort to make the natural methods of regulating fertility known, respected and applied.(97)

      A very valuable witness can and should be given by those husbands and wives who through the joint exercise of periodic continence have reached a more mature personal responsibility with regard to love and life. As Paul VI wrote: “To them the Lord entrusts the task of making visible to people the holiness and sweetness of the law which unites the mutual love of husband and wife with their cooperation with the love of God, the author of human life.”(98)

      [Additionally, I checked out Salza’s Scripture Catholic page. I was surprised to discover he was a geocentrist! Now, I will grant that when it comes to the morality of decisions to postpone childbearing it matters not which body goes around which, sun or earth, but he does look kind of silly. I don’t mean for this to be a red herring, but I just found it, well… funny!]

      1. Albert,

        When it comes to procreation, the Church tells us that the moral and thus charitable thing to do is to only postpone conception for grave reason.

        The document you site refers to talking about the issue but I do not see where it actually changed the Church’s teaching. I do not see new guidelines. He even quotes Pope Paul VI who affirmed the Church teaching regarding grave reason. It appears that Pope John Paul II was trying to combat the contraceptive mentality so prevelant in our world today.

        Have you ever been on the Galileo Was Wrong and the Church Was Right site or looked into the work of Dr. Robert Sungenis? Fascinating.
        http://galileowaswrong.blogspot.com/

        In Jesus and Mary,
        Amy

        1. I am familiar with Sungenis. He’s the one with a degree from an unaccredited distance learning school, right? The one that is in trouble with his Bishop? The one that thinks the Sun moves around the Earth? The one that is, more or less, anti-semitic?

          I don’t see why anyone should take him seriously, least of all a Catholic serious about the truth and man’s God-given faculty of reason.

          1. Albert,

            Whether or not geocentrism is correct does not rest on the character of Sungenis. Being interested in the truth, why don’t you read his book and point out where he is wrong? Sungenis isn’t the only one who holds this view. Look into others. For the record, I am also not a personal fan of Dr. Sungenis.

            In Jesus and Mary,
            Amy

      2. Albert,
        Thank you for quoting Church teaching so I didn’t have to look it up! 😉 I appreciate hearing from JPII, anytime. 🙂 Katie

  12. Thank you for such a brave post!

    There seems to be confusion in some of the comments about the difference between NFP and artificial means of birth control, and why NFP is any different than say, a barrier method or sterilization as a means of regulating birth.

    I think the difference was clearer for me when I had a paradigm shift to understand the truth and meaning behind our fertility, the integrity of our bodies, why sterilization is actually mutilation, etc. It is clear to me now how beautiful and coherent and true Church teaching is on this issue.

    I have somewhere a hard copy of an article that succinctly describes the difference, but here is my brief attempt: artificial means sterilize the act of intercourse itself, and seek to disrupt the natural procreative purpose of intercourse. when an NFP couple is abstaining from intercourse in order to postpone childbearing, there is no individual act which is artificially sterilized, each act, in itself, is open to life.

  13. Thank you for tackling this controversial subject! I’m happy to see that so many of the comments have been constructive and helpful. 🙂 My husband and I are Christians but not Catholic, and decided to use NFP when we first got married after learning about the abortifacient effects of hormonal birth control (see extensive research here: http://www.epm.org/store/product/birth-control-pill-book/).

    I really hope that the pro-life readers that use hormonal birth control will research the ways that it works, and prayerfully consider another alternative. (For us, FAM has worked well – combining NFP with using a barrier method). I love how NFP teaches a woman so much about the way God designed her body… something we should all know and appreciate!

  14. Kate @ thedebtfreefamily

    I am not a Catholic, but I NFP and the Catholic teachings about Life are one thing I LOVE about the Catholic Church (we are “Evangelical”). My husband and I took an NFP class when we were engaged and it literally did change our hearts and minds about children. We always wanted kids, but the whole teaching around NFP taught us to cherish and value life and family, and made us realize that being parents is our highest calling! As a result, we went into marriage wanting to have kids right away and were blessed to have our first baby 9 1/2 months later. 🙂 What a gift- she is almost 1! We’re busy charting and planning and dreaming about baby #2… someday in the not-too-distant future, we hope!

  15. I don’t understand this either. There are numerous examples in the Bible of God opening and closing the womb, blessing women with many children, and Jesus speaking extremely high of children. It seems like limiting your number of children is the same whether NFP or other methods, theologically. You are saying you don’t trust God to provide: financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc. I have struggled with what I believe in this area but honestly, reading this post, and the comments, it just doesn’t seem right. It seems all about self: when am I ready, when do I have enough money…
    I do like that with NFP you have to make a conscious choice-will I choose to become pregnant this month. However, saying that NFP welcomes life…I don’t get that from reading these comments. Sounds like a less invasive way to prevent life.

    1. Rachel Ritter

      Agreed. For the record, I think NFP is a great method of birth control with many benefits. I’m not opposed to it at all or questioning people’s preference for it. I just don’t understand the theological basis. I plan to do some more research into the whole “it changes the act” theory. Perhaps that will help and thanks to those who wrote about it 🙂

      Rachel

    2. I just think it is like anything — God allows us to make choices in our lives and have some control over our family choices. It is not necessarily that one choice is “sinful” and one is not.

      1. Oh, I most definitely don’t think it is sinful to use NFP. And I didn’t mean to sound like I was criticizing anyone’s use of birth control. I have used it before (the Pill and barrier). But after searching scripture, it seems like we are missing something with our “planning”, in whatever form a couple may choose. God tells us over and over that children are a blessing. I don’t know that I want to miss out on any of God’s blessings, even if they cry a lot and cost a lot of money 🙂 I feel like God will provide. If you have 20, God will provide food and clothes for every one of them. Just my opinion. Everyone has one (opinion that is).

    3. Morgan,
      You are not alone – there are many in the conservative Catholic circle (and other Christians, too) who believe that even using NFP is interfering too much with God’s providence. ??? I’m not one of them, but definitely we need to be careful of our language and our intent. I believe the Catechism says parents need a grave reason to postpone having children, so discerning this issue is no light matter. NFP ought to be calling us to deeper prayer and more trust in God, instead of trust in ourselves. It’s a tricky world to live in and try to get it all right, that’s for sure!

      Thanks so much for your honesty and thought-provoking question. 🙂 Katie

      1. Hi Katie,

        As a Catholic, if the catechism and Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI ALL say that we need a grave reason to defer pregnancy then we need to assent to the Church’s teaching. The desire to space children is not a sufficient reason.

        Pax, Amy

        1. Amy,

          What about a mom who is suffering from anxiety or depression or anything else so badly that she is so overwhelmed, even to the point she has trouble even getting dinner on the table? It seems to me that spacing children is necessary for her health and sanity.

          Even though great Popes of years past say we need a grave reason, Church teaching has been growing and developing greatly in the past two decades, for the good of the Church (think Theology of the Body w/JP2). And doesn’t that “grave reason” differ for each couple?

          God Bless,
          Anne

          1. Hi Anne,

            I am not a moral theologian, but the case you pose may well qualify as grave. Yes, grave reason will vary from couple to couple so long as it is truly serious. Playing a bit of devil’s advocate, if a woman is that depressed then she would not likely have the energy or interest to take her temperature and chart and do the other things required of the various methods. So, if a woman has the wherewithal to do the NFP requirements she may well not be depressed enough to make the situation qualify as grave. But it’s not for me to make that call. Ultimately, it is between that person/couple and God.

            Church teaching does grow and develop but it does not contradict itself or turn around. Pope John Paul II did not approve of deliberate child spacing or prevention of conception. In fact, he lamented the declining birth rate. The Theology of the Body teaching out there is layman’s interpretation.

            I hope that helps.

            A blessed Feast of the Annunciation!
            Amy

            1. Amy,

              Thanks for your comments. Your point about the temp & charting makes sense for sure. There are so many situations that could be grave for one and not for the other; maybe that is why the Church just says “grave.” I agree completely that it is something for the couple to discern with the Lord.

              Could you give which source JPII speaks of the deliberate child spacing (not being a good use of NFP) you mentioned? Also, when you say “the theology of the body teaching out there is layman’s interpretation,” are you speaking of that which Christopher West is teaching?

              Thanks for the further info and clarification!

              God Bless,
              Anne

              1. Hi Anne,

                I can retrieve major documents but I am not aware of JPII issuing new guidelines on birth regulation. Other sources aren’t something I have the ability to archive and have at my fingertips. I wish I could! If I can get my hands on it again I will let you know.

                The most prominent lay interpreter of TOB is Christopher West. His teachings are his own and not the Church’s. He has many critics including his former professor at the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.

                AMDG,
                Amy

              2. Anne,
                Some of the controversy over Christopher West is detailed here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2011/05/01/is-christopher-wests-handling-of-the-theology-of-the-body-off-the-mark/
                Katie

                1. These are the comments of Christopher West’s former professor:

                  http://www.headlinebistro.com/hb/en/news/west_schindler2.html

                  by David L. Schindler

                  Provost/Dean and Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology

                  Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family
                  The Catholic University of America
                  Washington, D.C.

                  Regarding his interview on Nightline, Christopher West says that his remarks were taken out of context. In some sense, this is surely true. However, the comments as aired are the latest in a long list of statements and actions not inconsistent with the context set by the Nightline editors.

                  Though occasioned by West’s Nightline appearance, the present statement addresses his theology as a whole.

                  Let me stress that I agree with those who vigorously defend West’s intention of fidelity to the Church. Certainly he has had positive results in drawing many Catholics into a deeper understanding of their faith. As for myself, I do not initiate anything about West in my classes, but only respond when asked a question. Then I begin by emphasizing West’s intention of orthodoxy. As I have often put it, “he would throw himself in front of a bus for the Church.” It is important to understand, however, that good will is not synonymous with sound thought; and I must say, not without reluctance, that West’s work seems to me to misrepresent in significant ways the thought of John Paul II.

                  The following examples have been verified by persons directly involved or by things written by West himself (and I regret the necessary adoption of West’s own language).

                  West’s work has involved suggesting that a man and woman bless their genitals before making love; blessing the ovaries of women in his classes; advising young men in college and the seminary to look at their naked bodies in the mirror daily in order to overcome shame; using phallic symbolism to describe the Easter candle; criticizing “flat-chested” images of Mary in art while encouraging Catholics to “rediscover Mary’s … abundant breasts” (Crisis, March 2002); referring to the “bloodied membrane” of the placenta as a “tabernacle” (Colorado Catholic Herald, 12/22/06); stating that, while “there are some important health and aesthetic considerations that can’t be overlooked,” “there’s nothing inherently wrong with anal penetration as foreplay to normal intercourse,” (Good News About Sex and Marriage, 1st ed., emphasis in original), though qualifying this in the revised edition and stressing the subjective dangers of lust in such activity; and, on Nightline, praising Hugh Hefner for helping rescue sex from prudish Victorian attitudes, saying that there are “very profound historical connections between Hefner and John Paul II,” while emphasizing that John Paul II took the sexual revolution further and in the right direction.

                  I offer these examples not merely because they are vulgar and in bad taste, not to mention sometimes bordering on the just plain silly, but because they indicate a disordered approach to human sexuality. An objective distortion in approaching sexuality does not cease to be such simply because it is theologized. West to be sure will point toward the “orthodox” intentions and context of the examples, but my criticism bears on the substance of his preoccupation as reflected in the examples. (As a Thomist friend of mine used to say: pay attention to a man’s subjects, not his predicates.)

                  What, then, are the objections to West’s theology?

                  First, West misconstrues the meaning of concupiscence, stressing purity of intention one-sidedly when talking about problems of lust.

                  When I first pointed this problem out to him several years ago, his response was that he refused to limit the power of Christ to transform us. My response is that concupiscence dwells “objectively” in the body, and continues its “objective” presence in the body throughout the course of our infralapsarian existence; and that we should expect holiness to “trump” temptations or disordered tendencies in the area of sexuality exactly as often as we should expect holiness to “trump” the reality of having to undergo death.

                  Second, West has an inadequate notion of analogy. He conceives love in a reductive bodily-sexual sense, then reads the Christian mysteries as though they were somehow ever-greater and more perfect realizations of what he emphasizes as key in our own experience, namely, sex.

                  But sex is not even the most important part of human love, let alone the key to the Christian mysteries–the Eucharist, for example. Missing in West’s work is an adequate idea of the radical discontinuity (maior dissimilitudo ) between the divine love revealed by God–and indeed the (supernatural) love to which we are called–and sexual love or intercourse. To be sure, the spousal love between man and woman is central in man’s imaging of God, and the gendered body and sexual relations are an integral sign and expression of spousal love, which also includes what John Paul II calls all the other manifestations of affection. However, as Joseph Ratzinger says, it is only because man has a capacity for God that he also has a capacity for another human being. The former indicates the “content,” the latter the “consequence,” of man’s likeness to God.

                  In the end, West, in his disproportionate emphasis on sex, promotes a pansexualist tendency that ties all important human and indeed supernatural activity back to sex without the necessary dissimilitudo.

                  Third, West’s treatment of shame and reverence is marred by a too-male vision of things–not only too much maleness but distorted maleness. If we could just get over our prudishness and sin-induced guilt, he seems to think, we would be ready simply to dispense with clothes and look at others in their nakedness. He has no discernible sense of the difference between what might be a feminine as distinct from masculine sense of unveiling. He (thus) lacks a reverence for the body entailing a modesty not reducible simply to shame, or again a patient reverence presupposing the “veiledness” proper to what essentially contains mystery. His work is preoccupied with what is external to the detriment of the interiority proper to persons. In this context, we can say that West’s theology ultimately lacks a Marian dimension: not in the sense that he fails to make references to Mary, but because his work is not adequately formed, in method or content, in Mary’s archetypal feminine-human sensibility.

                  Fourth, a style of preaching is not merely a matter of “style”–a difference in personality or taste. It is always-also a matter of theology itself. West often tends to treat resistance to the content of his lectures, for example during the question periods, as matters of resistance to the Holy Spirit (to the Spirit now speaking in and through West’s “charism”), urging questioners to pray to overcome the fear induced in them by their bad theological-spiritual formation. Well-balanced persons have spoken of how West makes them feel a sense of guilt, of resistance to the Holy Spirit, if they experience uneasiness about what he is saying.

                  Pope Benedict XVI’s sacramental “style,” integrated within the objectivity of a larger truth that always first calls ourselves into question even as we preach to others, provides a helpful lesson here.

                  Regarding Hefner: West fails to see that Hefner at root does not correct but misconceives and then only continues the error of America’s Puritan Protestantism. For both Puritanism and Hefner, the body is merely a tool, though to be manipulated differently: by the former exclusively for reproducing children and by Hefner for pleasure. It is not only Puritanism but also Hefner that fails to understand properly the body and bodily desires in their natural meaning as good.

                  In sum, West’s work provides a paradigm of what is most often criticized today in connection with John Paul II’s theology of the body–and rightly criticized, insofar as that theology is identified with West’s interpretation: namely, that it is too much about sex and too romantic.

                  West presents a problem for the Church, not because he lacks orthodox intentions, but because his unquestionably orthodox intentions render his theology, a priori, all the more credible. His work often deflects people from the beauty and depth of what is the authentic meaning of John Paul II’s anthropology of love, and thus of what was wrought in and through the Second Vatican Council. It is scarcely the first time in the history of the Church that abundant good will did not suffice to make one’s theology and vision of reality altogether true.

                  West has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Church. However, if his work is to bear the Catholic fruit he so ardently desires, he needs to subject basic aspects of his theology to renewed reflection.

                  David L. Schindler
                  Provost/Dean and Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology
                  Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family
                  The Catholic University of America
                  Washington, D.C.

  16. Katie @ Wellness Mama

    Great job tackling a tough subject! In response to a few of the commenters above, NFP can certainly work for people with endometriosis, PCOS, and other related issues. Also, in my work with clients, I have never seen a case where hormonal contraceptives provided a health benefit that couldn’t be better achieved with natural means (nutrition changes, herbal supplements etc).

    From a personal perspective, I’m certified to teach NFP (sympto-thermal method) but my husband and I don’t use it currently. Even when finances have been tight or life has been crazy, we haven’t seen these as big enough reasons to avoid having a child, so we are thrilled to be welcoming our fourth (in 5 years) in the next few weeks. God willing, this will be our outlook throughout our marriage, even if that means welcoming many children. After all, it is the children we don’t have that we regret… I’m yet to meet a mom who looks at her children and regrets having any of them!

    1. I’m glad you are happy with your family size, but in regard to your last sentence: You must know different people than I do. I’ve personally known at least a dozen people who grew up being constantly told that they were unwanted, and some of them were abused because their parents basically blamed them for existing. 🙁 I have known *more* people who make the best of a surprise pregnancy and end up being glad to know that child, but people who regret having children certainly do exist. At the milder end, I have a close friend who is a good mother but often remarks on how she wishes she’d become a mom intentionally at a mature age, instead of because a condom broke when she was 19; it’s not that she wishes her children as individuals didn’t exist, but that she thinks it would have been better for her and for them if they’d been born later.

      1. Very true. I have a close friend who says she wishes she were aborted rather than having grown up knowing that her parents did not want her. She was raised by grandparents, but has suffered with issues from this her whole life. Likewise, my 2 older siblings were abandoned by their mother (not my mother) and have major issues because of this. They are far reaching issues that affect our whole family to this day and they are 40 years old.
        On the other hand, both myself and my younger brother had children at 17 years of age. Though I don’t regret my child, I do acknowledge that there would have been a better time to have a child.

  17. I have to add something to this discussion. It is VERY important to understand that there is the possibility that a couple can use NFP with a contraceptive mindset and that is NOT okay. That too is a sin. God created sex, God created humans with a brain to think things through, and God created the natural times of fertility/infertility. We are called to use our brains and then prayerfully discern if and when we have children and to then act based on our intentions at the time. Of course, God can always override our decisions (even contraceptive users experience this), and if you’re using NFP properly you accept that. The difference is that if you are using NFP correctly and morally, you are OPEN to life. You are basically saying, “At this time we do not feel we are in a place to expand our family, but if God has other plans, then we will accept that.” With contraception, barrier methods, etc. you are not open to life. It is a way of trying to override the natural way that God has designed things to work while still enjoying the benefits of the act that HE created.
    One last point: earlier there was discussion about how NFP doesn’t work with PCOS or women who have irregular cycles, etc. This is not true. I myself have PCOS and have used it to both achieve and avoid pregnancy. (I also teach the Creighton Model). I have had many clients with PCOS who struggled with infertility, and were able to get pregnant using the Creighton Model and then seeking medical help from doctors trained in reading their charts and using NaPro Technology. If this is something you have never heard of, I highly recommend looking into it. NFP is something that can be used by ALL women, no matter what your situation. You just may have to look around for a methd that fits your needs. There are numerous methods of NFP, and one size does not fit all. Also, for those who use BC for medical reasons, know that there are other options. NaPro Technology provides other ways of treating medical conditions. The BC pill simply puts synthetic hormones in your body and covers up the symptoms of whatever is physically wrong. NaPro gets to the bottom of the issues and treats what is physically wrong with you. If hormones are used, they use bioidentical hormones. Please look into this if this is something you deal with. I have seen many women benefit both physically and emotionally by using NaPro and ditching their previous use of BC. It really does work and it is much healthier for you.

    1. I disagree that it is sinful to have a sex life with your husband that does not involve procreation. I don’t beleive that God only wants us to pump out babies for our whole lives and if we want to stop having children then we are sinning by having sex. But then again, I think there are so many things in the Catholic religion that are over-the-top and cause nothing but guilt. I like to believe in an understanding, loving, compassionate God who allows room for individual life styles and would rather see us happy than run ragged with 12 children.
      Yes God created sex — but not only for procreation or else wouldn’t we always be fertile? It’s clear to me that since sex is enjoyable, it is okay to enjoy it! And that inlcudes not stressing about whether an unwanted pregnancy will result.

      1. Rachel,
        I’m late to the discussion on my own blog here, but you’re right – God created sex for more than one reason. Two, to be precise. Unity in a lifelong relationship (aka marriage) and generating such love that it becomes a new human being. You’re also right that He doesn’t expect everyone to be a baby-making machine, thus the periods of fertility and infertility in the woman. Using what God has created (those on/off cycles) to plan a family and thwarting what God has created by placing something artificial between husband and wife and God (it takes 3) are completely different actions and intents.

        With NFP, used properly, there are very, very few times that a couple should ‘stress’ about an unplanned pregnancy. If they are, they know they made their own choice about whether to abstain or not, rather than wondering if a method will work or not, as in the case of birth control or condoms failing. (Condoms fail 80-90% of the time – that’s worry, in my book!)

        If you know any NFP-using couples well, I can almost guarantee they’ll assure you that they are vastly enjoying their sex life. 😉
        Katie

        1. Condoms fail 80-90% of the time
          Do you have a citation for that, Katie? All the statistics I have seen indicate that condoms WORK 80-90%, which is to say that they fail 10-20%. It’s important to realize that these are the % of couples who will conceive during 1 year of typical use of the method–not the % who will conceive in ONE use!

          1. Agreed, statistics show condoms work 80-90% of the time. Here is one, for example. “With proper knowledge and application technique—and use at every act of intercourse—women whose partners use male condoms experience a 2% per-year pregnancy rate with perfect use and a 15% per-year pregnancy rate with typical use” We used condoms for several years and never got pregnant. That would be nearly impossible if the statistic quoted by Katie was true.

          2. Huge oops! I just reversed what I should have said – yes, condoms WORK 80% of the time or so, which is a 10-20% failure rate over the course of a year. In my book, that seems like a big risk: 1 out of 5 or 1 out of 10 times = pregnancy. Condoms just have never been all that effective. Sorry about the typo! Katie

            1. Let me repeat: failure rates are the % of couples who will conceive during 1 year of typical use of the method–not the % who will conceive in ONE use! I’m not sure you’re understanding that because, although you said, “over the course of a year,” in the next sentence you said, “1 out of 5 or 1 out of 10 times = pregnancy.” No, it’s 1 out of 5 or 1 out of 10 YEARS, which for a typical couple means 1 out of 250-500 times they have sex results in pregnancy–that’s not such bad odds.

              In fact, the failure rate of NFP among actual users is similar to that of condoms among actual users. Both methods work much better when users are extremely careful to do everything correctly.

              1. Good point, Becca. The failure rate for these 2 methods definitely depends on using them properly. Based on my own experience, I used condoms for years and years and never got pregnant. I used NFP for 6 months, to prevent a pregnancy, and got pregnant. Definitely attributed to how it was used.

        2. This is true. I’m sure Catholic users of NFP have perfectly great sex lives and I am probably being over dramatic. 😉
          I do chart and we don’t use barrier methods. I am not opposed to them, or to vasectomies, but I’d rather not use them if it’s not necessary (due to waste, cost, etc.).

    2. This is a very interesting discussion. I have a slightly different perspective on this, being Mormon, and yet there is much of the theology that is the same.

      However, I disagree that with the statement that with contraception you are not open to life; although my husband and I do use birth control we have offered up our will to the Father, as we do in all parts of our life, after careful, prayerful consideration and decision making. We know that despite our intervention the Lord can and may provide us with another child and we would gladly welcome that child.

      However, I am impressed with the aspects of NFP of monthly communication and togetherness. When I start to get that “hmm, it might be time for another child” feeling, it can be a bit awkward to bring up. I do think that getting in the habit of discussions and prayer every month is a valuable one. And I think that although my heart wants to welcome as many spirits into our home as the Lord will give us, I do tend to live in more fear than I ought to, my faith is frequently lacking, when it comes to feeling as if I could really provide another child with what they need spiritually, physically and emotionally. But the struggle I have to life in faith and not fear is a general thorn in my side, anyway; not necessarily an indictment on fearfulness in birth control using couples.

      As usual, your posts are thought-provoking and inspiring, Katie, and your commenters generally well spoken (written?) and very kind to one another-that last part is a rarity indeed.

  18. Rachel Ritter

    I’d just like to clarify that there are two Rachels posting on here. I haven’t made any comments about IUDs or whether or not any method of birth control is or isn’t abortifacient. I don’t want to debate the pros/cons of various types of birth control, but I am interested in the theology concerning birth control and NFP. Thanks again to all for the lovely responses.

  19. I also think that this topic is can’t be discussed in a vacuum. It involves more than just one couple’s actions, but rather the attitudes and assumptions of the whole culture. It goes to the heart of how we view marriage and what the purpose of marriage and family IS. I think that we have two fundamentally different world views which makes “translation” difficult, because we aren’t coming from the same place at all.

    Does that make sense?

  20. Rachel Ritter

    Hi Katie 🙂 You know I love your blog, though this post was a bit different than I expected. I have no problem with your sentiments, despite that they’re different than my own. I would like to mention something regarding evidence based information. It’s important when reading statistics to take confounding variables into effect, or the numbers can frequently be interpreted to mean almost anything. On this note, I have to commend Becca on her commentary (see above comment).

    I have two questions re: NFP. First, was NFP intentionally designed to prevent divorce? This post says “If you ask me, it’s that level of disobedience that causes the Catholic rate of divorce to be equal to the rest of the culture’s, even though the Church puts in place measures (like NFP) to prevent divorce. (NFP users have a very low rate of divorce; I’ve seen 4% and as low as 0.2%.) People just aren’t listening.” It’s not my understanding that divorce prevention was the original intent of NFP, so the statement seems a bit suspect.

    Second, in practice I suppose one can say that NFP is more natural due to the lack of barriers or exogenous hormones. What has always baffled me about NFP is conceptual. I’m told that as a Catholic, you’re not supposed to interfere with God’s will–if His plan is for you to have a child, then you need to trust in Him. ALL methods run interference on His grand design. Why have we drawn an arbitrary line here? Prevention is prevention is prevention. I believe NFP is great for all the reasons you mentioned–intimacy, no need for artificial hormones that are probably unhealthy for you and the environment, etc–but that does not change the fact that you are intentionally preventing pregnancy.

    I am truly asking for input as to the reasoning for this. If we are not to prevent the gift of a child from God according to His plan for us (i.e. at the time of His choosing, not ours), then why is NFP more acceptable than other methods? I fail to see the theological basis for the difference.

    Milehimama said “Artificial birth control changes the act of giving into an act of selfishness. I give you all- except my fertility. I accept you totally- except for your fertility.” When you use NFP, you are essentially doing exactly that. I give you my all-except for my fertility because I won’t have intercourse when I’m fertile. I accept you totally-except for your fertility–because your fertility isn’t viable since we’re only having sex when I’m not fertile. Intentionally NOT becoming pregnant is intentionally NOT becoming pregnant, no matter how we try to dress it up. A cowpattie by any other name still smells like a cowpattie.

    In today’s culture, people have difficulty sustaining themselves while maintaining families of traditional size (5, 6, 9, 12 children). I have wondered if the Catholic church needed to provide us with an alternative to less desirable means of birth control and so this was devised.

    Thoughts, everyone?

    1. Ah but the difference between NFP and artificial birth control is the additon of a device (physical or chemical) intentionally designed to come between a husband and wife.

      There is a difference between not doing an act, and purposefully creating a barrier and changing the nature of an act.

      1. Rachel Ritter

        Understood. Is that the purpose, though? Is the injunction focused on a need not to change the act and not against prevention of pregnancy? I’ve been taught that it’s not right to prevent the conception of a child that God would have brought into the world. It is this that I’m looking for more thoughts on…

        1. Yes, the act itself may not be changed … there is no specific law against the prevention of pregnancy per se. That is to say, prevention of pregnancy isn’t a sin in itself. However, responsible parenthood is a duty of married couples who are able, so it *could* be a sin of omission to neglect this duty without good reason. But there are lots of good reasons why Catholics may go ahead and delay pregnancy without sinning.

    2. This is why we don’t use NFP. I do believe that there is a difference, but without a really strong reason to use it (for example, severe health problems), we just didn’t see anything that would justify overriding God’s will to create new life.

      Here’s how I tend to think about it: God created sex to be unitive and procreative. We aren’t allowed to have contraceptive (or non-marital) sex because those have only one of the two qualities. But we ARE allowed to NOT have sex. Selectively abstaining is kind of a workaround of that … in essence saying, “We choose not to commit the sin of having contraceptive sex, but we don’t have the willpower to forgo all sex. We’ll only have sex that you, Lord, have naturally created to be infertile.”

      Still, I do believe that having children is a duty of marriage, that continuing to live as man and wife while refusing to “pay up” by becoming parents — and parents of the number of children that God has in mind for us — could be a problem. NFP became popular in the late 19th century (though it wasn’t very advanced then) as a way to work through those hard cases (like health issues) without committing an actual sin. Popes have agreed that it’s okay because it isn’t actually contraceptive.

      Man, I gotta go write a post about this myself now.

        1. Here is a talk by Jason Evert and he address this issue about halfway through the talk…

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8n5G1sYNoEs

    3. Rachel,
      Excellent questions and challenges, thank you. Let me try to address them one by one:
      1. As for NFP and divorce, no, NFP was not designed to reduce divorces, but it generally goes hand in hand. I just think there are always eternal consequences when we go against God’s will, and I can’t imagine that divorce isn’t one of those consequences b/c of the rampant use of birth control among believers. ?? More my opinion, perhaps?
      2. There are definitely Catholics who believe NFP is interfering too much. It does come down to intent, and ONLY God can judge that. I believe that the Church deems NFP acceptable because you’re not actually stopping God WHILE also engaging in intercourse incorrectly. Just like food is created to be good, but yet fasting from food is also good. I don’t know if that’s an apt analogy, but I’m trying… 🙂
      3. I’ve never personally been able to buy into the idea that NFP, in all instances, is wrong and selfish. Hopefully that’s not my own sinfulness or selfishness talking…because of that, though, I don’t know that I’m qualified to respond to the cowpatties. 😉 There is a good deal of logic in the argument…
      4. One thing I’m pretty sure of about the Church is that she doesn’t just make a rule to fit the culture, especially just to okay a lesser of two evils. If NFP is okay in the Church, it’s okay. It would be worth our time to inspect the Catechism’s regulations on the appropriate USE of NFP, I suspect. I’m pretty sure “grave reasons” is the phrase in there. NFP without prayer and discernment can cause big problems for marriages, so the couple must be rooted in prayer.

      Thanks for bringing up this side of the story!
      🙂 Katie

  21. I was drawn to NFP as a healthier means of family planning, but have enjoyed the communication aspect of it as well. I’ve read several Catholic sources that have helped me get a grip on the spiritual benefits – even though I’m not Catholic.

    One secular resource that is a gem I rarely see recommended is the book “Natural Birth Control Made Simple.” Similar to Taking Charge of Your Fertility, but more readible IMO. It *does* advocate barrier methods as an option. We’ve chosen not to use them despite.

  22. Oops forgot to add- it is not morally wrong to take the Pill, etc. as a medical treatment for a disease, such as PCOS.

    But, fertility is not a disease. And intentionally “breaking” one of your body systems- the opposite of treating an illness- is morally wrong. If our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (as Christians believe), then intentionally damaging it so that it doesn’t function is wrong.

    1. I’m not too sure about this statement Milehimamma…

      “If our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (as Christians believe), then intentionally damaging it so that it doesn’t function is wrong.”

      Also what about 1 Timothy 5:8 which says, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

      For those that cannot chance having any further children due to financial reasons, then NFP might not be enough.

      1. I believe that the scripture you reference is about someone not working, or not using his income for his family. It’s amazing how God will provide when you are open to His grace. In my experience, the most expensive thing about having a baby, if you’ve already had one previously, is the doctor bill! And there are options there. If you’re poor, there’s Medicare (or is it Medicaid? I get those confused) or home birth, if you’re comfortable with that. I think that you would have to be living in TRUE poverty for it to be so grievously irresponsible to risk having another child.

        1. And I’m not implying that everyone should have a lot of kids, but I do notice that when people justify only having 1 or 2 kids because of money, everyone in that house usually has way more than they actually need. Which means it’s about selfishness. This blog is about Stewardship, among other things. It’s important to use all our resources wisely, not wastefully, and when we do that, we often find we have more than enough.

          1. Well, we homeschool and my husband is a Phd student. We used to live in moldy basement apartments and walk to get groceries, but now that we have 3 children, we have rented a house and bought a car. It is very difficult financially. No, we do not really have more than we need. We do MUCH more than typical families for stewardship (cloth diapers, nursing, garden, local organic food, no paper, no plastic…) I’m sure we could go back to a moldy apartment and my son could possibly die from an asthma attack, or we could eat hot dogs and Kraft Dinner every day…but that’s not really what we want for our family. Instead, we will stick to our family of 5 so that we can provide a better life for the children that we do have. Speaking of stewardship — isn’t it a pretty popular belief that more people on this planet is contradictary to stewardship? Isn’t our planet considered over-populated? Just a thought…

            1. Population growth is slowing quite a bit, actually.
              http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idb/worldgrgraph.php

              BTW, as a protein source, hot dogs are more expensive than many other (healthier) options.

              1. Milehimama– I wouldn’t know, I don’t buy hot dogs (ever)… but I’m fairly certain they are cheaper than the organic grass fed beef we buy.

            2. Rachel, in your case, the moral thing to do may be to leave your family at its current size. Part of the Catholic way of using NFP is to look at “responsible parenthood”. If you physically could not handle more children, or financially, or emotionally, etc, then those are cases where no one is going to say that you SHOULD have more children. That would be irresponsible. Not to mention, the Catholic teaching doesn’t say how many children you should or shouldn’t have anyway. It says that you should discern what is right for you and what God is calling you to. For any given family that number can be different. For some it may be only 1, for others 5 or more. Like I said, no one is going to say how many children you should have–that is up to you to discern, and it sounds like you have given a lot of thought to your situation and what is best for your family.

              1. This makes sense Mary. But it seems that there are many that disagree. I just don’t like people insinuating that we are greedy for “things” and that is the reason we don’t want more children. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

                1. Rachel, I certainly didn’t mean to offend you, and I wasn’t accusing you. And as Anne says, you didn’t need to justify yourself to me. 🙂 I was, initially just responding to the verse you quoted, and the reasoning there. I certainly don’t think you, or anyone else for that matter, should keep having kids indiscriminately. You certainly have good reason to at least postpone having anymore, but I don’t think God would condemn you or your husband if you did have another one. 🙂
                  I also don’t know what form of birth control you use, but don’t they all have a chance of failure? I don’t know why people are so afraid to use NFP, except that there is a learning curve getting started, and it does require self control to abstain during fertile times. Though, as others have pointed out, you could use a barrier method during the fertile time, but as a Catholic I don’t condone that. However, it would be much healthier for your body than taking hormonal birth control. And you do seem to be very concerned about what goes into your body, and avoiding polluting the earth. For those 2 reasons alone, NFP is the “natural” choice.

                  I do commend you for all that you do to take care of yourself and your family. I hope your husband is near the end of his degree, and that the financial stresses you are facing will soon be lifted! God bless!

              2. Mary,
                You said it well. As Catholics, we are called to discern our family size based on life circumstances. We are not called to “pump babies out.” We ARE called to be OPEN to life, which NFP helps us do — each time we approach intercourse, if the time is a possible fertile time, we ask ourselves if now is a good time to possibly add to our family. If it isn’t, then we abstain, just as we did before we were married. Each couple needs to evaluate the situation — and it is different for each couple.

                Rachel, I don’t think you should have to feel like you need to justify your reasons to any one of us. It is between you, your spouse, and the Lord.

                God Bless.

            3. Rachel,
              As with just about everything these days, there are conflicting sources on overpopulation. Here are some that debunk it completely:
              http://www.pop.org/
              http://overpopulationisamyth.com/
              We have more of a problem moving food around to the right places, for example, than actually growing enough to feed the world. We throw it away in American and others around the world (and in our own country) are starving. 🙁
              Katie

              1. Good point Katie. I’m not convinced of the over population of the planet either, but I thought I’d put it out there to see what people thought.

  23. @Tiffany,
    Here is a link to many Scriptures that mention sterilization (and birth control is a form of artificial sterilization, usually temporary but not always.)

    It’s easy to sling verses back and forth and difficult to have nuanced discussions online. I hope this gives you a starting place. You are welcome to contact me via email if you would like questions about Catholic beliefs answered, and why people might think birth control is unBiblical. mommyjo2 at yahoo com

    FWIW, I’ve never used NFP personally although I’ve learned about it. My husband is not Catholic but is a non-denominational Christian (Calvary Chapel) and he fells the same way about artificial birth control. It’s not just a Catholic thing.

  24. I’ve used the Pill, the Patch, and several other hormonal methods of birth control before we ready to have a baby. Messing with my hormones just didn’t work for me. Then I used NFP and we stressed EVERY month that I might get pregnant. And I did get pregnant but it was because I didn’t pay very close attention to everything you should. So after baby #2, I had the copper IUD implanted and I LOVE it. No hormonal side effects and I never even think about it. I’m a Christian, not Catholic, and I’d love to know more about why the Catholic church says not to use birth control. If that is truly scriptural, I would consider it but I’ve never heard this preached in any Christian church I’ve attended.

    I agree that NFP is a great option for many of the reasons you stated but I strongly disagree with your stance that it is “morally wrong” to prevent pregnancies.

    1. Protestants do not believe that the barrier method is wrong. However, hormonal birth control WOULD be considered wrong because it can kill a potential human life. The copper IUD can also do this. If an egg becomes fertilized, then it cannot implant itself. This is intercepting nature and what God may have planned for this life inside of you. I also had a copper IUD, thinking that with no hormones, it was sure bet, but I’ve since discovered that it goes against my beliefs and now stick to NFP and barrier (and later, vasectomy).

      1. My understanding is that an IUD PREVENTS fertilization by killing sperm. WebMD confirms this. http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/intrauterine-device-iud-for-birth-control

        1. WebMD? Okay. Well, there are better places to get information! What they are saying is that prevention of fertilization is the MAIN function of IUDs (which is a debate), but it still acts as an abortificient.

          According to a study reported in the Dec 2002 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

          “The possible mechanisms of action for the IUD in humans can each be classified as occurring before or after fertilization…

          “The possible postfertilization mechanisms of action of the IUD include the following: slowing or speeding the transport of the early embryo through the fallopian tube, damage to or destruction of the early embryo before it reaches the uterus, and prevention of implantation…It is well established that IUDs cause endometrial changes…”

    2. Tiffany,
      Here’s a link from milehimama that you may have missed: http://www.scripturecatholic.com/contraception.html I especially lean on no. 3, about Onan being KILLED for wasting his seed.

      Reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the subject of fertility and procreation will help you clarify the Church’s position so much more than I could. There are some excellent explanations in the comments, here, too, in case you’re not subscribed. It all comes down to dividing what God designed to be put together, but it’s so much more than that.

      I hope you find some answers here and in a good book!
      🙂 Katie

      1. The story of Onan is debated. Many say that he was killed because he failed to provide his brother’s wife with children, not that he spilled his seed. Also, spilling of seed can be interpreted differently than contraception (ie: masturbation/withdrawl are not the same as barrier contraception).

        Also, in Corintians, Paul says ” The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy, which is her right as a married woman, nor should the wife deprive her husband……do not deprive each other of sexual relations.”

        In these passages on marriage, no where does it say that contraception is not allowed. The passages clearly state that sex within marriage is to prevent sexual immorality outside of marriage. Therefore, sex can be seen as an act between husband and wife purely so that they do not “burn with passion”, but instead satisfy that passion with each other as God allows. NOTHING is said here about contraception or about sex being only for procreation.

        1. Rachel,
          I feel like in Corinthians it’s followed up by something about “except by mutual consent…” but I don’t have time to look it up. Do you have the verse?

          Have you seen my series on the Theology of the Body (Pope John Paul’s 129 talks on the subject)? It will shed some light for you on the Catholic perspective, complete with many Scripture quotes. I think I have 3 more sessions to cover, though, probably the important ones for this topic! http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/tag/theology-of-the-body/

          Ok…I took the time. Really important to get that verse in context: http://www.catholic.org/bible/book.php?id=53&bible_chapter=7#5

          Katie

  25. I have been using a ladycomp for NFP for over a year now and I love it. After having my third child I just didn’t think I could keep track of everything, but with the ladycomp it takes my temperature and stores everything. It gives me a red or green light each day. It knows my cycle. It consistently asks me if I’ve started menstruating the day my period starts. It is a little pricey at $475, but I figure the pill would cost around $30/month and I would break-even if I used it for just over a year. It is totally worth it and easy.

  26. No drugs for me, no ma’am. We also do natural birth control. But we still manage to “have fun” during my fertile time.

  27. Mama Chocolate

    I see NFP as the best option also, but it does seem a little…lame that during the time that a woman’s body is most interested in lovemaking is when you must abstain.
    So far, we’ve only used NFP to TTC our first daughter, and then the second came along when we were ready anyway, so no problems yet here. 😉

      1. While a barrier method will decrease the chance of conception, keep in mind that the effectiveness rates of methods are based on using them throughout the cycle. At fertile times, your odds of conceiving are higher than the official odds for your method.

        A safer option is to enjoy sex play that CAN’T result in conception, if your morality allows it–Catholic teaching does not.

        1. Good point. I am aware of this as well — but I guess barrier would be better than nothing if you can’t stop at non-penatration. I did not know that Catholics were opposed to other sex acts, but I guess I should have guessed!

        2. Catholics are allowed to engage in most sex play. The distinction is that it may not be used as a SUBSTITUTION for the marital act which by its nature was created to be unitive and procreative.

    1. MC,
      That is a bummer, I agree. Part of the sacrificial life of a Catholic, and something I can offer up, I suppose! Katie

  28. I had to take birthcontrole my first few years of marriage. I had PCOS, which caused me to be VERY irregular. The birthcontrole can help keep fertility problems from becoming worse and they help with current hormone problems resulting from the pcos. My hormones would go up and down, up and down. I would feel like I was maybe going to start my period for weeks! and it would never come and eventually go away. I was much better hormonally when I started taking bc when we got married. In some ways I wish I started taking it sooner, but in otherways I am glad I waited because it was a helpful reminder to save my marriage bed. With the help of fertility treatment we have been blessed with a sweet little girl. I do use an IUD, but it also has hormones in it and I do not release eggs as a result. When we are ready to begin the process all over again we will. Nothing against NFP, I think its great if your body works properly. We must remember that not everybody’s body works the same. What works for you may never be able to work for others. Its wonderful if it does though!

    1. I’m sorry if this offends you, but unless you’ve tried NFP, then you don’t really know if it can work for PCOS. I know someone personally with PCOS and they used NFP to become pregnant THREE times (so far). For MANY people, NFP (or other methods like it) are the ONLY thing that has helped them concieve. NFP is amazing for conceiving, not just for prevention of pregnancy. Treating PCOS with birth control pills just causes other symptoms and health issues to replace the symptoms of PCOS.

      1. Having a baby usually releaves you of PCOS.
        Before that, for me, it was kind of hard to become pregnant when I didn’t naturally have a period. When I ‘ovulated’ I did not fully create an egg. My body would try and fail. I created cysts. These cystes can block your ovary’s up and cause a build up of hormones that cause the problem to escalate and make the individual feel bad. Yes, you may have a period from time to time. BUT with PCOS, whose to say you even ovulated. You may not have, it could be your body just releasing a build up because you haven’t had your period in 6+ months. Treating PCOS with birth control actually keeps it from getting worse. It prevents you from creating more cysts. An OBGYN would tell you this if you had the problem and knew more about it. Also, people can have PCOS at various levels. Some will never be able to have a child as a result of too much damage from the cysts. By the way, the cysts can become bigger and burst. Sound fun right? NO it’s quite painful. Oh, and when you do become pregnant you are at a higher risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. We as a society need to remember that there one way is right solution for health care because we are complex and our problems are complex in different ways. You can’t treate every issue with the same solution.

        1. Jenny, re your statement: “BUT with PCOS, whose to say you even ovulated. You may not have, it could be your body just releasing a build up because you haven’t had your period in 6+ months. ”

          Again, if you used NFP or a similar method, you would know when you’ve ovulated. Keeping track of cervical fluid gives you this information. This is how my aquaintance got pregnant…

          However, I totally understand your reasons for using bc and I don’t blame you. I just hope people with PCOS can learn about this option for getting pregnant. You are right, everyone is different.

    2. Jenny,
      I’m sorry you had such an awful experience with PCOS. Nothing fun about that. For most women, once they’re using NFP, a trained practitioner can pinpoint and cure the PCOS, either via surgery or dietary changes. Donielle at Naturally Knocked Up and Jenny of Nourished Kitchen both have beautiful stories of traditional foods knocking out their PCOS and allowing them to conceive naturally. I pray for the same success for you if it’s something you want to look into! 🙂 Katie

      1. I knew about the possibility of surgery and considered that as a last resort. Surgery is expensive and it doesn’t alwasy fix the problem. Scaring can occur and leave you with no other options. I have tried dietary changes and vitamens and so forth to have a period when I was younger. They made me toss my cookies. If you know what I mean. 🙂 They also didn’t work. I had my first period when I was 17. My second when I was 18. So figuring out how my cm and so forth would not have worked very well as it occured so few and far between. I did read about it when we were trying to concieve. Its just hard to know what to look for when you don’t experience a cycle very often.

  29. Erin, an IUD works by irritating the uterine lining.

    It does not necessarily prevent conception, but it does prevent the nourishment and implantation of an already conceived child.

    This is an induced abortion (as opposed to a spontaneous abortion, also called miscarriage) because it is deliberately caused by an artificial device.

    Not to mention, it can’t be good for your body to intentionally irritate it internally so it doesn’t work.

  30. My husband and I started using NFP when we first got married 6.5 years ago and we love it! I’ve never had to be on any type of artificial birth control. I had very irregular cycles when we started, and was still able to interpret them using NFP. We are not Catholic, just didn’t want to use artificial methods. We did take a CCLI class to learn it before we were married. This is a fantastic, reliable option that lots of people are misinformed about. Many think it is the rhythm method and “does not work” for TTA. Works perfect for us! We’ve used it for TTA as well as TTC.

    Thanks for bringing some attention to this great alternative!

  31. I am wondering why IUDs (inter-uterine device) haven’t been discussed or considered a good birth control option. I am very much in favor of being hormone-free, but there is an IUD that is just a piece of copper in my uterus. After being on the pill for a year, I am thankful to feel like myself again and have the confidence that we can not worry about having children until we’re ready for them.

    1. Copper IUDs are a good non-hormonal option if you are okay with it. They do, however, prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, so if you are opposed to abortion, then you wouldn’t want to use an IUD.

      1. Rachel, I believe this is incorrect information. An IUD prevents fertilization by killing sperm. Telling someone they are essentially committing abortion, without the proper knowledge, is not okay.

        1. Here is a good source for info about the IUD being abortifacient:

          http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARRIAGE/CCLIUD.TXT

          There apparently is some debate about it, though. Personally it seems credible to me that is an abortifacient.

        2. Paragard is the only non-hormonal IUD available in the US.

          Here is the package insert that comes with the device:
          http://www.drugs.com/pro/paragard.html

          It says:
          “Possible mechanism(s) by which copper enhances contraceptive efficacy include interference with sperm transport or fertilization, and prevention of implantation.”

          The manufacturers themselves say that the device prevents an already conceived child from implanting, thus intentionally causing its demise as it is starved of nourishment.

          That’s abortion.

        3. Why is it you believe your information is correct and mine is not? There are so many things your doctor doesn’t tell you about birth control. Do some real research and you will discover that I am correct.

          According the American Medical Association Committee on Human
          Reproduction,” the action of the IUDs would seem to be a simple local
          phenomenon. That these devices prevent nidation of an already fertilized
          ovum has been accepted as the most likely mechanism of the action.”

          Also:
          “An intrauterine device (IUD) inserted into the uterus through the vagina and cervix usually interferes with implantation by causing a local inflammatory reaction. Some IUDs contain progesterone that is slowly released and interferes with the development of the endometrium so that implantation does not usually occur.” (p. 58)(Keith Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 6th ed., Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Comp. 1998.

          There’s more too, and it’s not even hard to find. You may find information saying that IUDs are not abortificants but that just means that it is not considered it’s MAIN function. However, it most definitely is a function of IUDs.

  32. I think that NFP has its place and should be discussed. But the way this came out is very harsh against people who have to take birth control for valid reasons.

    Also, condoms are a great non hormonal options that weren’t mentioned even once, that I saw.

    1. Condoms are not a “great” option in that they aren’t very effective unless used with a separate spermicide, and they are made of plastic and wrapped in plastic which is bad for the environment. Using condoms when you’re learning NFP and aren’t sure if you’re fertile is a good idea, though, for those whose beliefs allow it.

      You can’t expect Katie to advocate any artificial contraceptive, as it is against her religion. I agree, though, that she could have acknowledged that a fraction of the 100 million women taking contraceptive pills are taking them to treat medical problems, so their pollution of our water with synthetic hormones is no more immoral than other people’s pollution of our water with antidepressants or chemotherapy drugs. But even if there are 1 million such women in the world, the other 99% of pill-takers could reconsider!

  33. I grew up thinking that birth control was an empowering tool for women. After I switched to the sympto-thermal method I was in awe at how empowering charting was, and very upset I fell for the lie about birth control. I never realized all the side effects I had been experiencing and I finally feel like a real woman! It has done wonders for my marriage and my faith too!

    There are a lot of websites out there to help keep track of one’s fertility signs and help with getting the hang of it. I like the forums too because seasoned veterans of charting helped me interpret my signs during the transition off of artificial hormones. I started out with a free membership to 3 sites to try them out at the same time. I found one fit me better than the others but it’s really about personal preference.

    I’m so glad you are spreading the word on this! I would like to add that another awesome benefit of NFP is that it’s free! I can’t imagine how liberating this could be for women around the world.

    1. Frances, What an important testimony and turn-around – thank you so much for sharing! 🙂 Katie

  34. Katie, as a research professional I have to point out that the relationship between NFP and divorce is much more likely to be a simple correlation explained by a lurking variable, than proof that NFP *prevents* divorce. Catholicism teaches that both artificial contraception and divorce are wrong. People who follow Catholic teaching in one area are the people most likely to follow it in other areas, don’t you think? So the lurking variable is adherence to Catholic teaching: Strict Catholics are more likely to use NFP, and strict Catholics are less likely to divorce; therefore, there is a correlation between NFP and not divorcing, but that doesn’t mean NFP prevents divorce.

    I know someone who had serious trouble in her marriage because she and her husband found abstaining so difficult and frustrating that they would have horrible fights almost every cycle, and they blamed each other for pregnancies. After years of counseling, they are happier. Their belief that divorce is wrong certainly helped motivate them to work through their problems. But NFP was working against their marital harmony, rather than for it.

    1. Becca, you make important statistical points, although there are many couples who use NFP who aren’t Catholic. Tough one to figure out, but I enjoy resting on that statistic! 🙂 Katie

      1. Because so much of the research on NFP has been done by Catholic organizations, it’s important to consider how each study recruited its participants before you draw conclusions about how statistical trends may apply to the wider society.

        My casual observation has been that non-Catholics who use NFP tend to be highly educated people over 30. Much research documents that people with more education tend to be better users of any method, and that women’s fertility begins to decline around age 27, so education and age are other possible lurking variables.

        1. Oh, I got sidetracked thinking about the effectiveness of NFP. What I meant to say is that more educated people are less likely to divorce.

          Furthermore, people who have no religious restrictions on artificial contraception must be more likely to use NFP when they feel their marriage is stable and lasting (that’s probably true of semi-faithful Catholics, too)–so the causation is the other way around: not divorcing increases odds of choosing NFP.

  35. I have to say that I love the pill! I know that there are many points of view other than my own, but I was a little sad that you were just. so. harsh. with regards to the educated choice that I have made.

    With three little ones (and planning for a fourth, all conceived on planned breaks from the pill!) my 10 days of heavy bleeding per month, super PMS menstrual cycle was a huge impediment to my capacity to be a quality mother. The pill has enabled me to manage it all so much better.

    I think that there are many valid choices, and using an artificial method of birth control doesn’t invalidate the totality of the love and relatedness I have with my husband and children. I find that implication in your words and in the comments to be hurtful.

    Please put a little more thought into your words before you publish them.

    1. As Catholics, we really do believe that artificial birth control is wrong. I think Katie handled that very gracefully by giving the reasons for our belief, but of course you will disagree if that is not your belief. No one’s trying to judge or hurt you, just trying to explain the reasons why we believe what we do.

    2. Amanda, I feel for you. 10 days of bleeding a month is NOT normal, and NOT something that anyone should have to deal with. That and other PMS symptoms really take a toll on your body and your relationships.

      But what if I told you that you could (most likely) FIX, not mask, the problem through good diet and supplements? Procycle PMS and Optivite PMT are both formulated to help your body regulate your hormones naturally and eliminate PMS symptoms and menstrual problems. I also highly recommend a book called Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition by Marilyn Shannon. It is Catholic oriented, but her advice is sound, and it covers more issues than you would even think apply. Following the advice in the book helped me in the past, but then I got lazy and switched to a one-a-day vitamin, and it just doesn’t cut it. We are now TTC and have been unable to. From my charting, I can identify the problem, and I can supplement accordingly. I would not be surprised if we conceive by the end of the summer!

      I also believe that the BC that I once took contributed to some of the problems I have now, namely high blood pressure and difficulty losing weight. I discontinued it MANY years ago due to breakthrough bleeding, even though I tried several different brands. I also didn’t realize that the pill can result in very early abortion of a newly conceived baby, due to inability to implant. No, it does not always, 100% prevent ovulation. 🙁

    3. Amanda,
      I am sorry that it felt hurtful to read my opinions and research about artificial contraception, and I assure you, I’m certainly not trying to judge anyone who makes decisions opposite of my own.

      I also think that Jassica speaks much truth – I have a friend who bled nearly every day of the month and was on bc from high school to when she got married. As a Catholic, she knew it wasn’t an option after marriage and was PETRIFIED. Using the Creighton model, she was able to send charts in to the central offices, and without even seeing her for an examination the head doctor there basically said, “You have A, B, & C (the 3 issues being the reason docs couldn’t diagnose her properly before, they just prescribed birth control to mask the symptoms, but not treat the problem) and you need to do X, Y & Z.” He was dead on.

      She had some surgeries done and needs supplements to help her body conceive, but 10 years of marriage and 3 beautiful children later, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She is cured, not just “not bleeding anymore.”

      I don’t mean to pick a fight with you, but I think it’s so empowering to know that there are other successful options out there.

      And thank you, Jassica, for reminding me of the abortificient nature of the Pill. There are so many reasons I stay away from it, I can’t even remember them all!

      Be well, Amanda, and thank you for trusting me enough to disagree with me. 🙂 Katie

    4. “the Pill breaks a perfectly healthy, working system”

      Yes, that’s well and good for bodies that are perfectly healthy. The rest of us, however, don’t always have that luxury.

      I suffered for years with heavy, painful bleeding. Cramps and nausea last for days. Getting out of bed wasn’t an option, so neither was work for at least three days every 24 day cycle.

      I was tested for endometriosis, but the reality was that my body simply doesn’t produce nearly as much progesterone as it needs. I tried natural routes with little success. Then I began developing extremely painful cysts with bleeding heavy enough to warrant ER visits.

      After years of seeing one specialist after another, I agreed to start birth control. We cycled through many different types and I am happy to say that I have only been physically ill a couple times this year. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I reach a point where I am ready to have children. Returning to the pain, bleeding and cysts is terrifying thought.

      All I can say is the male church leadership has never experienced my periods. God won’t handle a cross too large to carry, but at the same time, God offers solutions if you ask for them. Modern medicine has been critical component of my solution.

      1. First, I am sorry for all of the pain and suffering you have endured. Please be more charitable in your comments, though. “The male church leadership has never experienced my periods” is an offensive comment, as is the attitude from modern radical feminists that somehow not “being allowed” to contracept is anti-woman. Hormonal contraception is one of the most anti-woman modern devices. We were blessed to meet and hear lectures from a Catholic female OB-GYN who is a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist. In her practice, she used to prescribe all different types of contraception, perform sterilizations and IVF procedures. Now she has converted her practice to an NFP-only practice and is a certified Creighton NFP method provider. She said that ANY use of hormonal contraception for female reproductive problems is putting a Band-Aid on a festering wound. When you take off the Band-Aid, the wound is still there and most likely worse than before. She called it “bad medicine.” The reality is that most modern doctors and other healthcare providers are not trained in nutrition or in natural healing — or in genuine NFP. There are numerous female doctors and other healthcare providers throughout the world who would never prescribe hormonal contraceptives because they understand that it does not fix anything but simply — in some cases — alleviate symptoms. Not to mention the abortifacient properties and negative health effects on the woman herself. It is not a “church leadership” issue.

        I would urge you to check out the Creighton method… I have a dear friend who was diagnosed through her Creighton charts with endometriosis before she was even married — as a non-Catholic. When she and her husband got married, they already knew which infertility treatments to begin and to simultaneously begin the adoption process. It is powerful information.

        May the Lord bless you with the grace to bear this cross and with His healing.

        1. Michelle,
          Thank you so much for your accurate and sympathetic comments, & I’m so pleased to hear the testimony (even second-hand) from the OBGYN. Perfect! 🙂 Katie

  36. I also like the way Christopher West put it. Intimacy, the marital act, is an act of giving- giving your WHOLE self. It’s also an act of receiving, your WHOLE spouse. Not holding back.

    Artificial birth control changes the act of giving into an act of selfishness. I give you all- except my fertility. I accept you totally- except for your fertility.

    1. Lisa,
      Yes, I’ve often explained it using that analogy too! Hope you don’t mind – I put it into the original post as well – it’s that important. 🙂 Katie

  37. I can’t say whether or not NFP works for avoidance (we’ve never tried that part…) but I can say for us it worked wonderfully for TTC! We got pregnant on the first cycle of trying (which was also the first cycle post birth control pills, which I don’t think I will go back to again) and I am now 27 weeks pregnant with our little boy! I look forward to using NFP after he comes and while I am breastfeeding. I know it will be slightly more involved at that point, but we want more children too so even if we don’t follow it to a T, we’ll be ok 🙂

  38. I practiced NFP for several years and it certainly does work. We’re not Catholic and have no religious injunction against artificial bc, so when I realized that unless we were open to another child (which my husband was not), for the rest of my life I’d never be able to have intercourse when my body most wants to. Never is a long time.

    So my husband (who was similarly dismayed at that revelation), suggested that he get a Vasectomy which we did soon thereafter. No regrets.

    1. Sarahjane — that is exactly how my husband and I feel. Though I do not agree with hormonal bc of any kind, I don’t have anything against barrier methods or vasectomies. My father (a Minister) got one, and so will Hubs 🙂 We have three beautiful children and I think we are done!

      Also, I don’t really like the statement that couples will be more in love if they use NFP only. I can’t see how getting a vasectomy will negatively affect the love my husband and I share. We have an awesome, loving relationship. More days available for sex will NOT be a harm to us!

      1. Rachel- Yes a vasectomy may be good for some people, but my husband had a vasectomy 4 years ago and it has brought us nothing but saddness and regret. We saved up and had one reversal that failed, and now we are saving again to try for one more reversal. We never realized what a true gift from God having a baby truely is. Now I have to face the reality that I may never have another child no matter how much I regret what we did. I would just like to please tell anyone who is contimplating sterilization to really think about it and remember that having a baby is a miracle for a reason… please don’t take that gift for granted.

        1. Yes, I’m sure this does happen sometimes, which is sad. I’ve been told to view vasectomies as final and forever. Reversals are not very reliable. We have three children and I homeschool. This is very important to me and I don’t believe that I could do the best job with any more children at home. If I change my mind in the future, I would adopt, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. However, we will definitely spend a lot of time considering the vasectomy before making the final desicion.

      2. I do agree with you. My husband also had a vasectomy and it was not something that brought us downfall. In fact, it was something that ushered in good things. When we had decided to finally have a child, we used Dr. Wilson, who is a Christian, to do the reversal on my husband. He considers it his ministry to help couples have a baby again. The whole procedure cost us only $1700 and it was a success. I got to conceive after the procedure and it didn’t take a year. You can check out his site at www.microvasreversal.com
        At present, my husband and I consider the vasectomy something really good that happened to our family. 🙂

  39. THANK YOU for this post – I am sharing it with everyone I know. So many people completely misunderstand NFP (including SOOOO many Catholics) and it has been the greatest gift in our marriage. You state the reasons sooooo well!!! THANK YOU!! 🙂

  40. Angie (Frugal Treehugger)

    I am about 2 weeks away from delivering our first child, who was conceived with the help of NFP. But, I am a little concerned about using it at a birth control method after delivery, especially since I will be going to back to work and pumping and not being able to rely on breastfeeding to help us out. I have the book so I will look it up later, but do you know when symptoms are reliable enough after giving birth to begin using NFP again? Thanks.

    1. Angie,
      I am a teacher of the Creighton Model, an I would highly recommend looking into this method. It is very easy (with the help of a teacher) to navigate the breastfeeding situation. Even if you were exclusively breastfeeding, it is no guarantee that you will not return to cycles quickly. I have had some clients who have gotten back into cycles at 1-2 months, and some not until they were done breastfeeding. That is why it is essential to be tracking as soon as you are about 6 weeks PP, when the bleeding decreases. With the Creighton Model, you track only cervical mucus and days of mucus are observed as days of fertility. While breastfeeding and before getting back into cycles, your hormones will fluctuate a lot and you will see mucus come and go. But by observing it as days of fertility, you can navigate through the situation and avoid pregnancy.

    2. Angie,
      I also meant to say that if this is something that interests you, look for a teacher at http://www.fertilitycare.org/

      If there is not one near you, you can contact the Pope Paul VI institute and they can get someone to teach you long distance.

    3. Angie, I also started using NFP when I wanted to conceive. I found that I had learned so much about my body’s signals in the process that, although my cycle did not return until my son was 18 months old (so I had not experienced ovulation for more than 2 years), I was undeniably aware of “something happening” several days before ovulation. In fact, perhaps because of breastfeeding or some other change from pregnancy, I now have a new signal which always happens 5-7 days before ovulation several times over 1-2 days ***stop here to avoid TMI!!*** which is extreme nipple tingling/itching.

      I’m not Catholic, and we did use barrier methods for a while but eventually decided we don’t need them because NFP is so reliable. I have long, irregular cycles, but paying attention to symptoms makes it easy to know what to expect.

    4. Angie,
      Vanessa nailed it – just start charting at least mucus signs after 6 weeks, and you’ll be amazed at how you’ll still be able to figure it out. I won’t lie – return of fertility after childbirth can be a tricky time with some extra “maybe” fertile days that result in some abstinence…but then again, that newborn/infant/toddler will cause some of that to happen, too! 😉

      I have a friend who just finished her Creighton training, and although we took the CCL classes, I think about a year from now we’ll be brushing up using her classes, too, as they’re SO scientific and perfect for even the more irregular cycle. Best of luck to you!
      🙂 Katie

  41. My husband and I have used the Billings Method for our entire marriage (we’ve been married 3 years). When we took the class, he was so fascinated and felt like this was information EVERY woman should know. I agree–it is incredibly empowering for the couple. When we decided to have a baby, it was pretty easy, and we knew exactly when we conceived (we know have a 2 month old baby girl!!!). I had a friend who was a speech language pathologist and she worked with a 24 year old woman who had a stroke two weeks after starting birth control. She had to learn to walk and talk again. SCARY!!! I love that NFP has no negative side effects for the woman and the environment. I will agree that when you have the “green light” after your fertile period it is like a honeymoon! 🙂 We both know that “day 4” will be a good evening! I should also mention that initially my husband was hesitant but got on board pretty quickly once he saw the rigor of science behind it as well as the benefits to our relationship.

  42. This is a great post! As a cradle Catholic, I often find it difficult to defend my faith. For me NFP was an easy decision, because it was what the church recomended. My husband and I have been married for 13 years and took our NFP class during the first year of our marriage. We have been blessed with 4 awesome children, with #5 soon arriving in August. I would not live another way! Thanks for giving me more confidence in our decision and additional ammo for those BC lovers!

    PS Your blog is great, thanks for taking time for other mothers!!

  43. When we got married we used the Standard Days Method. It didn’t agree with us at all! Standard Days blocks out a 12 day span in the middle of your cycle, which covers the most fertile days of almost all cycles that are regularly between 28 and 32 days. Nearly two weeks of abstinence every month was doing more damage than good!

    We switched to a symptom based method and were FAR more happy. Now we’re TTC, and it was as easy as flipping a lightswitch to change from prevention to TTC! Can’t imagine choosing anything other than NFP, in spite of the rocky start.

    1. Wow! 12 days! With sympto-thermal it’s usually a week or less. Coming off of BC I would not recommend standard days or any rhythm method because a woman has no idea how long her cycle will really be. Mine is 6 weeks (with a shorter luteal phase)! Can you imagine how upsetting that little discovery would have been if I were trying to prevent pregnancy! Good thing yours was shorter. There’s a lot to be said for being willing! Good luck TTC!

  44. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this! It has always puzzled me why people who wouldn’t dream of, say, using harmful chemical cleaners or eating junk like HFCS would voluntarily ingest artificial chemicals and hormones every day for years on end. Plus, NFP’s little secret: you will end up loving your spouse so much more that you’ll *want* to have more kids,,,and from there, the joy just increases exponentially. 🙂

  45. I use Creighton and my husband and I love it. I wasn’t interested in using birth control either and was so happy when my husband and I decided to try it. We have been married over a year and have found that NFP actually works .

    Thank you Kitchen Stewardship for discussing a topic that many view as controversial.

  46. Adrienne @ Whole New Mom

    We took NFP classes before we were even married and were so taken with the information that we shared w/ other engaged friends of ours who ended up going as well. Wow. We had WONDERFUL teachers and even ended up inviting them to our wedding!

    My husband said that it really helped him understand a woman’s body. Whenever the topic comes up he says, “When you take this class, and you see how intrinsic the woman’s menstrual cycle is to her whole being, you realize that messing w/ it is not a trifling matter.” (of course, not a direct quote, but you get the idea :).

    Thanks for encouraging others in this area.

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