Natural Family Planning FAQs

Is Natural Family Planning another form of the Rhythm Method?
No, Natural Family Planning is an umbrella term for modern, scientifically accurate, healthy and reliable methods of birth regulation. NFP differs from the “Rhythm, or Calendar” method, which dates back more than 50 years and had been proven often inaccurate because it was based on the mistake that all women’s menstrual cycles were the same. The modern methods of NFP do NOT depend on having regular menstrual cycles; they treat each woman and each cycle as unique. NFP works with menstrual cycles of any length and any degree of irregularity. It can be used during breastfeeding, just before menopause, and in other special circumstances. NFP allows the woman, and her husband, to understand the physical signals her body shows when she is fertile and when she is not. Once the couple understands this information, the method can be used to avoid or to achieve pregnancy.

If NFP and Artificial Birth Control seem to achieve the same goal, why does the Church not accept contraceptive methods such as condoms or “the pill”?
In fact, the two things are not the same. NFP uses the natural cycle of the woman and can be used to avoid or achieve pregnancy depending upon the couple’s needs. It does nothing to alter the unitive and procreative aspects of sex. It uses no chemicals or other devices to alter the meaning or purpose of the sexual expression. It can help bring couples closer together as they learn the natural cycle of the woman and help each other to better understand fertile and infertile periods.

With NFP a couple gives attention to and cooperates with the natural procreative system. Husband and wife learn about their combined fertility and, as opposed to most forms of contraception, they fully share responsibility on planning their family. NFP is morally acceptable because it respects the natural and supernatural vocation of the human person: responsible parenthood is lived out within the structures that God has established in human nature.

The nature of sexual intercourse reflects a Divine plan: it is both love-giving (unitive) and life-giving (procreative). Contraception, on the other hand, frustrates the meaning of sexuality and artificially separates the unitive from the procreative aspects of marriage. That is why the Catholic Church teaches that couples must not actively intervene to separate their fertility from their physical union. To do so is to show disrespect for an important gift from God.

Is NFP as reliable as a contraceptive method when used to avoid pregnancy?
* Yes. When couples are taught by competent teachers, understand the method, and are motivated to use it properly, NFP is highly effective. Contrary to the general belief, birth control pills, intrauterine devices and pharmaceutical products such as “morning after” pills, RU-486, Depo-Provera and Norplant are not always contraceptive. They are programmed to act after conception has occurred. They, in fact, often cause early abortions by making implantation impossible. Only methods used to prevent conception are contraceptive by definition. Those methods are artificial barriers such as condoms, diaphragms, and spermicides, which have a much lower rate of effectiveness than NFP.

Is NFP safe?
*NFP is totally natural as opposed to the more common suppressive or destructive approaches of contraceptive methods. There are no pills to take, no devices to use, no hormones to inject. Not only is NFP safe, but it helps to maintain reproductive health because NFP empowers the woman to understand her body better. It is also a tool to monitor her gynecologic and procreative health.

* Source: “Facts about NFP,” American Association of NFP Couple’s fertility awareness

Periodic abstinence… wouldn’t our relationship suffer from it?
Using NFP requires abstinence from sexual intercourse, and sexual contact, at certain days of the woman’s menstrual cycle; this means an average of 6 to 12 days per menstrual cycle, depending on the fertility signs of the woman, the length of her cycle, and the method. These times of sexual abstinence do not mean abstinence from expressing love. In fact, the use of NFP encourages couples to explore ways to express their love to one another because sexual intercourse is not always available. Also, by communicating about their fertility and their sexuality, couples deepen their relationship. Neither spouse is therefore “taken for granted.” Understanding of each other, responsibility and respect toward self and the other help the marital bond to grow and deepen.