Natural Family Planning has its challenges.
I’ve shared the story of our journey to Natural Family Planning (NFP) and made a really big deal about the benefits of NFP for marriage. I’ve shared an informational video, explained what Natural Family Planning is in my own words, and talked about how technology can work with such a natural method of planning a family. I’ve even encouraged an artsy-fartsy Protestant woman to share her own thoughts on NFP.
Do I love Natural Family Planning? Yep, guilty as charged.
But I also understand why NFP is practiced by less than 5% of couples in their child-bearing years. If Natural Family Planning were the easy choice, everyone would use it, right?
Well, probably not, but I recognize the challenges of using NFP because we live with them every day. Engaged Marriage is a place for no-B.S. information on topics that effect your marriage, and your family planning choices are certainly a big issue.
And so, in the interest of fairness and full disclosure, I present to you the top five challenges of using Natural Family Planning.
The Challenges of Practicing Natural Family Planning
1. NFP is Misunderstood by Others
Trust me when I tell you that this is a big one. It can be very frustrating to be pigeonholed as some mindless, Pope-worshiping, chauvinist, old-fashioned father of 20 children whenever someone hears that you practice Natural Family Planning.
Fortunately, with so much good information being spread online and through new communities, some of the die-hard myths about NFP are finally starting to be broken down and replaced by the truth. Here are a few examples in case you were curious:
- NFP is NOT the damn Rhythm Method!
- NFP is not just a “Catholic thing”
- NFP is just as effective as any form of artificial birth control
- NFP empowers women and lets them take charge of their fertility (i.e., the Pill is not a provider of liberation despite all those slick television commercials)
2. NFP is Not Encouraged by Most Doctors
The sad reality is that most OB-GYNs in practice today either don’t understand Natural Family Planning or simply dismiss it as a viable birth control option for their patients. The reasons for this are a matter of opinion, but I have a few.
There is no money in “selling” NFP since it is a free method of family planning. By contrast, birth control pills are a HUGE industry (have you seen all the contraceptive commercials during an NFL game?) with many well-paid pharmaceutical reps knocking down the door of every doctor’s office in the country.
NFP is also not standardized enough to give an assembly-line approach to patient care. It’s easy for a doctor to write (well-sponsored) prescriptions for birth control pills all day long and never give a second thought to the individual needs of each patient. Well, NFP requires attention to each patient’s fertility cycle and some time to educate them on how to do it. That takes both time and interest, and remember that doesn’t pay the bills!
There are also doctors out there who are simply ignorant about the effectiveness of NFP and never take it seriously. My wife’s doctor (who is Catholic, by the way) laughed at us when we told him that we were using NFP. Rather than switch docs, we decided to show him it works…and three purposely-planned pregnancies later, he shows us a little respect.
3. NFP Requires a Daily Commitment
When you hear about how you actually practice NFP, you find out that you have to take your temperature each morning before you get out of bed to get an accurate basal body temperature. This actually doesn’t apply to some methods of Natural Family Planning, but all methods do require some fertility awareness during most days of a woman’s cycle.
Frankly, when I hear people use this as a reason not to practice NFP, I have to chuckle. Most birth control pills must be taken each day (unless you get a shot of some sort), and barrier methods (like condoms) require you to have a contraceptive on-hand at all times. Taking your temperature is just not that big of a deal.
4. Those Darn Periods of Abstinence!
Now THIS is a legitimate challenge of practicing Natural Family Planning!
When you use NFP, you simply don’t have sex on the days when your wife is fertile (if you wish to avoid pregnancy). This can be tough, and I have to admit that it was my one big objection to fully embracing NFP…until we actually gave it a try.
If you can’t control your sexual urges for a week or so at a time, you can’t use Natural Family Planning. However, if you do have control over your body and free will, you may find these periods of abstinence as enhancements to your communication, intimacy and overall sex life. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the impact that they’ve had on our marriage.
5. Special Occasions Don’t Always Happen at the “Right” Time…
It’s New Year’s Eve, you have a hotel room with NO kids, you’ve just enjoyed an awesome night of drinking and dancing, and you are both very interested in a fantastic night of sex. Sounds great, huh?
Well, if you practice NFP and it just so happens that your wife ovulated the day before, you’ll know that this is going to be a night requiring strong willpower if you don’t want to get pregnant. It could also be a night where you decide that maybe God does want you to welcome a new life into your family.
Either way, it’s these special occasions that will test you and your intentions when you practice Natural Family Planning. Some people don’t have the willpower or the mutual respect to make it through these situations. Even though they’re rare, they will happen and you have to find strength in each other to make the choice you’ll be happy with in the morning.
Are These Your Reasons, Too?
I’ve stated it many times, but let me make it clear that my posts about Natural Family Planning are not intended as tools of mass conversion (yeah, I know I’m not that influential). Instead, I just hope to shed some light on a very misunderstood topic and let everyone know about their options since we struggled so much in our own family planning decisions for years.
I hope you have found it helpful to hear about the lesser-discussed “difficult” side of practicing NFP.
Now, I’m really curious to hear from all of you:
If you do practice NFP, how have you dealt with these challenges?
If you don’t use Natural Family Planning, what has held you back from giving it a try?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!(photo source)