Natural Family Planning ChallengesNatural 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?

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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:

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)


About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. We have used NFP since the second or third month we were married. One of the most difficult aspects has been my LONG cycles. Without boring everyone to tears, my ovaries will often get ready to ovulate and then don’t so we will have an extended phase two. Not fun!

    In general, I love that we’re talking about our choices daily, not harming my body, and not harming the environment. Good post!

    1. Hi Trish, I’m sure you know it’s important to try to figure out what is causing your long cycles, to make for less abstinence and a better experience of NFP?

      Significant stress often causes long cycles–or problems like PCOS–Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. You may need to have a hormonal evaluation done.

      For any of you with irregular cycles, try to determine the underlying cause, and know that there are excellent alternatives to treating common women’s health problems instead of going on the pill. One More Soul ( has a nice brochure on this topic called “Alternatives to the Pill”.

      Batrice Adcock, RN, MSN

      1. We actually struggle with this at times too, Trish. Thanks for sharing your story.

        Batrice, thanks as always for the very helpful information!

    2. I also have PCOS, and I’m not looking forward to having to wait out my long cycles without any discernible infertile time. We’re currently trying to conceive, which brings the flip side of the problem – I can’t tell when I’m fertile. (We’re using the thermo-symptomatic method) I can tell after I’ve ovulated (which means that NFP is a viable, if challenging, method of avoiding birth). It’s just that I fairly consistently look like I’m just about to ovulate. The other thing which will be a problem eventually is that when we travel to visit my parents we are up late (which can affect the temperature reading the next morning), and I need to travel every few months for my job, which throws all the temperature readings out the window.

      However, I’ve been on oral contraceptives for a total of about 3 years (started before marriage because of the menstrual problems with the PCOS). This is significantly better. I couldn’t take my pill in the morning or I’d throw up all day, so I had to take it in the evening. Doing something at the same time every morning is a lot easier than doing it at the same time every evening, because I can just set my alarm, and I’m very rarely going to be doing anything else. I’m much less irritable now that I’m not having to take artificial hormones every day, and because of that we want to try to stick with this method, as difficult as it may be.

      I’ve also never understood why this method isn’t more widely recommended as it’s about the only practical method for breastfeeding women. Yes, they can use condoms, but those things have about a 85% as-used success rate (compared to 95% as-used for thermo-symptomatic method in a study of Canadian couples).

      1. Christine, if you are trying to get pregnant, I would highly recommend Batrice’s link on Napro Technology This method has helped many women become pregnant. Also, I would recommend that you try to find an NFP-only doctor who may be able to treat your PCOS. Regarding traveling, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to throw all the temperature readings out the window.

        God bless,

        Ellen (Certified CCL NFP Teacher)

        1. Christine, PCOS can usually be easily treated through a combination of self help strategies outlined in Marilyn Shannon’s book “Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition” and conservative medical treatment–usually metformin. I’ve photocopied a few of these pages on PCOS and would be glad to email them to you.

          Also, I attended a medical conference last summer–we discussed treatment of PCOS among other things. Again, I can email you information from that conference–it provided me with specific dosages of metformin, for example. You can provide these to your regular doctor.

          You can then monitor your charts for improvement. I would be glad to take a look at your charts. If there is a Naprotechnology trained doctor in your area, I too would highly suggest you try to see him/her. You can access a list of doctors by state at:
          Click your state on the left under “Find a teacher”.

          As for your temps., travel can impact them, especially if changing time zones is involved. If you typically take your temp. at a certain time every day, know that it usually rises about a tenth of a degree for every hour that you take it later. The same thing goes for time zone travel–if you are taking your temp. an hour or two earlier, it is not as likely to be affected compared to if you are taking it an hour or two later. So, you can make a note of that on your chart. If you are not getting regular sleep for some reason, the most important thing is to take your temp. after your longest period of sleep, after at least 3 hours. Also, certain temps. are more important than others–those that are more important are from the end of your period until three days after your shift/after ovualtion. If your travel is not during this time, don’t worry.

          Batrice Adcock, RN, MSN

          1. Throwing them out the window was based on the advice I got from our NFP teacher – you’re right that I probably don’t have to do that normally. But her opinion was that since we’re trying to conceive anyhow I oughtn’t worry about it. I haven’t mentioned to my GP that I’m worried about my PCOS, largely because I haven’t really had an appointment since the end of my first cycle post-pill. I’m worrying too soon (and my husband tells me this), because I’ve only missed on one cycle (and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that it spontaneously aborted in the first two weeks). I know that 6 months is too early to start worrying, but it’s depressing when my charts never match what is expected.

            I’m not really looking into any kind of treatment for a while yet, because I was on oral contraceptives for so long (two and a half years can feel like eternity on bad medication). I’m still a little scared of taking any medication that I can possibly avoid.

        2. We use Creighton Method, and it is awesome! Our practitioner has successfully worked with at least one woman who was turned away by an IVF clinic because they thought she was hopeless. I can’t say how much I agree with the comment about most OBGYN’s not recommending it due to lack of knowledge, either!

  2. Fantastic post, Dustin!! I love this post for so many reasons. Most importantly, I think it is vital to be completely honest about the things we believe in, even exposing the negative (or potentially-negative) sides. We’re not going to make the world a better place if we hide things just to change people’s minds. We can only do it through honesty. Second, I think you just have a lot of really great, important points here. There are all really legitimate objections to NFP and I think you outline them very well. Great job! I’m going to promote this post like mad!

    1. Yes, honesty in promoting NFP is so important. I regularly present to large and small groups. Most of my feedback is very positive, and I think it is b/c I present the challenges as well as the benefits. People know what they are getting into. I cover all of the points Dustin mentioned–great job Dustin!!

    2. Thanks so much, Kathleen! I’m really glad you enjoyed this rundown of challenges, and I know you can relate to much of this since you and your husband have chosen to go (at least mostly) natural with your family planning.

      And I love all the insights and opinions you continue to share on these topics over at Project M!

  3. Okay as an engaged woman my biggest issue with NFP is being intimidated about learning it! With so much going on in regards to marriage prep and wedding planning, I am concerned I still won’t fully understand it by the time we walk down the aisle. It sounds like once you “get it” and get used to practicing it, it’s a great method but it’s the learning curve that has me wondering if we’ll get married and have a bambino 9 months later. The best part of NFP so far has been how it sets you up to rejoice in life and be open to it. In other words, if we do end up having a child that first year, I don’t think we’ll crumble into crisis mode. I’ve seen this happen with other couples too… they seem much more accepting of life with NFP (which may contribute to the stereotype that it doesn’t “work” when really, it’s just that often NFP-users tend to see pregnancy as natural and good).

    1. It seems that for so many engaged couples, business and lack of time is a major hurdle. I’ve just started offering a full course in one day, and my rsvps, including those from engaged couples, have really jumped. People need options! The traditional course is spread out over at least 3 months. I’ve noticed that people want as much info. as they can get at the beginning. I still encourage couples to contact me with at least their first three charts for follow-up and professional evaluation. They can contact me at any time–and even after those first 3 charts–its all free, because the diocese pays my salary, travel and materials costs, etc. It usually takes 3 cycles for a couple to confidently learn NFP–may take longer if a woman has come off of some form of hormonal birth control.

      So, increasing accessibility is important. My full course is offered monthly in various locations around the diocese, and is always from 10-2, so if a couple has to travel even up to 3 hours one way, it is manageable.

      Batrice Adcock, RN, MSN

    2. Thanks for sharing, Sarah! I can totally understand your concerns about time, but right now during your engagement period is a fantastic time to learn about NFP. As Batrice noted, there are lots of options for the type and format of class that you take. Check out some offerings in your area, and make a little time to learn more. I’ll bet you’ll be glad that you did! 🙂

    3. Two comments – the reason we didn’t start with NFP is that my husband wasn’t entirely comfortable taking the course all about when we had sex before we were married. The one by Serena (Canadian group) is very biological, so it’s not as awkward as you might think. (Although if your fiance isn’t really familiar with female biology he might find it a bit much).

      Also, take it at least three cycles before your wedding, you need to get used to it after you take the course. Especially if you’re currently on the pill.

      1. We’ve been married for 20 years. My husband is also VERY uncomfortable talking, or hearing about body biological functions, most of all female ones; and the whole “self control/abstinence” during fertile times would be hard for him also. So With out things being a partnership, no point. We are expecting our 7th, we are not Catholic, and we are on a very tight budget (couldn’t afford the book or a class, or pills, etc. but God provides for the kids, amen). I anticipate a wonderful pregnancy and love being a mom of many.

  4. Great post, Justin! Coincidentally, I just posted my column at about abstinence with NFP. The column is entitled “Abstinence: A Blessing or A Curse?” It’s also cross- posted at my blog.

    After using NFP for 28 years, we have found it challenging at times, but we would never do it differently! As a woman, I have never felt used!

    We have been teaching NFP for almost 26 years and we are now teaching online NFP classes so anyone can now learn NFP in the comfort of their own home!

    Trish, there may be nutritional assistance for your long cycles. The book, “Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition” by Marilynn Shannon is a very helpful book.

    1. Do you mind Ellen, giving me access to your online class, so that I may learn from your structure, possibly refer clients, etc.?
      Again–accessibility is a major challenge!

      I enjoyed reading your post on abstinence.

      I definitely feel that while abstinence can be a challenge sometimes, it is healthy for marriages. Even secular therapists “prescribe” abstinence periods for couples having marital problems. It keeps the excitement of sex there–the romance, etc.

      More importantly, I truly appreciate my husband’s ability to wait for me during that time–he respects my body and my health. That has a direct effect on my libido. Many couples complain that a woman is only interested in sex when she is fertile. But, most women know that sexual interest for them is affected by so much more than merely biological levels of hormones. Respect, intimacy, emotional connectedness–all things that abstinence helps foster. Recent research has actually shown that many women have a second surge of libido the second half of the cycle, during the infertile time.

      Batrice Adcock, MSN, RN

      1. Hello Batrice! Have we met before? (CCL Convention in Asheville NC perhaps?) Thanks, Dustin, for this great discussion on NFP! And thanks also to Batrice for all you do to promote NFP!

        We teach through CCL ( and our online classes are offered through Wiziq ( Online classes work great for some couples who can’t attend a regular live class. And we can see this especially coming in handy this winter here in Canada where it snows regularly. We just finished a course in which we taught an engaged couple from North Dakota; a couple in Kingston, Ontario; a couple in Ottawa, Ontario and an engaged couple in which the woman was in North Dakota and the man was in Florida! Batrice, we would be glad to have you refer clients!

        Dustin, keep up the great work! I have promoted NFP by teaching it, by giving talks at marriage prep courses and by writing novels which illustrate the importance of following the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage ( My husband and I have been teaching NFP for nearly 26 years and we both see a positive trend in couples who express an interest in NFP!

        1. We did meet Ellen! I thought your pic. looked familiar. You gave me a copy of your book (at the Asheville CCL convention), which, unfortunately, I have not read yet. I have so little free time with a 2 year old! I spend most of my free time in our garden!

          I checked out Wiziq. It looks like it could be a helpful teaching resource for me.

          And, I’m sure you appreciated Greg Popcak’s talks on abstinence at the convention. They used to be available on CCLs website, and I have referred people to the talks a lot! Do you know if they are still available somewhere on the CCL website? I cannot find them.

          1. Batrice, it does look like CCL has taken the audio tracks off their website, which is too bad because they were great talks! Perhaps you can try emailing them to see whether they have the 2008 Convention CDs available.

            Don’t worry about the fact that you haven’t had time to read my book! Some day you will have more time and you can read it then!

    2. What more can I add to this awesome discussion, Ellen and Batrice? You two are truly rock stars in the NFP arena, and I greatly appreciate all the good work that you do!

  5. One other major challenge–cost.

    It can be extremely costly for instructors of NFP to be trained, and some client courses are very expensive. This may not be a problem for many people, but for us, it was. And, for most of my clients–of all economic classes, it is a concern! I was discouraged by some people to offer my classes for free initially, but I have noticed that many more people come to my free classes than to classes in our diocese that cost–and I have people, again, of all economic backgrounds.

    Cost is directly related to accessibility.

    Good class advertising is important as well. And, because there is no money in the “sell” of NFP, finding money for advertising is difficult. I’ve found some pretty creative ways around that. I write articles for our diocesan paper that include an announcement of a class–this is free, as opposed to costly ads we’ve done in the past. I’ve also begun to put up nice posters–that cost me less than $1 a piece–around communities–health food stores, coffee houses, etc. And, many dioceses have a listserve of email addresses for all clergy–I send announcements to clergy this way, with protional materials attached. I’m still in the process of establishing NFP promoters in every parish–I provide them with materials, and I know they will be well used. Often, even is the clergy or secretary is favorable of NFP promotion, a mailing to them can be overlooked.

    Even given all of the different challenges, I cannot imagine doing anything else myself. We’ve used NFP our whole marriage. I would never want to subject my health to the risks associated with the different contraceptives…and I know NFP is effective. I know there are shortcuts I can take and days I can “play the odds” that make for much less abstinence and easier charting. I tell people this up front too. I recommend they be very careful with charting at first, until they are confident with it. But, I tell them I’ll be glad to share some shortcuts with them later.

    NFP became a habit for us. I am always aware of whether I am fertile or not–it is not something I really have to think about.

    Abstinence–some methods require more than others. As an instructor, I am familiar with all of the different methods–not all instructors are–but, b/c I was trained in the Marquette Method, this was an important. So, I play the odds here too, as a user–a particular mucus method–the two day method out of Georgetown, only requires two dry days of abstinence after the peak day–usually, the count is 3 or 4 for other methods (the trick is, all of those days may not be dry). And, the two day method is 96% effective. So, if I don’t want to wait that 3rd or 4th night for a special reason, it is nice to know about the Two Day Method. Also, Marquette gives special instructions for distinguishing between cervical fluid and seminal fluid, so that you don’t have to abstain every other day in that time before ovulation that you are dry–before you’ve started to observe cervical fluid. Some methods require you to abstain during your period–Marquette does not.

    Batrice Adcock, RN, MSN

    1. Batrice, thank you SO MUCH for all that you do and for all of the wonderful insights you’ve shared here. Even after using NFP for six years, I always learn something new from each of your comments.

      And for you, Ellen or anyone else that has a need to promote NFP courses, just let me know. If I can’t work them into a post, I can at least share them with all of the good folks on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

  6. Hi Dustin, it’s me again.

    You should know by now that I have 5 beautiful girls and 1 spoilt boy (he’s number 5).

    Our first 5 children were delivered by a Sydney obstetrician (I won’t mention his name so I can protect the innocent). Anyway this lovely man is married with 1 girl followed by 9 boys. He got my wife Joanne on to the Billings Methods (an Aussie invention by the way!), and he told us that the Billings Method was used (by his wife) to help them conceive everytime. This may be an urban myth, however, the point here is these natural methods (and positive ways and means for helping people who have difficulty in conceiving) are quite often side-lined because they are not money-spinners.

    1. That’s an excellent point, Gerry! I plan to write an entire post later about using NFP to ACHIEVE pregnancy, and I think you are right that the medical community likes to jump right to medications and other interventions before giving fertility awareness a try.

      1. I need to look back in my book at home to verify this, but there is research that shows that for couples of compromised fertility that using NFP to achieve is more effective than IVF. Basically, IVF is only about 20 % effective–there are so many risks and potential side effects, not to mention ethical problems. If couples use NFP, along with simple/conservative fertility restoring treatments, over two years, the success rate is 80%. This research is through Dr. Hilgers out of the Pope Paul VI Institute. I’ll verify this later.
        Just saw an article about Celine Dion using IVF to get pregnant with twins. How amazing would it be if a star of her caliber knew about NFP for achieving!

        1. To clarify the research, IVF is around 20-30% effective. The use of NFP along with fertility restoring medication/treatment is between 70 and 80% effective. You can find the research and more on infertility here:

          1. I agree with your stats Batrice. Combined with a very low dose of metformin, tracking each cycle, knowing when I ovulated, how long my cycles were etc, we got pregnant on the second cycle (attempt) after being told we would prob need IVF.

    1. If you cannot find a local course you are happy with, I’d be glad to send you a copy of my free home study course CD and provide free follow-up for you. If you are not too far from NC, I offer free one day full courses–it is always helpful to hear what questions others have and to be able to ask your own ?’s in-person.

      Batrice Adcock, MSN, RN

      1. Don’t know if you are Catholic or not, but you can check with your local Roman Catholic Diocese–they probably have info. about local NFP classes. Most NFP teachers now-a-days present NFP from a very practical perspective–that is easy for people of any religious background to accept.

  7. Pingback: Natural Family Planning: 5 Good Reasons You Haven’t Tried It | Best Relationships
  8. What an encouraging and awesome post, as always! As a young adult, not yet married and near engagement I enjoy reading the posts and comments to absorb as much as I can as I prepare for my future marriage and family! Thank you for posting about NFP and for all the great comments and links that followed – My bookmark list definitely just grew : )

    1. Awesome, Helen! I’m so glad you are enjoying all the great things happening here in our community, and I’m glad you are part of it. 🙂

  9. I think that NFP isn’t discussed enough. I don’t know how to broach it with any of my friends. sometimes i’ve brought it up, and people get freaked out by Too Much Information. When we started learning about NFP, we didn’t know much. All i knew is that it was what i wanted to do when we were married. My husband was cool about it, when I told him about why it was important. When we went to NFP lessons, it was a real eye opener. Just to learn so much about how fertility works. I wish I’d learnt about it earlier.
    His mother was pretty happy about it, because she was convinced that meant we’d be knocked up in no time, because she’s convinced its unreliable. She conceived my husband while on the pill, so really, she can’t talk about unreliable birth control.
    I have PCOS, and doctors aren’t keen on the idea at all. My doctor’s plan is to keep me on the pill as long as possible and then start me on fertility treatment when we decided we were ready for kids. But i really wanted our marriage to be open to the potential of children. I’ve been seeing a naturopath to help deal with it with alternative medicines. I don’t have a regular cycle, but I think that learning NFP has helped me understand what my body is doing better.

    1. Mary, if you’ll email me, I’ll be glad to forward you some helpful info. on treating PCOS from Marilyn Shannon’s book “Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition”–a valuable self help tool– and from a medical conference I went to.

      Batrice Adcock, RN, MSN

      1. And, if you are comfortable talking about it, others will be more comfortable. Encourage your friends by explaining how empowering it is for them to use NFP–to learn about their bodies and be advocates for their health–to respect their bodies and have the same respect from their partners–approached this way, most people are very supportive.

    2. Thanks, Mary. It looks like Batrice (as always) has provided you with some great information.

      We have NFP discussions more and more among our friends because they know we give talks about NFP/Sexuality at marriage preparation courses and retreats. 🙂

    3. Mary – I have PCOS too. I can’t control my cycles, but I can control my cramps. I’m sure you’ve heard that avoiding red meat, caffeine, excess sugar etc can help with cramps. However, because it’s so difficult to avoid those, I’ve tried just avoiding them after I ovulate. It works wonderfully, I have much less in the way of cramps, and I can actually predict when I’m going to menstruate much more than I could before, which means I can take medications (naproxen works. Seriously.) if I need them.

  10. Well, I can be proud of myself for how easy NFP is now, but those periods of abstinence would have been a lot more difficult when I was first married (I was on the Pill for the first three years of marriage/didn’t know about NFP, either). I totally sympathize with the newly married couple who dedicate themselves to this method from the start. Good luck, and I think you *can* do it, but I can’t imagine a week’s honeymoon or wedding night where abstinence is the rule. If you are regular enough, it is possible to plan a wedding around that if you’re only a few months away from the date, but it still isn’t foolproof as cycles can change out of the blue for a month here and there.

    The other challenge is nursing. With a new baby on the horizon in September, I am curious to see if I can get by without the mini-pill completely this time around. I may be able to get by without chemical contraceptives, but I may resort to barriers (yes, I know much less reliable) if fertility signs are as crazy as they have been in the past, both temps and fluid. With any luck, I hope to have close-to-normal cycles before the cessation of nursing, though. I would feel a lot more reassured if I was one of those nursing women whose cycles didn’t return for nearly a year postpartum, but that’s not me (3 mos, typically).

    Five years ago, my OB laughed at my temp chart and wouldn’t discuss NFP. Just 2 years ago, she is now very enthusiastic that it is working for me. I think she is hesitant to prescribe it to women that she has doubts will follow through, maybe based on past medical history of following treatment regimens? I wonder what a doctor should tell a “newbie”–it really isn’t something you can go over completely in doctor’s visit. Maybe they need resources to point those who are interested in the direction of coursework.

    This comment may seem on the “negatives” side, but that’s what the original post addresses. Other than the above, I love the way NFP is easy, *works*, and makes me feel so much healthier!

    1. Hi Wendy. Use of NFP during the postpartum time really is not much different than what you are used to–you are essentially in an extended preovulatory dry phase–you are simply looking for the return of mucus. Once you start to see mucus–which can be precipitated by anything that increases the amount of time between breastfeeding sessions (the most important factor in delaying return of fertility is high frequency of suckling, including just for comfort–no pacifiers), you count for three dry days after any day or group of mucus days. Your mucus “patches” will get longer (more days) and closer together. I would not take temp. until your mucus patches seem to be getting closer together. Before that time temp. will be all over the place and not helpful. You may want to wait to take temp. until after your first period. Know that you can ovulate before your first period! More info. at:

      Some other things you can expect if you plan to breastfeed for a long time are short luteal phases in your first few cycles, perhaps spotting too, before and after your period.

      I’ve been through this all pretty recently as my little girl is almost two, and she still breastfeeds.
      You can feel confident in NFP. If you want to talk, I’d be happy to encourage you more.

      Batrice Adcock, RN, MSN

      1. I didn’t see this earlier; thanks for the insight/instruction! Between you and Ellen’s experiences, it is definitely encouraging to see how it worked for you.

        I will definitely track you down via e-mail if I have more questions. Thank you so much for offering yourself as a resource.


    2. Regarding the possibility of abstinence during the honeymoon–I think trust and respect are even more important during this time. NFP from the start was our plan. My cycles were regular until the cycle before our wedding–due to stress! I started my period the morning of our wedding–at least we knew we were not fertile.

      As much as we were looking forward to being together, and we did not have to make the sacrifice of abstaining during our honeymoon, I would never have wanted to compromise our wedding vows by having contracepted sex during our honeymoon.

      There are many approaches to discussing the difference between NFP and contraception. I like to focus on the wedding vows and how NFP helps you to be faithful to them whereas contraception does not. I’ll be doing a presentation in a couple of weeks–I’ll try to video it and get it on YouTube–I’ll forward Dustin the link info.

      1. Thanks, Batrice! My main point with the “honeymoon” tangent was to show some humility, in that it is so much easier to follow NFP for me now than I think it would have been then. I can’t go on and on about how NFP is so easy for me now without acknowledging that maybe I wouldn’t have been as “good at it” had I started when first married. I’m glad there are examples like you for the newlyweds to show it is do-able, and you survive whatever circumstances come along! 🙂

        And yes, NFP is another great way to reinforce fidelity in marriage, guarding that aspect of marriage as sacred between yourself and your spouse. Sounds like a great link!

        1. I understand Wendy, how it can be harder for newlyweds to abstain. It’s gotten easier for us over time, too, especially now that we have a little one. I saw a funny ad in a magazine called Family Foundations. A married couple was in bed. A little one was lying in the bed between them, and another little one had come into the room saying he had woken up from a bad dream and wanted to sleep with them. The husband asked if the situation qualified as a barrier method!

          1. Batrice, my husband, James, and I create the Family Life cartoon for Family Foundations magazine (the one you speak of with the husband and wife and kids in bed has gotten the most response from readers of any cartoon we’ve done!)

            Wendy, my husband and I were one of the those couples who abstained on our honeymoon. We had not consummated our relationship before marriage and I was eagerly looking forward to this aspect of married life.

            At the time, I knew nothing about NFP and information wasn’t as easily accessible as it is today. I went with him to an NFP class and became intrigued and immediately went home and read the entire NFP book in one sitting. Later, when I realized that I would be in Phase II (fertile time) during our honeymoon, I was frustrated! But we had already decided because of various reasons that we ought to wait a while before having children.

            We did not consummate our marriage on our honeymoon (instead waiting until Phase III to do so). We went on to use NFP to avoid pregnancy for the next four years until we started our family. We used NFP very successfully during times of breastfeeding and the return of fertility (which, I agree, can be an extremely challenging time to use NFP).

            Five children (no unplanned pregnancies) and 28 years later, I cannot say enough positive things about NFP (and we’ve been teaching NFP for 26 years.) NFP has made our marriage more exciting (yes, even now!) and it’s precisely because of the abstinence that I have never felt used. Instead, I have always felt cherished.

        2. It was hard for us to make the decision whether to abstain during our honeymoon or not–and we had what many people would consider serious reasons to postpone pregnancy: I was still in school and my husband didn’t yet have a job. We prayed about it and entrusted our family God… and our oldest is our honeymoon baby! God took care of us, even through hard times, and I couldn’t have wished for a better honeymoon souvenir! 😉

      1. Stay on top of it, brother! Dustin, you might do yourself out of this gig if you’re not careful!

  11. Dustin,

    NFP no, FAM a big yes.

    The difference is that with FAM a couple can use a barrier method, or engage in sex other than PiV during fertility. (I personally have a scriptural problem with abstinence [1 Cor 7:5])

    With either NFP or FAM the couple is very aware of the wife’s cycle, and I think that is a must for a marriage. Her cycle impacts her life in so many ways, that means it is affecting your marriage, whether you are aware of it or not.


    1. Thanks, Paul. I’m familiar with the FAM practices and appreciate the fertility awareness that comes along with it. Of course, we’ll agree to disagree on the moral and theological implications of each, but I think we can agree strongly on all of the goodness that comes with a firm understanding and appreciation of our wives’ fertility!

  12. I’m intrigued. I’ve recently become engaged and although not Catholic (my partner is) I’m interested in investigating non-hormonal family planning methods for health and environmental reasons.
    However I do have couple of qualms/questions- firstly, I know it was briefly mentioned in one of the previous comments, but is there any getting around the desire for sex/fertility connection? Obviously it’s a sacrifice to be made if you chose not to conceive, but I think for me, it could be a deal breaker, as I definitely have much higher sexual desires when I’m more fertile – how do other people cope with this?
    My second question is I guess a little more delicate – occasionally, like many women, I get flare ups of Candida or thrush, which causes certain discharges – from what I know of NFP mucus testing and temperature are used in tandem – will these discharges effect the accuracy of these measurements?

    1. Hello Mel,

      Depending on how you look at things, it could be considered a disadvantage of NFP that the time a couple abstains is the time that most women tend to desire sex more. In that respect, NFP can be more of a sacrifice for the woman.

      I’m not sure how others have dealt with it, but it has been a challenge for my husband and I. What helps is that my husband and I remain affectionate during times of abstinence, lots of hand holding, kissing and hugging…just no sexual contact. There are times that although the “physical urge” of the fertile time isn’t present, the emotional/spiritual urge is overflowing! And I have never felt used…in fact, I feel cherished!

      Spouses are called to be selfless (not selfish!) in marriage. This selfless giving can be evident when you’re in the infertile time and your husband has a strong physical desire but you may not. I desire my husband more for the emotional/spiritual urge. We both see that creation has so much meaning and we respect and honor that God’s inherent plan calls for the woman to desire her husband when she is most fertile. NFP respects God’s natural beautiful design and doesn’t work against it.

      To read what my husband thinks about abstinence, click on this link to my latest column on abstinence at Amazing Catechists:

      On the topic of yeast infections, while this can affect the mucus observation, in my experience, it has never affected the temperature readings.

      NFP is very healthy for the environment. There are no drugs which pollute the water and no devices which fill the landfill.

      I hope I answered your questions! Feel free to email me privately if you have any other questions regarding NFP. My husband and I have been certified NFP teachers for nearly 26 years and we’ve used it for 28 years. We have never used anything else. Even apart from religious convictions, NFP has been a low cost, safe and effective way for us to plan our family…and we have never had an unplanned pregnancy!


  13. Hi Justin,
    I really enjoyed your blog post and how “matter of fact” you were about some of the misconceptions of NFP. My husband and I got married a little over 6 months ago (on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe 🙂 ) and we had a really long engagement (almost 2 years) due to school. I think sometimes, the fact that we made it through that really helped us with the “sacrifice” we have to make from time to time in practicing NFP.

    My whole family laughed at me when they heard I wasn’t planning on going back on the pill when I got married (I was put on it for irregular cycles in high school). My dad even got angry with me the first time! I couldn’t believe it. All of them believe what I’m doing is the “rhythm method” and it frustrates me that they don’t listen when I tell them that it is not! And my family are all Catholic. It was really discouraging for me to not have someone to support me (even female support), but thankfully I had an incredibly good relationship with my then-fiance, and we were able to have great conversations and learn together. The journey of NFP can really be a blessing to any engaged/married relationship since it requires you to be supportive of each other and TALK about difficult things.

    I also have a somewhat unconfirmed PCOS. It took 7 doctors to finally find one who would not laugh at me and listen to my problems (not having a cycle in a year IS a problem when you are 22 years old along with weight gain and other issues.) I was put on metformin (a diabetic drug, to help with some of the insulin resistance problems I had) and things slowly fell in to place over 2 years. It is still a struggle because I’m NOT regular by any means, but it is much better to have chartable cycles (temperature wise) even if they do change from 28-40 days. Plus I don’t have to be on the pill like so many doctors TRIED to get me to take!!!

    But I got a chuckle out of the part of your discussion where you said that special occasions will not always happen at the “right” time. We have experience this numerous times in our young marriage….and luckily we find ways to talk about it. Even if it means being disappointed together and holding each other. We were really blessed in the beginning of our marriage where our honeymoon fell on the “right” time…..sorry if TMI….but it really is something that all couples who plan to practice NFP have to talk about. Would a honeymoon baby have been the end of the world for us?? No….that’s why we were engaged 2 years before we got married….but we also wanted to wait a little while till we are more stable.

    We both have also realized that that time of abstinence creates a neat “honeymoon effect” every month. Because we have to abstain for a period of time, it makes us not take sex for granted. Also it makes us find other ways to be close (aka holding hands, going on fun dates, just general thoughtful gestures) during that time. Yes it is difficult (esp since my cycle is unpredictable and we are being conservative at least through the end of the year or so)….but I think it really does not let us take that special part of our relationship for granted. And in the end allows us to focus on other aspects of our relationship as well!

    Anyways just some random thoughts from me as a newlywed 🙂 Thanks for the thoughts Justin! I really enjoyed reading them!

    ~Christine J.

    1. Hi Christine! Thank you SO much for sharing your story, as I found it really inspiring and it made me proud to have you as a reader and contributor here. You and your fiance are doing the right things in your young marriage to set you up for years of happiness and intimacy. Reading your story was like a case study in the difficulties of practicing NFP in our misdirected culture today, and I’m so happy that you have found strength in each other and chosen to stand by your beliefs.

      I look forward to interacting with you further!

  14. Pingback: Natural Family Planning Awareness Week | Engaged Marriage
  15. Great article. I appreciate your realistic explanation of why people don’t try NFP. I have actually had a nurse at a doctor’s office ask me about NFP in a concerned and confused manner, as though she believe what I was doing couldn’t be effective, but she didn’t actually know anything about it. Although I am Catholic and my husband and I base our decision to use NFP on our Catholic faith, I also appreciate your encouraging others with different believes to try using NFP. It is healthy and as a social worker I believe that artificial birth control hurts women, it doesn’t empower them.

    Thanks for your great work,


  16. And me again. My husband and I were talking last night (I was being frustrated due to the fact that it’s been over six months and I still can’t figure this out). You hear from people who are intimidated by the process. You hear from people who think that it wouldn’t work. You hear from people who love it and think it’s the best method ever. How come those of us who just can’t figure out how to do it are always so quiet? I’ve heard that it would be too difficult (or unrealistic, or whatever) to abstain. But never once have I heard anyone complain about how difficult it is to start!

    1. Hello Christine,

      I’m so sorry that you’re frustrated with the method. After six months, you ought to be getting a grasp of it. Are you learning on your own or do you have a teaching couple or NFP expert to go to with questions?

      I would be glad to talk to you over the phone or through email if you have any questions regarding NFP. Please feel free to email me at the email address above.

      We also have an online NFP course coming up next month. You’re welcome to sit in on it. Email me and I’ll give you the particulars if you’re interested.

      God bless…

      certified NFP teacher for the Couple to Couple League
      Pakenham, Ontario

      1. Hi Ellen,

        The website doesn’t seem to display e-mail addresses. I have an expert (the local NFP centre uses nurses exclusively) that I can talk with, but I’m not sure if she doesn’t know how I could be screwing up, or if she thinks I’m just not being careful about it. You can e-mail me at cjrogalsky [at] gmail [dot] com. Thank you!

        We’re going to be sticking with this anyhow (fortunately right now we’re trying for a pregnancy, and it is possible that some of this isn’t mistakes so much as it is my PCOS screwing with my hormones, and that has a possibility of getting better if I get pregnant). My husband noticed an improvement in my mood and energy level now that I’m not nauseous all the time since going off the pills. And now that I can watch and know when I ovulate, I find that I can use dietary control for my cramps if I only watch what I eat in between ovulation and menstruation. It works well enough. Probably. But it’s impossible to use my charts for planning a pregnancy, and it’ll be a pain to use them to avoid one.

    1. Hello Beth:

      My husband and I are a Certified Teaching Couple Specialist for the Couple to Couple League. The CCL Instruction Manuals are found at the following links:

      Also, we’d be glad to invite you to a future online NFP class, if you’re interested in “sitting” in. There’s no obligation to continue the class. For more information, feel free to email me at


    2. Hi Beth! For the technical side of things, the CCL books referenced by Ellen are the same that we use. If you’re looking for more of a theological discussion and/or a question and answer session about NFP, I’d strongly recommend you check out The Good News About Sex & Marriage by Christopher West.

      I hope that helps! 🙂

  17. Wow! I loved this discussion. Its something that has been on my mind because my husband and I just experienced an extended period of abstienece due to breast feeding after the birth of our fourth son. Ihad conflicting fertility signs so my husband & I decided to wait but we are on the other end of it. And I’m happy to say its worth the wait!! I had to keep listing the benefits of NFP over & over but it is the best for our bodies, our marriage and relationship with God. Thanks though for the truthfulness of the struggle! Nothing worthwhile comes easy.

  18. Love point number five. Our second child (and our last so far) was our Cinco de Mayo baby. DS1 was at Nana’s house and DH and I had a few too many Margaritas. We knew what we might be getting ourselves into, but the point is, because we were practicing NFP, we were okay with that. We have since spent several years trying for a third child, to no avail, which just goes to PROVE that baby number two was meant to be!

  19. I also want to address point number 2, about the doctors. There are plenty of OB/GYN’s out there who are supportive of NFP. Honestly, I would NEVER have stayed with a Catholic doctor who scoffed at the thought of NFP, and I ham very surprised that your wife did. My OB/GYN is incredibly supportive of NFP. When I first told him we were NFP users, he was thrilled and said he wished more of his patients were open to it. I really think you are giving doctors a bad rap. If you do a little research in your area, your wife will surely be able to find an excellent physician who is supportive of your choice. We all know NFP an be difficult, if not isolating-feeling at times, so extra support from anywhere, especially one’s doctor, is vital.

  20. Pingback: NFP, FAM « No Regrets Living
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    1. Hello Monica!

      The Couple to Couple League has software called “Cycle Pro” and it records daily observations and color codes the fertile and infertile phases.

      Hope this helps…


  22. Thank you all who shared. I wasn’t able to read everything but I read most of it and I would just really like to hear from the men. It was mostly women posting and that’s great, but also the side you always hear. I know it stinks not being able to have sex when you feal like it the most and what makes it hard for women, but I would love to hear from men and what makes it worth it to them and if they feel like their getting the short end of the stick. Sex is an important part of marriage and not having it can be detrimental.

  23. My husband and I practice NFP and are so thankful to have discovered it and to be done with pills! We wish we had known about it sooner and had never messed with BCPs but we just didn’t know. I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that I feel compelled to share NFP with others and would really like to find a way to become a trained instructor. The challenge though is that I am not Catholic, I am a non-denominational Christian. The only non-Catholic programs I’ve seen are secular and not in line with my beliefs and convictions. I live in an area that is predominately Mormon and I believe offering classes in a more religious-neutral manner would be an excellent method of outreach. I just don’t know where to start. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  24. We love what NFP has done for our marriage. We had significant trials financially, external family problems, health problems, and relational learning to do. NFP helped us fight selfishness from taking root in our marriage. Committing 100 percent to doing what is best for each other no matter the sacrifice strengthened us to overcome other issues which have 12 years since pretty well been sliced and diced. As a wife, I have always struggled with body acceptance and NFP has normalized talking about our body, sexual desires, and fertility so that I feel totally comfortable with my husband. Taking Creighton Model helped a lot with abstinence because they teach you about SPICE in marriage(spiritual, physical, intellectual, Communication, Emotional) and how we sexually connect in many ways. Bonding in all these ways enhances the connection that makes for a deep intimate connection in bed. As Catholics we believe contraception is not only unwise but objectively harmful to marriage and the grace couples receive from God. The ancient Didache (60AD) which was a basic teaching handbook for early christians condemned contraception which was very common and widely used in pagan Rome. Early christians needed help christianizing their new lives and so I think we take it for granted how different their world was. Not to mention contraception was condemned by all christian groups even up until the 20th century. Truth doesn’t change, at least that’s what we believe in our Catholic faith Development of understanding the Trinity is different than pseudo development of sex being always open to life and then now it’s apparently ok to sterilize our intimacy. No ill or mean intent here. I have a passion for romance in marriage and it’s just really deeply touched our marriage and faith as well. God bless all.

  25. Abstinence period is longer than a week or two I practice NFP and would appreciate honesty. Sometimes it is a week or two, sometimes it is 90 days. please stop lying. Thanks

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