What is Natural Family Planning?

If you read my introductory post on Sex & Family Planning, you already know that my wife and I practice Natural Family Planning.  We are passionate about this topic and actually feel like it is one of the best things that has happened to our marriage.

One of the inspirations behind starting this website was a desire to spread the word about NFP and let other couples know about it.

While I would be happy to actually motivate others to try it in their marriage and ecstatic to hear from even one couple that becomes regular users of this method as a result of this site, my primary goal is simply to inform others about Natural Family Planning so they become aware of it as an option.

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So, let’s use this post to just start with the basics.

So, Just What is Natural Family Planning?

Simply put, Natural Family Planning is fertility awareness; the knowledge of when a woman is fertile and when she is infertile.  We will discuss the specifics in later posts, but basically a woman is only fertile for a few days during each menstrual cycle.  If you can reliably identify those days, you can either avoid or achieve pregnancy…naturally.

Let’s use some easy-to-follow bullet points to better define NFP:

– It’s a natural method that uses no forms of artificial birth control.

  • That’s right, no birth control pills, no condoms, no IUDs, no shots, no nothin.’

– The couple uses proven signs to track the woman’s fertility cycle.

– Couples generally use a “Sympto-Thermal” method for tracking.

  • “Thermal” is a fancy way of saying the gal takes her temperature each morning before she gets out of bed (called her basal body temperature).
  • “Sympto” just means that there are obvious signs a woman’s body gives indicating where she is in the fertility cycle.
  • These signs are related primarily to her mucus (yes, down there) and her cervix (though those observations are optional).

– Using well-documented and exhaustively researched guidance, you can accurately determine when a woman is fertile and when she is not.

– If you want to avoid pregnancy during a given month, you simply abstain from sex during the fertile times (this is only a small portion of the cycle, so don’t worry too much).

– If you want to get pregnant, you’ll know the days that you really don’t want to miss!

– NFP is 99% effective.  Really.

    There you have it.  You now have a solid understanding of what it means to practice Natural Family Planning.

    And I’m sure you have many more questions about the specifics of NFP, the benefits, the challenges.  Maybe you are curious how my wife and I discovered NFP and why we are so fired up about it.  And just why haven’t you heard more about Natural Family Planning before?  Is this stuff only for hardcore religious freaks or what?

    For a bit more insight, please check out this cool video about NFP and how it fits into a healthy marriage.

    Stay tuned and I promise you will become well informed!  In the meantime, please post a comment with your own thoughts, questions or experiences with NFP.

    Photo by jonrawlinson


    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. Dustin, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. It is great to hear such support from a man! NFP is becoming appealing to more people as they are tired of the side effects of contraceptives. We now have excellent research to support the effectiveness of modern methods of NFP. Couples are empowered with NFP–women have a valuable tool to gauge their health. The menstrual cycle has actually been called the 5th vital sign, because it can tell a woman that much about her health. This is in contrast to all of the health risks associated with hormonal contraception!

      I am passionate about NFP as well, because I believe it is so healthy for women and couples. It promotes deep communication and intimacy in marriages, reflected by a divorce rate of less than 3 % among couples practicing NFP. I am passionately Catholic as well. But, I do not have to rely on Church teaching for making a solid case in support of NFP. Good science and medicine reflect the truth of the Church’s teachings on sexuality and contraception.

      Speaking of medicine, many women are initially put on the pill to “treat” a host of common reproductive problems. The pill does not effectively treat these problems, but simply suppresses the woman’s menstrual cycle, delaying treatment of the problem. There are excellent alternatives which actually treat these problems. Read about them in the new brochure “Alternatives to the Pill” at: http://www.omsoul.com/pamphlet340.Alternatives-to-the-pill

      I have a masters degree in nursing education and could have had a career making much more money working as a nurse educator. But, instead, I have chosen to work for Catholic Social Services as their full time Natural Family Planning program director (in NC). While this job pays less, it is extremely satisfying to empower couples with this same information that has made for such a great marriage for me.

      I look forward to reading your future posts. Is it possible for you to automatically notify me via email of posts to this site?

      Batrice Adcock, MSN, RN
      Natural Family Planning Program Director
      Catholic Social Services
      Charlotte, NC

    2. Batrice,

      Thank you SO much for your thoughtful comment. You have no idea how edifying and motivating it is to hear your remarks!

      I hope the visitors to this site carefully read your comment consider it with an open mind. You have expressed very succinctly and clearly many of the aspects of NFP that we love and hope to explore further on Engaged Marriage. I know those that are unaware of Natural Family Planning, or choose to dismiss or marginalize it as something outside of the mainstream, would have a hard time understanding, but we truly do believe that NFP is one of the best things that has happened to our marriage.

      It also hadn’t struck me squarely before, but I suppose you are right that I offer a bit of an unusual perspective being a man. It is probably because we have practiced NFP for close to five years now, but I do not feel any disconnect from my wife’s fertility. I feel as strongly as she does about our marriage, our method of family planning and how they are related. I just happen to be the one with the interest and motivation to blog about it!

      And yes, you can certainly sign up to get email updates whenever a new post is added to this site. You can just click on the orange envelope in the upper right corner of the site (under the “Subscribe for Free” label). A box will pop up and you enter your email address. You will then get an email asking you to click a link to verify your subscription…then you are all set!

      Welcome to Engaged Marriage and please tell your friends & colleagues!


    3. Thanks for leaving a comment on our CCL Chapter Blog. I enjoyed reading this post about NFP and the comments! Thanks for your efforts in promoting NFP and healthy marriages! I look forward to reading more of your posts.


    4. I haven’t asked her, but I bet my sister’s in favor of natural family planning – she’s one of its surprise results, lol…!

    5. Paul, thank you for visiting! It could very well be that your parents were practicing NFP and had your sister by surprise (and I bet you’re all happy about it now even if that was the case). However, I would be curious to know how old your sister is and whether your parents were really practicing modern Natural Family Planning.

      My guess is that they were instead using an outdated method such as the Rhythm or Calendar Method of family planning. That is an “old school” method that was very limited in its effectiveness since it basically relied on a woman having a consistent fertility cycle each month. Thank goodness we have so much better information today!

      Modern NFP uses a combination of several highly researched signs to accurately track the fertility cycle regardless of whether it is consistent…most women’s cycles are anything but routine and predictable! As a result, NFP is truly 99% effective in postponing pregnancy.

      Again, perhaps your sister is young and your parents were using modern NFP, but I suspect this is not the case. I plan to write a blog post addressing the many misconceptions about NFP, and confusion with outdated methods is certainly a major one.

      Thanks again for stopping by and I look forward to future discussions with you!

    6. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, has this been on my mind. I won’t go into too many scandalous details, but thanks for the post, Dustin. Further bulletins as events warrant!

      You’re doing a good thing here, buddy. Take care.

    7. Hey Josh, thanks for the encouragement, man! It means a lot to me. And if you want to talk about what’s on your mind in a less public way, please feel free to contact me using the “Contact” tab at the top of the page. I’d be happy to help or point you in the right direction if you are looking for any guidance.

      And that’s a cool site you have!

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    15. Thanks for posting so much information on NFP. I’ve been reading a lot of your posts on it. For the last year and a half I’ve been on the pill, but my husband and I have recently thought about switching over to NFP. We’re still in the very early stages of learning about it so your blog has been very helpful and comforting. Part of the reason that we did not even consider NFP when we first got married is because we thought it was not effective at all, however, with just a little research I have found that is not true at all. I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that NFP can be 99% effective- that surprised me so much. I really thought this method did not work at all, but now I am exicted because it sounds like a fantastic alternative to the pill.

    16. Batrice’s comment is interesting…about 3% divorce rate for couples that practice NFP.

      The fertility specialist that I often consult recommends a ovulation test kit for predicting ovulation.

      There are 2 types. Urine and saliva. The urine type is slightly more accurate.

    17. I thought my husband and I were the only ones into this. I actually don’t know much about it, but since marriage have decided not to do the birth control thing – I won’t even put processed food in my body! Looking forward to driving into your website to learn more about it…

      1. Thanks so much, Favor! I hope you enjoy everything you find here at Engaged Marriage and continue interacting with our awesome community. Welcome! 🙂

    18. Need help!!! Is there anyone who knows nfp and can email me for a conversation privately!!!??? My awesome husband and I have 7 children. Baby is 3 mo old. Never used nfp before. Thanks!!!

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