Your Family Matters - Top 10 reasons why I love NFP

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It’s pro-life, pro-woman, pro-family and green!

When we were engaged, Nathan and I took a natural family planning class. Word got out that we were planning on using NFP when we were married, and some folks took the opportunity to tell us the old joke. “What do you call people who use NFP?” they asked, with a knowing chuckle. “Parents!”

It’s true, we are parents thanks to NFP, but that is because the information it gave us has helped us know when we can conceive and when we are not likely to. Using NFP has actually been a huge blessing in our marriage. As newlyweds with years of college and grad school ahead of us (complete with attendant student loans!), we were a little anxious at first. Giving up control requires trust. This is all the more true with birth control. But when we trust God and our spouse with our fertility, the rewards are amazing.

There is a profound link between the unitive and procreative aspects of lovemaking in God’s plan for man and woman. This means that lovemaking is simultaneously for bonding spouses and for blessing them with babies. If we sterilize marital intimacy, through the pill, barriers or surgery, at a deep level we damage the unitive aspect of our relationship with our husband or wife, even if we do not intend to.

Using NFP allows husbands and wives to identify the days each month that the wife is fertile (typically around five or so). They discern — together, and with God — whether they have a serious reason to avoid a pregnancy; if they are seeking to conceive, they know when they are most likely to. With “perfect use,” NFP is as effective as the pill at avoiding pregnancy (99.6 percent, according to a recent study); it is also amazingly helpful for subfertile couples struggling to conceive. You can use paper charts, online programs — even apps on your phone — to keep track of fertility cycles.

What I love about NFP

As a pro-life Catholic woman, wife and mother, it’s hard for me to say what I love most about NFP. Here are a few of the benefits I appreciate most:

1. It challenges my husband and me to trust God profoundly with the most intimate aspect of our marriage. It has given us a sense of awe at our ability to cooperate with God to welcome new life into our family. We feel more like stewards of the gift of life than like masters of our bodies, in control of everything.

2. NFP requires good, frequent communication about really important things! Like: our family size, our future, our relationship and how we’re managing our time, money and energy.

3. We are “in it together.” If we need to avoid intimacy, we sacrifice together. The burden of artificial birth control most often rests on the wife alone.

4. Using NFP correlates with significantly lower divorce rates.

5. We see children as a blessing from our love and God’s, rather than as an unwelcome danger in our sex life. NFP is 100 percent pro-life, whereas the IUD and the pill and its variants might work by causing abortion before the new baby implants in the womb.

6. The knowledge from NFP helped us conceive two of our four precious children when we had periods of low fertility.

7. NFP encourages respect and reverence toward women’s bodies. Wives report feeling cherished, rather than used.

8. It’s healthy for me. NFP can actually help women detect problems like polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, thyroid problems and more. NFP-trained physicians can use this information in treatment. By contrast, the pill is a Group 1 carcinogen, known to cause cancer, dangerous blood clotting, depression and (ironically) low libido. Most artificial methods can have harmful physical side effects, and all have harmful spiritual side effects.

9. NFP is environmentally friendly! Contraceptive hormones may be part of the problem of excess estrogen polluting our water supply, affecting wildlife and possibly human male fertility.

10. NFP couples report greater satisfaction (and even frequency) in their intimacy. The joy and bonding of marital intimacy expands incredibly when God’s creative love is part of the celebration!

Today, if I were asked, “What do you call people who use NFP?” I would say, “Happy!”

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Northwest Catholic - October 2014

Sarah Bartel

Sarah Bartel, a member of St. Andrew Parish in Sumner, holds a doctorate in moral theology and ethics from The Catholic University of America, where she specialized in marriage, family, sexual ethics and bioethics. Her website is