A Healthy Marriage with
Catholic Natural Family Planning

Catholic natural family planning is a highly effective means to avoid or achieve pregnancy. But it also...

  • Respects your body and your health
  • Is morally acceptable to all major religions including the Catholic Church
  • Increases the strength of & intimacy within marriage

All that, and it's simple and very low cost. What a deal!

"Is it specifically Catholic?"

No!

Catholic natural family planning is more commonly called just "natural family planning", or NFP.

People of many different religious backgrounds use NFP. In fact, even non-religious people use NFP because it's such a positive, natural, and healthy approach to sexuality within marriage!

This article will occasionally use the term Catholic natural family planning to stress the fact that NFP is particularly appealing to Catholics. NFP is the most effective means of family planning that is morally acceptable to the Catholic Church.

  • Like NFP, the Catholic teachings about sexual morality are also meant for everyone, not just Catholics! I have a series of articles about Christian sex on this site.

The basics

Catholic natural family planning is a way to avoid or achieve pregnancy based on awareness of a woman's fertility.

This is not the "rhythm method!"

NFP is based on the fact that a woman's body gives certain signs about the different phases of her monthly fertility cycle. Catholic natural family planning teaches you to observe and interpret these signs to determine when a woman is fertile.

To achieve pregnancy, you should have sexual intercourse at the peak of this fertile time. To avoid conception, avoid intercourse during the fertile time.

It's really quite simple!

NFP is 99 - 100% effective
for avoiding pregnancy

Catholic natural family planning is one of the most effective methods of avoiding pregnancy.

The Couple to Couple League has a detailed article about the effectiveness of Catholic natural family planning. It examines several widely accepted scientific studies that show an effectiveness rate of 99% to 100%!

Actually, this effectiveness is not so surprising. A woman's body is not fertile for most of her monthly cycle. NFP simply lets you determine when the fertile and infertile times occur.

This is great news to people concerned about health, morality, and even just those who want to live more in tune with the natural rhythms of our bodies. Catholic natural family planning is just as effective as "the pill", but without its moral and health problems!

With the body, not against it

Although NFP is sometimes called natural contraception, alternative contraception, and even Catholic contraception, please realize that it's very different than true contraception.

  • The term contraception applies to acts that deliberately impede conception — it's a refusal of fertility.
  • NFP uses the female body's natural rhythm of fertility to either avoid or achieve pregnancy. This is not contracepting.

It may seem like a small & technical distinction, but in terms of morality, there is a world of difference. This is especially important for those practicing Catholic natural family planning because of moral convictions.

The basic signs of fertility

Catholic natural family planning uses the Sympto-Thermal Method for determining fertility. It looks at three signs that a woman's body gives:

  1. Waking temperature (called "basal body temperature")
  2. Cervical mucus secretions
  3. Physical change that occurs in the cervix

Most couples use the first two symptoms, but the third is recommended if a woman's cycle is somewhat irregular, or you just want another indicator for certainty.

It takes very little time each day to observe and record these symptoms.

Using a digital thermometer takes only about a minute each morning for a woman to take and record her waking temperature. She can take a few seconds to check for signs of cervical mucus when using the restroom throughout the day.

You record this information on a simple chart. The chart gives you a complete, easy to read picture of your fertility cycle for the month.

The whole process of Catholic natural family planning is very simple, quick, and non-intrusive.

The fertile time

The length of the fertile time varies between women. Most women find that their fertile period lasts from six to thirteen days per monthly cycle. Since each month can be slightly different, it's important to track the signs during each cycle.

The fact that a woman's cycle can vary from month to month is one reason why Catholic natural family planning is so effective. NFP looks at the actual data for this specific month to determine current fertility. The old "rhythm method" made guesses about the fertile time based on average cycle duration — which can wrong for any specific cycle.

Many positive benefits

Couples who practice Catholic natural family planning find that they benefit from it in many ways:

Effective
The Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP is highly effective. This applies to avoiding pregnancy, and to achieving pregnancy when you want to conceive!
Moral
Many people first look at Catholic natural family planning because of moral concerns about artificial birth control. NFP is morally acceptable to the Catholic Church and all major religions. (Note that Catholic teaching condones sexual activity only within marriage. The Church also cautions that it's moral to avoid pregnancy only for "just" reasons. See this site's main article about Christian sex for more.)
Safe
NFP is 100% natural! There are no drugs to affect your health, and no devices to harm your body.
No risk of abortion
The pill and other types of hormonal birth control are known as an abortifacients — if you conceive, they can cause abortion by not allowing your child to implant in your uterus. But NFP obviously does not carry the same risk. (This fact about the pill and related drugs is not widely discussed by health workers who push artificial birth control.)
Inexpensive
After learning NFP, there are no real recurring costs. You only need a thermometer and a monthly chart, and the chart is free except for the cost of printing or copying.
Natural
Many people find NFP appealing because it works with the body's natural rhythms and processes.
Stronger marriage
Many couples find that Catholic natural family planning makes their marriage stronger and increases their sexual intimacy.

"Where can I learn how to practice
Catholic natural family planning?"

First check with your local parish, church, or diocese. Many places have local NFP classes, or at least have someone you can contact.

The Couple to Couple League is one of the premier organizations for teaching Catholic natural family planning. They provide a directory of trained NFP instructors around the world. They can also provide you with a home study course if there are no courses near you.

Catholic natural family planning is a wonderful way to practice family planning while honoring your spouse, your body, and God.

Check it out!



This article is one of several about Christian sex and marriage. There is also a broader section on Catholic morality.

Also check our home page for more articles about the Catholic faith!

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