Natural Family Planning
by Sebastian R. Fama

Natural Family Planning (NFP) seems to be the Catholic Churchís best-kept secret. Itís not that the Church wants it to be a secret. The message just doesnít seem to get out. NFP is the licit alternative to contraception, or birth control as it is usually referred to. NFP is just as effective as any method of contraception and it has the advantage of causing no harm to the womanís body with side effects and complications.

Rather than tamper with a womanís body, NFP works with it. It is important to note that NFP is not the Rhythm Method as some tend to think. The Rhythm Method is dependant on the regularity of a womanís cycle. Many women donít have a regular cycle and so this method may not be very reliable by itself. NFP does utilize the Rhythm Method but it goes two steps further. NFP measures and senses the approach of ovulation. This is accomplished by monitoring three conditions in a womanís body. These are basal body temperature, cervical mucus and the timing of a womanís cycle (the Rhythm Method). By charting a womanís fertile times a couple can know on what days of the month she can get pregnant. If their goal is to limit their family size they would abstain from intercourse on these days.

The Church has always taught that every act of sexual intercourse must be open to life. However, since times of infertility are a part of Godís design, it is perfectly acceptable to have intercourse during these times. But some ask, whatís the difference? Why would God care if we practiced NFP or used contraception? The end result is the same. But it's not about the end result. You wouldn't say that going out and stealing money is the same as earning it just because the end result is the same.

Sexual intercourse is a gift from God. Consequently, it needs to be respected and used in accord with its design and purpose. Let me illustrate my point with an example. Suppose you were having dinner at a friendís house. After the main course your friend brings out some cheesecake. You really love the taste of cheesecake but you donít want the calories. The proper thing to do is to pass on the cheesecake. There is nothing wrong with not eating cheesecake. However, it would be wrong to take some cheesecake, chew it, enjoy the taste, and then spit it on the table to avoid the calories.

If you abstain from sex during the fertile times itís like not eating the cheesecake. If you contracept during fertile times itís like chewing the cheesecake and spitting it out. Thatís because in both cases you have performed the first part of what is by nature a two part process. The purpose of food is to taste good and to nourish. The purpose of sex is to communicate love and to produce offspring.

Contraception is wrong because it separates sexual intercourse from its procreative function. Thus, sex can become an end unto itself. The result is mutual selfishness. Making love should never be reduced to a means of relieving oneself. NFP, on the other hand, respects the procreative function. Couples become aware of and develop a respect for the womanís fertility. A number of surveys have shown that the divorce rate for NFP couples is between .2% and 4%.Thatís a big difference from the 50% rate of the general population.

Itís true that some couples may struggle with periodic abstinence. But as with most things perseverance produces results. Professor Janet Smith notes that NFP data suggests that periodic abstinence increases passion and revitalizes romance. According to a study commissioned by the "Family of the Americas Foundation," NFP couples have more frequent marital relations than those in the general public. Also, because mutual cooperation is needed, NFP enhances communication. A comparison of both methods illustrates the superiority of NFP.


Natural Family Planning



1. 97% effective

1. 99% effective

2. Sex is primary focus

2. Relationship is primary focus

3. Dangerous side effects

3. No side effects

4. Promotes selfishness

4. Promotes mutual responsibility

5. Can result in abortion

5. Never results in abortion

6. Can weaken a marriage (Higher divorce rate)

6. Strengthens marriages (Lower divorce rate)

7. Inconsistent with Scripture

7. Consistent with Scripture

8. Costs thousands of dollars over a lifetime

8. Costs nothing once learned

9. Less frequent sex (on average)

9. More frequent sex (on average)

Couples interested in learning more about NFP should contact the Couple to Couple League of Cincinnati ( or the NFP office in their diocese.

Copyright © 2005

For Further Study

The Early Church Fathers on Contraception  (Free) and Humanae Vitae (Free)
- Why Humanae Vitae Was Right by Janet Smith and Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt and Sex Au Naturel :What It Is and Why It's Good for Your Marriage by Patrick Coffin
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