As you can read on our About page, the main reason we started this blog is to help moms, especially young moms, avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made. We want to inspire you to think critically about motherhood and your life’s purpose, because there were many years when we were just drifting along in survival mode, doing pretty much what everyone else was doing, just because everyone else was doing it. Birth control is one of the things we did as young moms because it felt responsible, and normal, and everyone else was doing it. It never even occurred to me (Allison) that using birth control was a decision that involved morality – that it was going against God’s design for sex and His plan for my family. It never occurred to me that using birth control could affect my health, my future fertility, or even cause the abortion of a tiny embryo before it could implant. I didn’t know, as you will after you read this post, that there is an alternative to hormonal and barrier birth control methods called Natural Family Planning, and it’s just as effective as the Pill, with absolutely no negative side effects and oodles of health and relationship benefits to both husband and wife.
The following is an interview we did with Becky Behrens, a Fertility Care Systems practitioner and outstanding Catholic woman and mother, about Natural Family Planning. If you are currently using any other form of birth control or fertility treatment, you need to read this interview! This is information that all moms and all women need to have but aren’t getting from their doctors or the mainstream media. Don’t forget to also check out the resources at the end of the post.
What is Natural Family Planning?
There are different methods. I teach Creighton Model, which is also referred to as Fertility Care Systems. It’s all natural (there are no medications or hormone pills or injections). For our method, you watch for the mucus signs: God made us in a way that we can predict when our fertility is coming. It’s only certain times of every month. It helps you know where you are in your cycle, when your fertility is coming and when it’s over. Another method is the basal body temperature – the Couple to Couple League, as well as others. There are phone apps too, and there is a phone app for the Creighton Model, although you need to complete the training program to be able to use the app effectively. (Click here to read about the NFP Charting app.) The Creighton Model FertilityCare System is more than NFP and the regulation of the family size. It has the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body woven into the system. If you’re interested on learning more about the theology behind NFP, you can read more here: https://www.nfpoutreach.org/47/.
Is it difficult? Is there a lot counting and record-keeping?
You have a chart that you start with each cycle and record information in every day. Everyone is different, and every cycle can be different. We’re not really counting days. There are specific charts and stamps that are standardized. What I’m teaching here is the same as it is in Africa. We (Fertility Care Systems) are in 36 countries around the world.
How do you learn NFP?
We hold an introductory session in a group setting, but each follow-up is individual and personalized. The follow-ups continue for a year. The first four follow-ups are every 2 weeks so you can gain confidence, and so that if something happens that’s out-of-the-ordinary, you can figure it out together. You really need the one-on-one follow-ups. Next, you have a 1-month follow-up, then every three months. You can also get help in between follow-ups. This method brings the couple together to plan their family – it’s not just the woman’s responsibility.
Is NFP for preventing pregnancy, or achieving pregnancy, or both?
Couples use Natural Family Planning to avoid pregnancy or achieve pregnancy. You can decide that at the end of every day. That’s where the couple has to work together, and to discern God’s will for their family. You decide between you, God, and your spouse whether you want to achieve or avoid pregnancy. It’s not all about you.
Is this only through the Catholic Church? Can anyone use this?
This is for everyone. We teach people of all faiths. We also have NaPro technology doctors who can help women with fertility or reproductive health problems. The Pope Paul the 6th institute (https://www.popepaulvi.com/) is the headquarters for NaPro technology, where Dr. Thomas Hilgers has been helping women since 1985. Dr. Hilgers and his team of doctors are continually doing research to improve methods for helping women with fertility and reproductive health. Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae – the call of all men and women of science to help with the regulation of the fertility of couples. It’s definitely about the Catholic faith, but it’s not just for Catholics. NaPro is about healing the woman, healing the body, so that if God wants to produce life, you can achieve pregnancy. It does not include in-vitro fertilization or other artificial means of achieving pregnancy.
If I went to my family physician, would they be able to help me with NFP?
Probably not. Most physicians are not trained in NFP. You do not need a referral from your doctor to see an NFP counselor or doctor.
What’s wrong with hormonal birth control (the Pill, shots, IUDs)?
For one thing, you’re putting chemicals into your body. You’re also closing yourself off to creating life, to God’s will. It’s all about you and what you want, and you’re not leaving yourself open to God’s will for your family. If you practice natural family planning, you have to support each other as a couple and remember that you are a gift to each other. It helps promote the dignity of each person, and it can spill over into other areas of your life. It can improve communication and change the way you see each other. God is love and life. Sex involves the whole person. It’s the whole body, the whole relationship. It’s spiritual; we (the Creighton Model System) teach it as SPICE: spiritual, physical, intellectual, creative, and emotional. The secular world things that sex is just about intercourse.
Research also suggests that hormonal birth control can cause an abortion, by thinning the lining of the uterus and making it impossible for a fertilized embryo to implant.
Is NFP effective?
It’s as effective as the Pill as far as preventing pregnancy goes, when it’s used properly. You have to follow the method, and you have to be disciplined. Many people don’t understand their cycle, or how fertility works, which might be one reason why people may not trust NFP.
It is effective in helping couples achieve pregnancy because it allows them to identify fertile periods and understand their cycles. God gave us these signs in our body to allow us to intelligently decide when we want to achieve pregnancy. He gave us all the tools we need to plan our families. As a couple, you can decide each and every day whether you want to become pregnant, based on mucus signs.
Why is NFP okay and other birth control is not?
You are still remaining open to life when you use NFP. It’s different from artificial contraception because the couple is not deliberately shutting off the life-giving power of sexual intercourse. They are simply using NFP to abstain from intercourse when they decide that pregnancy is not in God’s will for them at the present time. NFP is about respecting life and respecting your spouse. Artificial birth control is all about ME and what I want or don’t want.
How can NaPro doctors help heal infertility problems?
The NFP charts can help diagnose reproductive health problems. If a problem is identified, such as low progesterone or unusual bleeding, your NFP practitioner can refer you to a NaPro doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment. Every year, NaPro doctors, NFP practitioners, religious (deacons, nuns) receive training and education to ensure that they are knowledgeable in the latest research and developments.
How do you find an NFP practitioner or NaPro doctor?
You can find a NaPro medical consultant (doctor) at: http://www.fertilitycare.org/find-a-mc.
If I’m interested in NFP, what do I do?
Sign up for an introductory session. Contact a Fertility Care practitioner in your area, which you can find online at: http://www.fertilitycare.org/. Use the search tool in the middle of the screen.
Is there education available for teens?
You can contact your NFP practitioner to arrange a training session directed toward teens or single young adults to educate them on the way the cycle works, the reasons for chastity and NFP, and/or the theology behind NFP. It’s important to educate teens on the way their bodies work and to give them the confidence to remain chaste. We also need to start educating our children about chastity at home, when they’re very young, in terms they can understand, and build the foundation for when they are teens and are making decisions about chastity. Simply giving your children birth control takes away their sense of responsibility and their confidence in their ability to make good decisions and remain chaste.
Thank you, Becky, for taking the time to give us this interview! For me, learning about natural family planning and the Theology of the Body was life-changing, and I hope it will be for our readers as well.
Please leave us a comment if you are using NFP or plan to look into it!
“You have to take responsibility for your actions. That’s one of the things that natural family planning does – it gives you the responsibility for your actions. Contraception takes responsibility away, and at the same time, it’s taking life away. It’s taking part of your life away too, not just the life that you’re preventing.” – Becky Behrens
Theology of the Body for young children: https://tobet.org/product/tob-tots/
Theology of the Body for teens and adults: https://tobet.org/product-category/bookstore/adult-teens/
Difference between NFP and birth control: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/sexuality-contraception/birth-control-and-nfp-whats-the-difference
Pope Paul VI Institute: https://www.popepaulvi.com/