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What is Natural Family Planning?

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a method of conception regulation based on fertility awareness and selective abstinence.

Isn't NFP the same as rhythm?

No. Calendar Rhythm, developed in the 1920s by the Japanese scientist Kyusaku Ogino, is the "Model T" of NFP. Modern NFP is based on the changes in cervical mucus, changes in the cervix itself, changes in the basal body temperature, and various secondary symptoms of fertility.

I'm a bit skeptical. Does NFP work?

The Sympto-Thermic method of NFP is as reliable as the Pill and sterilization, provided that couples are motivated and properly instructed.

NFP is the only method of family planning that the husband and wife do not have to stop using to have a child. NFP makes the couple aware of the times of greatest fertility, thus helping them conceive a child.

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What about women who have irregular cycles?

With Modern NFP, the couple can reliably and confidently determine the boundaries of fertility, even if the woman has very irregular cycles. In fact, all women have cycles that are somewhat irregular. NFP can also be used after childbirth, after discontinuing the Pill or IUD, during breastfeeding, and during the "change of life" (pre-menopause).

NFP sounds complicated and difficult.

Actually, NFP is not hard to learn. Observation of the signs of fertility takes only a few minutes a day and easily becomes as routine as one's daily hygiene habits.

Is NFP safe?

Unlike the Pill, IUD, or sterilization, NFP is very ecological and does no harm to health. NFP requires no drugs or surgery. (Also, the Pill and IUD have the power to cause early abortions).

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What about cost?

NFP is by far the least expensive method of family planning. Once learned, NFP can be used for a lifetime at virtually no cost.

Doesn't NFP require a high degree of motivation?

Any form of birth control requires motivation. The term "high degree of motivation" is relative. Success in NFP depends on the same sort of motivation and commitment required to make a success of marriage itself. Thus, anyone who is motivated to achieve a successful marriage can learn the art of NFP. In our experience, average married couples are very successful in practicing NFP.

How much abstinence is involved?

The man is virtually always fertile; the woman is infertile most of the time. The amount of abstinence averages about 10 days in an "average" cycle.

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But isn't abstinence a disadvantage?

On the contrary, periodic abstinence, often called periodic continence, has been found to have a rejuvenating effect on marriages.

Also, the time of continence gives the couple opportunities to express love for each other in non-coital ways. This assures the husband and wife that neither one is being used by the other. The NFP lifestyle helps to open new levels of communication and affection.

Is NFP just a birth control method?

Definitely not. NFP is a way of living, a way of loving, a way of growing. When people think of birth control, they generally think of some form of outside control on their fertility. By contrast, NFP couples regulate conception through inward control, self-knowledge, and free choices. The NFP lifestyle implies acceptance of the fertility cycle, whereas unnatural methods -- contraception and sterilization -- imply rejection of fertility.

Are there any disadvantages to NFP?

No. Sexual intercourse should not be used merely as a crutch to prop up an insecure relationship. Since NFP, by its very nature, compels the couple to communicate about their relationship, it can open up relational areas that need attention. Being aware of these areas is a definite advantage.

Source: "What is Natural Family Planning?", The Human Life Center, St. John's University. 1979.

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Comparison of the effectiveness of birth control methods

Method Effectiveness Side Effects
Abstinence 100% None
Withdrawal Method 20-40% None
Spermicide 64-96% Irritation, can cause birth defects
Condom or diaphragm 64-97% Irritation
The Pill 98-99% Death, stroke, heart attack, stunted height, mental depression, cancer, high blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, excessive bleeding, rashes, blood clots, sterility, birth defects, loss of interest in sex
IUD (Intrauterine device) 94-99% PID, infection, perforation of uterus and intestines, sterility, hemorrhage, cramps, pain, ectopic pregnancy, death, may become embedded in uterus or lost
Sympto Thermal (NFP) 98-99% None
Vasectomy or Tubal Ligation 99.99% Infections, fever, pain, may not be reversible
Note: The Pill and the IUD can both cause early abortions.

Source: Physicians Desk Reference and The Indiana State Board of Health

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NFP classes

For information on NFP classes, contact the Couple to Couple League or St. Louis Church at 812-934-3204.

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