August 25, 2010
The Wisdom of
Natural Family Planning
By Mike McManus
“There is…a time to embrace and a time to refrain from
We live in a
culture that has separated sex from procreation. That’s the major result of
“The Pill,” introduced 50 years ago.
Many assumed The
Pill would decrease out-of-wedlock births, which were 5 percent of the total
in 1960. In fact, it spurred promiscuity, an 8-fold growth of unwed births
to 41 percent. Widespread premarital sex also led to a 16-fold growth of
cohabitation, jumping from 430,000 couples living together to 6.8 million in
There is an
alternative to The Pill to plan one’s family, to have no more children than
the couple wants, and to avoid contraception altogether. It is called
Natural Family Planning, or NFP. Many Protestants never heard of it, and
millions of Catholics who learn about it as part of marriage preparation,
reject it as too difficult to practice.
conceive during two-thirds of every month. If a couple limits sexual
relations to that period, she will never get pregnant. However, from 8 to
12 days each month, before and during ovulation, she can conceive.
Planning is a scientific technique indicating with certainty the days when
to have sex and avoid pregnancy, and when they should abstain should they
wish to defer child-bearing.
The Couple to
Couple League (www.ccli.org)
has volunteers who have trained 200,000 couples in this Sympto-Thermal
Method. Women are taught a two-step process to observe their signs of
fertility each month:
Each morning they take their temperature and record it. When they can
conceive, their temperature rises one half of a degree. Then it falls
during weeks of infertility.
During her fertile period, a woman’s body creates a natural mucus
secretion. When it is present, sperm can survive 3-5 days, and conception is
A 2007 study published in “Human Reproduction” reports
that 900 NFP women who went through 17,000 cycles were 99.4 percent
effective in preventing pregnancy!
I asked Mike Manhart, Executive Director of the
League, to explain the benefits of Natural Family Planning: “NFP is
completely safe. There are no side effects, no health risks. It treats us
with full dignity and respect. By contrast, contraceptives communicate a
message, `I love you completely except your ovaries. I want them not to
“NFP works in
accordance with God’s plan. He made us this way, to give time for fertility
and times of infertility. And it gives us a deep sense of appreciation and
awe of children,” he explained.
“Each and every
month, we have to decide: Should we or should we not have a child? If you
know you are fertile, you are armed with an important piece of information.
It is important to have a conversation about whether to have a child, which
contraceptive couples never talk about. They say they will think about it
down the road, but down the road never comes.”
a Catholic convert, wrote a Foreword to a book, “Open Embrace” by Sam and
Bethany Torode, in which he made this eloquent statement:
serves not just one great good, but three, and they need marriage to come
into their own. First, among these goods is procreation: God told Adam and
Eve to `be fruitful and multiply.’
is union. When Adam was lonely, God didn’t give him a man, an animal or a
crowd of people, but a woman – different from him, yet made with God’s
image. When he saw her, he was so astonished that he cried, `This is now
bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh’ (Genesis 2:23).
third, or sacramental, good of conjugal sex becomes real only when the
spouses are united to Christ, for they become a living emblem of his
sacrificial love for the Church… Paul is so awed by this that he calls
matrimony one of God’s secrets. `This mystery is a profound one,’ he says.
`and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:32).’”
three goods: procreative, unitive and sacramental – are all present in
Natural Family Planning. Contraception deliberately closes the door to new
life, which Budziszewski calls “merely a collaboration in selfishness.
Children change us in a way we desperately need to be changed. They wake us
up, they wet their diapers…they knock us out of our selfish habits and force
us to live sacrificially for others.”
the wisdom of Natural Family Planning.