Is NFP Worth the Effort?

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Natural Family Planning requires work.

There’s no way around it. To practice NFP successfully, you must be willing to put in the effort.

At the same time, NFP offers some clear, unmistakable benefits over any other method of family planning.

In this article, we’ll discuss 4 of the most common challenges couples experience with NFP. We’ll also look at 3 areas where NFP offers clear advantages over other methods of family planning. And finally, we’ll look at one area where NFP and other methods are about equal.

Let’s begin with the challenges.

Four Common Challenges of NFP

This is not a comprehensive list. Rather, it’s a quick look at 4 of the common challenges that come along with NFP.

  1. The daily routine
  2. Making decisions
  3. Communication
  4. Short-term abstinence

If you practice NFP, you know these well.

And if you’re thinking about NFP, you should know what’s involved.

1) It’s a daily routine

How hard is NFP, on a scale of 1 to 10?

As far as the basic practice of NFP, we’d say it’s maybe a 2 or a 3. Not all that difficult.

But that’s only part of the story. It’s simple enough to take your temperature once, then write it down. No big deal.

But to take your temperature daily, at the same time each day, and write it down every time – that’s a bit more involved.

The challenge here is to build the habits of NFP. On any given day, it’s easy. Being consistent, every day, is somewhat harder. To be successful with NFP, fertility observation must become part of your lifestyle.

In many ways, the practice of Natural Family Planning is similar to other health & lifestyle choices. Practicing NFP probably isn’t harder than:

  • Training for a 5k
  • Regular prayer or meditation practice
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Brushing your teeth regularly
  • Being on time

All of the above require discipline, willpower, and the intention to work towards goals. NFP is no different. And, as with the above examples, the benefits of NFP come when you put in the work.

2) You have to make decisions

This could also be viewed as a benefit, depending on your perspective.

All methods of family planning require decisions. However, compared with couples who choose contraception, couples who choose NFP must make more frequent decisions, based on their own judgement and reasoning.

Sound scary?

Here’s what this means in practice:

  • You must understand the different signs of your fertility
  • You evaluate your fertility signs each day to assess whether you are fertile
  • You and your partner may choose to have intercourse, based on whether you hope to conceive or not

NFP definitely requires you to make choices.

Of course, family planning is all about choice. One of the keys to success with NFP is to work with your partner to make the best choices for your family and your relationship.

Which brings us to our next point…

3) Good communication is essential

When you practice NFP, you have to talk with your partner about fertility.

If you have intercourse today, is there a chance you might conceive?

If so, is that something you want?

To practice NFP successfully, you need decent communication with your partner. This is essential, because you’ll have to talk about some of the most intimate and important aspects of your relationship.

Including…

4) Periodic abstinence?!??!!

When couples who practice NFP choose to avoid conception, they do so by abstaining from intercourse during fertile days.

Technically, the choice of periodic abstinence is the difference between “Natural Family Planning” and the “Fertility Awareness Method” (“FAM”) of family planning. Couples who practice NFP choose periodic abstinence when avoiding pregnancy, while couples who practice FAM may choose to use a barrier method of contraception if they have intercourse on fertile days.

Some couples find that periodic abstinence is one of the hardest parts of NFP, especially at first.

For one thing, most couples find they are naturally more attracted to each other during their fertile days, which makes abstinence somewhat more difficult during those times.

However, many couples also find great benefits in this aspect of NFP, though it may take time for these benefits to reveal themselves. For some couples, the shared decision to periodically abstain from intercourse becomes a key to significant growth in their relationship.

It all depends on perspective.

Not all benefits of NFP are subjective, though. Some are clear and quantifiable.

Is NFP the right choice for you?

Only you can decide! Access free lessons to learn more…

Three Clear Benefits of NFP

NFP has a few distinct and obvious advantages over other methods of family planning.

  1. No side effects
  2. TTC
  3. More knowledge & information

In these areas, the comparison between NFP vs. other methods is not even close. NFP wins, hands down.

This list doesn’t include subjective benefits like “improved communication” or “greater self-awareness.” Some couples may experience these types of benefits, while others may not.

This list includes only objective, quantifiable benefits, which can be realized by any couple who practices NFP consistently.

1) No negative side effects

For a couple to practice NFP, the woman must, at minimum:

  1. Measure her basal body temperature (the lowest body temperature in a 24-hour period) daily
  2. Observe the character of her cervical fluid regularly

Now, some people find one or both of the above onerous, or distasteful, or both. Others might really hate getting up at the same time every day.

But none of the above creates anything that could be properly termed “side effects.” One might find it annoying to get up at the same time each day, but no one would call it a medical condition. Besides, after you record your temperature, you can go back to sleep. ????

There are also some new wearable devices on the market which record basal body temperature overnight, so you don’t have to wake up.

2) It works for TTC

This is probably the greatest difference between NFP and contraception.

“Contraception” is a compound word, which combines the prefix ‘contra-‘ or ‘against’ with a shortened form of the noun ‘conception.’  All methods of artificial contraception work strictly “against conception.”

The principles of NFP, on the other hand, can be used to encourage conception as easily as they can be used to avoid it. For example, a study published in early 2017 found that use of fertility awareness nearly doubled the rate of natural conception in couples who were trying to conceive, but diagnosed as ‘subfertile.’

NFP doesn’t work “for” or “against.” Rather, it helps you to understand your fertility so you can make informed decisions.

If you’re trying to conceive, NFP is a great place to start.

And the info from your fertility charts can be very helpful too…

3) Useful info for you and your doctor

Fertility, particularly female fertility, is dynamic. It’s not always practical for a doctor or clinician to test something which changes day to day.

NFP provides a rich data set which can be extraordinarily useful for your OB/GYN or other health care provider. Sometimes, your doctor or provider will be able to decipher what’s going on strictly from your NFP charts. At other times, your NFP data may indicate the need for further analysis and more sophisticated tests.

Regardless, more data is almost always better. When it comes to your health, you’re very unlikely to go wrong with too much information.

And NFP definitely provides a lot of information.

Again, some couples (us included) claim NFP has other benefits beyond these three. These may be quite real in the context of their relationship. However, for our purposes, they’re more subjective.

Let’s wrap up by looking at one area where NFP and other methods of family planning are essentially equivalent.

NFP vs. Contraception: Both “99.6% effective”

Many studies have concluded that birth control pills, IUD’s, hormonal implants, male and female sterilization, and other clinical methods are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

A study published in 2007, which tracked over 900 women in Germany starting in the 1980’s, found that fertility awareness-based methods were also over 99% effective for preventing pregnancy, “provided the appropriate guidelines are consistently adhered to.”

NFP has its challenges, no doubt – but it is reliable.

You don’t have to sacrifice efficacy if you choose NFP.

Next Steps

So is NFP worth the effort?

For us, we the answer is an unequivocal “YES!”

But no one can tell you the answer.

Only you and your partner can answer that question for yourselves. Natural family planning is a choice.

NFP is about choice!

Access free lessons to learn more about Natural Family Planning, and decide if NFP is right for you!

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