David Prentis of the Couple to Couple League, Int’l. explains the beauty and the effectivity of the Natural Family Planning Methods:
What is NFP?
In the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP (STM) the wife observes and records three main symptoms of fertility: her basal (waking) temperature, cervical mucus and changes in the cervix. The couple learns to interpret these symptoms to determine whether the wife is fertile or infertile at any given time. They then govern their sexual activity according to whether they are seeking to achieve or avoid conception.
Does it work?
A well-instructed and motivated couple can practice STM successfully, and it will provide them with the same 99% level of reliability as the pill.
The best way to learn is by taking a full course of instruction given by a professionally- trained teaching couple who themselves practice the method.
One can compare this to instruction in driving a car. Several instruction sessions are needed and beginners must be especially cautious until they gain experience. However, whereas a mistake in driving can cause a tragic accident, a mistake in NFP can be at the most the occasion of the wonderful gift of a new baby! Millions learn to drive cars. NFP is a more important skill, indeed a way of life, and well worth the effort to learn!
Is NFP not the same as contraception?
Not at all. Only NFP can help to achieve pregnancy. Even when NFP is used to avoid pregnancy, all that the couple does is to refrain from sexual intercourse in the fertile phase of the cycle. Refraining is not an act and so cannot be wrong in itself. Of course even NFP can be used selfishly by a couple to avoid having children, but whereas inactivity may be good or bad according to circumstances, contraceptive behaviour is always essentially wrong and harmful.
However, when the couple do have intercourse, it is not tainted by contraception – they do not explicitly exclude the possibility of conception – and intercourse is allowed to be the full expression of love it is meant to be, with the result that the couple build up their mutual love, which then overflows in the desire for a child. This is why NFP couples tend to have more children than others.
Is this not irresponsible because of overpopulation?
No. On the contrary, in the industrial nations there is a serious shortage of children. There is a vital need for couples willing to have large families.
What are the advantages of NFP?
It is safe because it does not involve any interference with the healthy working of the human organism, but only observation.
Not only is it without health-risk, but through her observations a woman is more likely to detect any abnormality, which she can report to her doctor. Her STM observations may also assist the medical diagnosis.
It does no harm to any child conceived during the practice of it.
Having learned the method, a healthy couple are aware of their own fertility and are independent of doctors in questions of family planning.
The mutual interpretation of charts helps communication in a matter of intimacy which can be difficult even in marriage.
Mutual respect and the practice of periodic abstinence helps build the marriage.
Since the integrity of the marriage act is preserved it is able to fulfil its function of building the marriage through its expression of mutual love and, where necessary, reconciliation.
Couples who have learned sexual self-control are in a much stronger position to recommend premarital chastity to their teen-age children.
Is not abstinence too much to expect from normal people?
Self-control is necessary in all aspects of life including the sexual.
The 8 to 14 days per cycle usually required for the practice of NFP to avoid pregnancy do not present an impossible demand. Those who are used to such periods of abstinence will be more easily able to accept longer periods which might occasionally be necessary, e.g., because of illness, childbirth or temporary separation.
Such breaks in sexual activity are refreshing both physically and mentally. They counter the danger of boredom.