5 Logical Reasons to Consider Natural Family Planning
First things first. If you read the words Natural Family Planning in the title, and thought Rhythm Method, just stop. Stop it right now, and before you read on any further, know this:
Natural Family Planning is NOT the Rhythm Method.
In fact, it's pretty much the opposite. The Rhythm Method assumed that all women ovulate at the same, predictable time each cycle, which was obviously not realistic, or effective. Since then, researchers have learned that every healthy, sexually mature female has her own internal rhythm (syncopated or otherwise, meaning her rhythm can change from month to month), and our bodies naturally and constantly produce signs indicating where we are in our fertility cycle. With the right knowledge, most of us have the capacity to be as aware of fertile days each month as we are of being on our periods.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the art of recognizing these signs, and simply avoiding intercourse during the few number of days each cycle when an egg could be fertilized. Or! If you're trying to make a baby, it's the art of knowing the days on which to have all of the sex. Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is the same art, only allowing for barrier methods of birth control during potentially fertile days, and then knowing when you're free to lose that restrictive condom, and have the better sex. (Amen?)
It's important to note that these birth control options are for women who are not in danger of contracting STDs. If that is a concern of yours, then I recommend perhaps googling to see if there's a blog post out there entitled, 5 Logical Reasons to Not Have Sex With People Whose Intimate Details You Are Unsure Of. If that post does exist, I bet it's really good. In this one, though, we're just going to stick to issues of fertility and birth control.
Once you're ready to learn more about how NFP and FAM work, I'll point you to some helpful resources. But first, you came here for some logical reasons for why you should consider it in the first place, right? So without further ado:
1. It's organic. Isn't it interesting how our culture is so concerned about chemicals in food and household appliances, yet completely comfortable with synthetic hormones that trick a woman's body into thinking she's pregnant for years and years so that she never releases her eggs? Why yes, Alanis, it is ironic. We are becoming increasingly aware enough to avoid eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and at the same time, we are literally modifying the natural, healthy functions of our own genetic endowments. I'm not saying it's bad to be cautious about GMOs. Food is an important issue, too! Let wheat be wheat, like it was in back them Bible times! And while we're at it, let women's bodies do what they naturally do, as well. It's just healthier.
But women's health is not the only thing at stake. Right now, I'm studying Child Development as a prerequisite for earning a Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy. Check out what Robert S. Feldman wrote in our assigned textbook which he so cleverly titled Child Development, Sixth Edition:
Birth control or fertility pills taken by pregnant women before they are aware of their pregnancy can also cause fetal damage. Such medicines contain sex hormones that affect developing brain structures in the fetus. These hormones, which when produced naturally are related to sexual differentiation in the fetus and gender differentiation after birth, can cause significant damage.
And then he lists his references.
Um, yikes. That does kind of explain a lot, though. Hhhmmm....
2. It's free. Part of the reason so many of us think that fertility-suppressing birth control is such a good idea is the very same reason why some of us feel drawn to certain brands of mascara or laundry detergent. It's a product that someone is selling you. Pharmaceutical companies make a lot of money from selling synthetic birth control methods to women who don't want to get pregnant, so they first spend a lot of money making sure it seems like the best option. That's probably why we don't hear much about the pill's connection to sex/gender differentiation issues in children. And it's also probably why most women are not aware of our own observable patterns of fertility. No one makes a bazillion dollars from teaching us NFP, and no one spends a gazillion dollars to sell the idea to us, because it costs absolutely nothing. Not out of our pockets, not from our taxes, nothing. Even the best charting apps are free! ...Okay, wait. I lied. You might have to buy a book to learn how to do it, if you're not one of the people I just happen to give one of my own copies to. And you might have to make room in your budget for some paper and ink if you don't have a smartphone or mobile device. You'll be needing one sheet of paper each month. Condoms if you chose the FAM route. But seriously, other than that, no financial transactions involved whatsoever.
3. It's actually not harder than other forms of birth control. I've heard a lot of women respond to the idea of NFP by saying something like, "Oh, I'm just not disciplined enough to do that." Look, if you can remember to pop a pill in your mouth at the same time every day, or remember to make your doctor's appointments on time to update that IUD, or stop in the middle of an intimate, sensually escalating moment to set-up a rubber barricade, you are more than capable of committing to NFP or FAM. You can probably remember to pop a thermometer in your mouth before you get out of bed in the morning, and check your toilet paper after you wipe. Then, whenever you get on your smart phone, before you check the weather, go on Facebook, or reply to your mom's texts, you can probably remember to go to your charting app, and enter in what you saw. Or, if you are among the digitally challenged, that last sentence should read: When you get to your stack of papers on the counter, before you write a check, read the newspaper, or write a letter to your cousin in Boise, flip to your charting worksheet and jot down what you saw. That's it! There are some nuances you'll have to learn to make sure you're reading things right, but those become second nature once you're familiar with what you're looking for.
You'll end-up with is a nice, organized little chart that gives an overview of your body's internal reproductive activities over the course of a cycle. You may not notice a pattern right away, but after several days (and especially after completing a few cycles to get the hang of it), when you see that spike in your basal body temperature, I guarantee you'll be all like, "Yessss!! It is now time for some good, old fashioned, unprotected sex!"
Just you watch.
Example of an actual chart from a kindara app user. You can see where she ovulated on the 13th, and since the little hearts indicate when she had sex, this cycle likely resulted in pregnancy.
Admittedly, this approach does require a certain level of intelligence to conduct, but since you're still reading this right now, I think you've got it. Plus, we should really be well-educated on what's happening in our bodies regardless of the methods choose. So as far as the whole discipline argument is concerned... Come on, Ladies. Next?
4. It's truly empowering. There is nothing more inspiring in the mortal human experience than a woman who deeply understands and embraces who she is, how she works, and how she doesn't work. But you probably don't see a lot of that these days, because unfortunately most of us spend a lot of time being confused. We tend to buy into this idea that being strong women means being just like men. I'm convinced, however, that the more we suppress the traits and instincts that make us distinctly female, the more we give up the full, dynamic power of our natural feminine genius.
Women are not men. And contrary to some schools of thought, this is a very good thing. Masculine men are like evergreens--growing steadily, day after day, consistently... green. And what a great color that is, too! But women, in contrast, are deciduous, marking the seasons by growing graceful, radiant flowers as the frost melts away, then spending some time in the lush greenness of their leafy glory, right there with the evergreens, until suddenly she is bursting into vibrant flame-like hues just before going into hibernation, and seeming all but dead unless you break her open and see the life teaming inside, anticipating her next springtime radiance.
What if we concluded that the oak tree's cyclical pattern meant she was less powerful, and therefore, inferior to the unchanging pine tree? If we tried to force a mighty oak to stay green all year round, we may succeed in finding a way to do so, but we would also kill the essence of what makes her so truly vital. The integrity of the entire forrest would be at stake, because the leaves she lets go of are necessary to enrich the soil, not only for herself, but for all other living things around her.
Let the oak change her colors, and let her gentle offerings fall to the ground at the hopeful promise of radiant renewal. Let the pine be ever green. Let the men be ever constant. And let the women be the ones that let everybody know what time it is.
5. When you are ready to start a family, you will have a major advantage. No waiting for your hormones to go back to normal, or for your eggs to start releasing again. You're there. In fact, you already know how to tell when you're ovulating, so you know when to get those eager little sperm cells racing up your fallopian tubes.
Do I even need to say anything else about this point? Probably not. But just in case you're not quite convinced, let me just add that our nearly 10-month-old son, TJ, is the product of our very first attempt at getting pregnant, after about 11 years of intentionally waiting until we felt mature and stable enough to actually handle such a responsibility. I have never been on birth control, and my husband hates condoms, so there you go!
Of course, there are religious reasons for embracing NFP as well, and as a Catholic Christian, I do have those. But our faith is not actually at odds with sound reason. We embrace both. In fact, some of history's greatest scientists have been Catholics--even monks. All Truth belongs to God. So even if you're not quite interested in hearing the religious arguments in favor of avoiding fertility-suppressing birth control, at least you've been open enough to consider the logical evidence. Thanks for that!
Ready for those helpful resources I mentioned? There are a few of them out there, even classes you can take, so feel free to look around. Personally, I studied the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility to learn how it all works, and I recently switched from paper and started using the Kindara app to chart my cycles on my iPhone. Both are excellent!
*Bonus Reason: It can help detect and pin point potential reproductive problems.
When I originally posted a link to this post on Facebook, one friend named Laura responded by sharing her experience with NFP/FAM.
When we started thinking about trying to have kids, I kicked the pills to the curb and read TCOYF and actually utilised their online forums for support while trying to figure out charting, etc. I was shocked at how little I actually knew about it all.
They really need to teach it to young women this way. It's empowering to actually understand your body! Also for me, after seeing that we had perfectly timed, unprotected sex for the better part of a year with no pregnancy, it gave me a sense of power to be able to stand up for myself when I started to visit doctors to figure out what the problem was. They scoffed when I said I charted and used FAM and knew that I was ovulating and that I'd been timing intercourse perfectly. I was my own best advocate, and had I not understood my situation the way I did, I think the entire infertility journey would have just been all the more devastating and confusing.
And so, I was like...
Wow, I had no idea that you had gone through all of that. I know! My doctors and nurses scoffed at me too when I told them that the due date they gave me was a little off, because I knew exactly when TJ was conceived. But it's the same reason that a lot of them scoff at probiotics and other natural remedies that work. The medical industry is a business, and they don't make any money for us having better options.
And she goes...
Yep, took us 3 years to get pregnant with him. Went undiagnosed with endometriosis and fibroids for 2 years, followed by surgery and close to a year of treatment to kill off remaining endo. Like another poster said, what seemed to not make sense actually did make sense and pointed toward endo. I actually fudged my LMP date by a week when I first saw my OB because I knew I ovulated on day 21 that month, not the textbook day 14. I knew they'd not take it seriously and would say baby measured behind, so I just did the math myself... and what do you know he measured exaclty right ;-)
Bottom line? It costs you nothing to learn what's naturally taking place in your body. Only good can come of it.