5 Common Objections to Natural Family Planning
As I’ve tried to spread the word about the Creighton Model, fertility awareness, or Natural Family Planning, I’ve come across some common objections that I’d like to touch on today. Here are the five most common:
Objection #1: It doesn’t work
Usually what is meant by this one is “it doesn’t work for avoiding pregnancy.”
As starry-eyed 20 and 22 year olds, my husband and I took our first NFP class.
The sweet, much older couple teaching our class introduced themselves and then decided to lead with, “…..and we have 9 beautiful children.”
Silence. Awkward cough. Throat clearing.
“Nine?!” my mind screamed. “Is this what I’m in for?! Ok, this definitely must not work. All those jokes my dad told me about NFP must be true.”
I hope my readers will forgive the thoughts of a judgmental 20 year old girl. I never did get to know this couple very well, and I can’t possibly know how they went about planning their family. But what I do know is that NFP can be used to achieve or avoid pregnancy at any given time. The fact that a couple has 9 children is not any kind of proof that NFP does not “work.” We have no idea how many children this couple wanted or intended to have, and it is likely that they were just very open to children in the first place. They may have only used NFP periodically to avoid pregnancy for very serious reasons. Perhaps they would have rivaled the Duggars without NFP. Who knows? (The Duggars don’t use NFP, by the way.)
Simcha Fisher has a blog post I love called “If NFP Works, Why Does She Have Ten Kids?” that you should check out.
The Catholic Element
Much of what we call “Natural Family Planning” was created by Catholic doctors and scientists who had deep religious beliefs about contraception, so many couples practicing NFP are doing so for religious reasons. They are naturally more open to children. They would also never have themselves permanently sterilized, as is so common in our culture when couples feel like they have to make a decision to be “done” having children. When you combine being more open to children + no sterilization, a couple will probably have more children than average during their lifetime. Some couples also make a choice not to follow the pregnancy avoidance instructions of their NFP method. With The Creighton Model, we discourage this kind of thinking. You know the kind of thinking that says you can “bend the rules,” “fudge a little,” or not follow all the instructions. We encourage couples to have clear intentions for what they think is best as far as planning their family and to follow through with those intentions.
We also can’t make an apples to apples comparison when we compare effectiveness rates of a method that can only be used to avoid pregnancy, like the birth control pill, and the effectiveness of a method that can be used to both achieve and avoid pregnancy, like the Creighton Model. With the birth control pill, pregnancy is seen as a clear cut “failure” of the method. Not so with a natural method. Depending on the intentions of the couple, the pregnancy could in fact mean that the method worked exactly the way it was supposed to.
And while many couples who practice fertility awareness based methods are religious, there is a growing group that practice it for the health benefits, in order to address environmental concerns, or because they have experienced terrible side effects from hormonal birth control.
Multiple studies have been done to determine the effectiveness of different fertility awareness based methods. The Creighton Model’s effectiveness for avoiding pregnancy with perfect use is 99.5%. With human error (teacher or student error), it is 96.8% effective. The system is 98% effective for helping healthy couples achieve pregnancy within 6 months when they choose to use days of fertility for sex.
Objection #2: It’s Too Complicated
Learning NFP can initially feel really complicated. We are, after all, talking about bodies. There are many combinations of fertile and infertile signs, and instructions to learn for how to interpret them for family planning. This is why a good NFP teacher is so invaluable. A good teacher has many tools to help you learn your chosen system quickly and to have confidence in using it. While some couples have success with it, DIY NFP can be really stressful to figure out on your own.
Take brushing your teeth. You probably have no recollection of ever learning to brush your teeth. But if you’ve ever taught a small child how to do it, you’ll realize how many small steps it actually takes, and how you automatically do those steps without thinking about it. You don’t think, “Pick up the toothbrush, unscrew the lid from the toothpaste, squeeze some toothpaste out (but not too much!), put the toothbrush in your mouth, etc.” You just do it. Your body knows how. After some practice with charting, your body and brain will be able to understand how and what to check for and how to interpret it. It becomes natural and automatic.
Objection #3: My husband won’t be able to follow it
When I was a soon to be wife, this was my personal objection to NFP. I felt sure, just absolutely sure, that my husband would never be able to follow a system that involved any kind of selection of days for intercourse. He couldn’t. I’m kind of ashamed that I had so little faith in him because he’s just blown me out of the water with this one. Ladies, if there is one thing I want you to know, it’s that your husband DOES have the ability to have self-control in the area of his sexuality, and I also believe it’s something you should want him to have. NFP has been one of the biggest influences on my husband’s ability to exercise self-control in all areas of life.
For my part, my self-control comes in the form of self-giving. I’m a woman who has had 4 babies. I’m often tired and overwhelmed with life and I just might not feel like I’m in the mood. My self-control comes in the form of being willing to show my husband I love him in that way, despite my feelings. This has really deepened our kindness and respect for our differences.
Imagine these scenarios from the point of view of a couple who have a solid foundation of self-control in the area of their sexuality and from the point of view of a couple who have never been challenged in that way.
#1. Your husband takes a job where he has to regularly travel for work.
#2. Your husband is in the military and is deployed.
#3. You get pregnant and your doctor puts you on pelvic rest (i.e. no sex) for 6 months.
Wouldn’t there be some level of comfort in knowing that as a couple, your sexual self discipline has been developed through the practice of NFP?
Now, don’t get me wrong, we don’t necessarily start doing NFP just so we can be challenged, but it is a legitimate by-product of this way of life.
Objection #4: I’m Too Lazy
This one often makes me sad, because I think it comes down to self-care or a poor self-image. I’ve had many women tell me they don’t think they could do this because they are lazy. Going back to the toothbrushing example, if you brush your teeth every day, then you are NOT too lazy to use NFP. If you show up to work on time, eat your vegetables, or remember to call your mom on her birthday, then you are not too lazy to learn to chart your fertility.
Let’s think about the actual time needed to check your fertility with the method that I teach-the Creighton Model.
Our method is a mucus only method that involves checking discharges at times when a woman is already going to the bathroom. The woman checks for discharges both before and after going to the bathroom, before and after showering/bathing/swimming, and then one last check at night right before going to bed.
How Long Does it Really Take?
Let’s say you go to the bathroom 6 times per day. You already wipe after you use the bathroom, so the only extra time needed is the time to wipe before using the bathroom.
This is maybe 30 seconds max. Let’s say you take 15 seconds to think about what you saw and mentally register it.
Time needed to do bathroom checks – 4.5 minutes
You’ll do one more check right before you go to sleep, so we’ll add 30 extra seconds there.
Total time – 5 minutes
Then you’ll write a couple of letters and numbers on your chart indicating the most fertile sign you saw that day, and put a sticker on – 1 more minute.
Total time needed to use this method for your family planning – 6 minutes per day. Less if you’re quick in the bathroom. For those 6 minutes per day you get 100% knowledge of your fertility. You can throw away all your condoms, especially since you were wasting your money on them anyway. You’ll never again have to go have an IUD inserted or try multiple brands of birth control pills until you can find one that doesn’t cause you side effects.
Getting into the habit of charting can easily be stacked with other good habits to help you remember to do it each day. I suggest putting your chart, stamps, and a pen next to where you brush your teeth, or in the bathroom where you do your nightly routine. When you’re brushing your teeth or getting ready for bed is the perfect time to chart.
Also, if you get out of the habit of checking your fertility signs, you only have to wait until the next time you go to the bathroom to get back on track.
Objection #5: It’s Gross
Some women initially object to natural methods because they involve tracking things like cervical mucus to determine fertility. First of all, cervical mucus is not a “dirty” discharge. In terms of level of ‘gross-ness’ it’s more similar to semen or breastmilk. The process of checking your discharges isn’t any more gross than changing a menstrual pad or putting in a tampon. Of course, you’ll want to wash your hands after checking it, because you’re going to the bathroom in order to do that, but it really isn’t anything to be really grossed out by.