Biological reasons, such as one’s health and concern about the side effects of artificial methods, including sterilization. Many couples don’t want to take the risk of harmful side effects just to make sex convenient. Some have started on Depo-Provera to simplify their lives, but gain weight or suffer depression. Others decide that they just want to be hormone-free, buying or growing vegetables that are chemical free and realizing that they have the same concern for their own body’s ecology. Many find that NFP is a better way for them.
Psychological reasons, such as the positive interaction that can occur as the couple manages family planning together. One “side effect” is that 70 percent of NFP couples who were surveyed indicated that the practice of NFP increased their communication level. One husband relates:
“I never thought that after twenty years of marriage that I would ever feel the intensity of desire for my wife I felt when we were first married. Yes, we still loved each other, but there was something missing. I just chalked it up to being older, having kids, being together for twenty years. Something amazing happened when we learned NFP – the abstinence brought back the freshness, the anticipation, we had enjoyed when we were first married.
We were using a barrier method of family planning before NFP, but I hated suiting up for sex. It seemed wrong to establish a barrier from the person you were to be as intimate as possible with – it contradicted the unity of the act. NFP is so much more spontaneous and congruent with what sex means in a committed, loving relationship.”
Moral and ethical reasons, such as the recognition that some forms of contraception actually interfere with the implantation process after conception has taken place. These methods may act as abortifacients. In the words of one husband: “I had heard that hormonal contraceptives can cause really early abortions by preventing implantation, so I asked my doctor about it. She said that this isn’t true. However, the more I read, the more it seemed that there really is the possibility that this is true. I’m not willing to take that chance and I also think it is an injustice for me, as a man, to ask my wife to negate her biology just so she can be sexually available without concern for pregnancy. Justice requires that we both share in the responsibility for family planning. NFP fulfilled this for us.”
Philosophical and religious reasons, such as faithfulness to one’s religious beliefs and an understanding of sexuality as comprised of a unitive and procreative dimension – inseparable parts of a whole. NFP allows the couple to respect this part of who they are and to practice responsible parenthood.
NFP helped me appreciate the cycle of life. It makes me very thankful that there is a God who has made this – how wonderfully it all works together. As Psalm 139 says, we are fearfully and wonderfully made! I feel good about NFP because it allows me to live congruently with Catholic teaching. I’m not putting an obstacle between myself and my relationship with God, and my relationship with God has gotten closer.
In a five country trial, the WHO found that “marital friction” as a result of periodic abstinence was uncommon in 80-99 percent of cycles according to both men and women. In this same study, over 95 percent of both men and women rated their satisfaction with NFP as good or excellent. Couples using NFP report increased and enhanced communication, increased self-esteem, and enhanced spirituality.
Because each woman’s cycling pattern is just a little different, and each cycle is unique, there is no hard and fast rule about the amount of abstinence. For a woman who has typical cycling, the average number of days of fertility is about 9-12, at least for beginners. It is important to keep in mind that studies have consistently shown that couples using NFP to plan their family have as many (or more!) acts of marital relations during a cycle as other couples, it is just distributed differently.
The basics aren’t hard. Most people master them fairly quickly and easily. Since most of the observations can be done during a woman’s daily personal care, it takes very little time. The challenge in using NFP can be integrating NFP into the couple’s lifestyle and adjusting to the periodic abstinence required if postponing pregnancy.
In follow-up, the NFP Provider reviews the client’s chart for correct and consistent charting and interpretation. There is a dialogue about how the observations are being made and the correct understanding of definitions and rules are clarified. It is also an opportunity for the client to ask questions, receive information appropriate for the specific cycling pattern being experienced, and be encouraged and supported in the practice of NFP.
The observations themselves can be learned fairly quickly. In one World Health Organization (WHO) study, 97 percent of women were able to identify the cervical mucus changes in the first cycle. Most people are familiar with taking a temperature reading and find it takes just a little effort to establish a habit of taking it upon waking. However, each woman’s situation and cycling pattern is unique, so personal attention is a very important component of instruction. This may take place face-to-face, over the phone, or in email correspondence. It is critical for a couple to learn from a certified NFP Provider.
Learning NFP may be done in a class situation, one-to-one instruction, or through an online course. Whatever format is utilized, instruction may consist of a presentation, learning activities, and personalized follow-up with chart review. Simply reading a book, or even attending a class without personal attention, is not adequate.
If you don’t feel confident of your mucus observation, give greater weight to the temperature observation. This is a perfect time to apply a temperature-only rule to determine the post-ovulatory infertile time.
You should do the tissue exam every time you go to the bathroom – both before and after urinating or having a bowel movement. Bear down, as if trying to force mucus down, before the last tissue exam of the day.
As long as you have one hour uninterrupted sleep prior to taking your temperature, you should get a usable reading. Light activity such as getting up briefly to care for a child or to go to the bathroom should not affect the temperature reading. However, if you are up repeatedly for extended periods of time, you may find that your reading is disturbed. Just make a note of it on your chart.
Take your temperature anyway, chart it, and make a note of the disturbance.
While we find that the vast majority of couples are very pleased with their online learning experience (which is of particular benefit to those who are unable to take the course from the same location), it is important to recognize that learning styles and social preferences play an important role in having the best possible experience. Couples who, over the course of high school and/or college, have realized they struggle with online learning platforms, may have a better experience seeking out an in-person course.
While some couples do prefer the relational aspects of sitting down with their instructor in-person, many students actually seem to feel more comfortable with the online learning platform and the option of digital communication. Our instructors who teach both online as well as in-person, notice that their online clients are generally more honest and open with aspects of both their chart and their medical or relationship history, that in-person clients might find embarrassing or uncomfortable to discuss. This openness is essential to the learning process when teaching a couple how to use NFP effectively given their own unique circumstance.
Couples learning SymptoPro online closely mimic the in-person learning experience. Our course is split into 3 sessions spaced several weeks apart, including personalized follow-up and chart reviews with their assigned instructor at the end of each session. Their instructor is available to them at any point along the way and actively works with them to verify their personal knowledge and understanding of course materials. The main difference, is that couples who learn online are able to work through the course materials on their own time, in the comfort of their own homes and even when living a great distance apart. In addition, online instructors are available for phone calls or skype sessions.