When I began my journey to becoming Catholic I was focused mainly on doctrinal issues, e.g. what is the nature of the eucharist, did Mary remain a virgin her whole life, did Christ intend for the Pope to be the head of the church, etc. After I was fairly far along in my studies I asked the priest, “Doesn’t the Catholic Church have some funny teaching about birth control?”
What began as a naive question turned into a life-changing experience. I was told that the Catholic church condemns artificial birth control and surgical sterilization as sinful, no exceptions. My wife and I had a serious medical reason to avoid future pregnancies, so we followed the only option approved of by the church: Natural Family Planning (NFP). In NFP, the couple monitors and charts symptoms of fertility in order to identify fertile and infertile times. There are a number of different NFP methods. The one we learned is called “The Sympto Thermal Method” and it is taught by the Couple to Couple League.
Learning the method consisted of attending four one hour classes, and doing some reading. In class we received counseling, studied charts, and watched presentations. We discovered that NFP was not just a birth control method, but a marriage building activity. It has some of the following benefits:
- 99+% method effectiveness, comparable to the best artificial birth control.
- For married couples, sex can easily become routine. By adding a time of abstinence, new interest is generated. I heard a comedian say, “I am over thirty. I still like sex, but I want to know what’s on cable first.” Practitioners of NFP will not generally care what’s on cable when the period of abstinence is over.
- Many couples have mis-matched sex drives. This simple thing can lead to a world of bad feeling. Having a regular time of abstinence is a natural compromise.
- Because of its very nature, NFP encourages communication about family planning and helps to make it more of a mutually shared concern.
- NFP does not involve putting possibly harmful chemicals or drugs in your system, so it is potentially healthier.
- Using NFP creates no waste products, so it is better for the environment.
- Many of the methods can be taught and practiced with no special equipment. This means that they can be used in third world countries without cost. The only method approved by the Catholic church is also the most practical.
When we first started the classes, my Protestant wife was upset about the way my religious studies were impacting our lives. But soon after we started using NFP she fell so in love with the method that she wanted us to start teaching it. We’ve been at it for 16+ years and it has worked perfectly. We’ve never known anyone who had an unwanted pregnancy while using it (although we have read about such cases).