Natural Family Planning: What Is It?

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is not a super popular method of birth control. It’s most common among religious folks and natural living folks.

Full disclaimer: I am not an expert on this topic. There are a lot of topics I write about that I’m pretty confident on, but this is not one of them. I don’t know all the ins and outs of it, and I don’t understand all the details. This is simply my personal experience with loosely following family planning and how it has worked for us. 

I’m simply here to share with you why NFP works for me and my husband, why we believe it’s a great choice for many couples, and I’m going to share with you how I go about this method of birth control.

What is Natural Family Planning?

Natural Family Planning is a method of birth control. It is up to you as a woman to be aware of your menstrual cycle and ovulation patterns and you get to decide when to have intercourse in order to conceive or not conceive. It is free, natural, simple, and safe.

How does Natural Family Planning work?

Getting pregnant, and avoiding pregnancy, is not complicated at all. Most women have a menstrual cycle that is 28-35 days long. In that cycle, they have 2 phases. The Follicular phase (Days 1-14), and the Luteal phase (Days 14-28). Each phase lasts about half of the cycle.

A woman cannot get pregnant during her Luteal phase. If ovulation has occurred, a woman cannot ovulate a second time. Until she bleeds she is safe to have unprotected intercourse as she wills… and actually, unless a woman has a super irregular or very short cycle, it is highly unlikely that pregnancy will occur if unprotected sex happens while she is bleeding (the beginning of the follicular phase).

The tricky part becomes figuring out when you ovulate and when you need to begin protecting (whatever that means for you as a couple.. condoms, withdrawing, or abstinence). If you have a longer cycle, you will most likely ovulate later in the month as well (Days 14-21) are common for ovulation.

The biggest thing you should know is that sperm can last up to 5 days, but most often they only last for 3. If you are super concerned about it, give it 6 days before you ovulate. If you are not concerned, you really should be safe having unprotected sex 3 days prior to ovulation.

For a normal, consistent, 28-day cycler, their NFP pattern would go like this: 

Days 1-8: No Protection Necessary 

Days 9-15: Use Condoms/Withdrawal/Abstinence 

Days 16-28: No Protection Necessary 

As I said before, the big thing to know is when you ovulate. Once you can figure that out, NFP will be a breeze. This does take several months of paying close attention to your cycle, and charting if you feel that’s something you want to do.

All you have to do is protect for 6 days prior to ovulation, and 1 day after ovulation because the egg hangs out for 24 hours after it drops. After that you are no longer fertile, and before that you are not fertile. Knowing the signs that show you are getting close to ovulation are your physical signs to either protect or go to town, depending which result you are hoping for!

How reliable is Natural Family Planning?

In couples who are trying to avoid pregnancy, when NFP guidelines are followed consistently and correctly at all times, NFP is 97-99% affective in preventing pregnancy.

In couples who are aiming to conceive, there is of course no guarantee of getting pregnant. However, already being accustomed to your menstrual cycle, as well as not having to get off of any hormonal birth control that may affect your ability to get pregnant right away, can make it easier to conceive quickly and easily.

How difficult is it to implement?

The key to NFP is: AWARENESS. 

It’s really pretty simple. Of course, there are many steps a woman can take to be more sure of what is happening in her body. If your cycle is a little different every month and you are really wanting to avoid pregnancy, then you will probably want to make sure you are charting your temperature, cervix position, and cervical mucus every day. These things help you to know where you are in your cycle.

Why did we choose Natural Family Planning?

I’ve always been in tune with my cycles and my body, so I knew exactly what was happening before we even got married. I saw no reason to get on birth control.

However, after a life-altering surgery, I knew that I absolutely could not have another child right away. It was would have been life-threatening for me. But we chose to continue with NFP. That’s how confident I was that it was going to work.

For me, it’s been so easy. I don’t chart a single thing. I don’t take my temperature or check my cervix. I simply know that out of the 4.5 weeks of my cycle, weeks 2.5-3.5 are potentially fertile. In that time frame I either use a condom or don’t, depending on the outcome we are hoping for. It’s that easy.

While we didn’t ever talk much about our decision (we just knew it’s what we wanted to do from the beginning), I’ve thought through the pros and cons, and this is what I’ve come up with:

NFP pros: 

  • It is safe for all parties involved: mom, dad & unborn baby (many birth controls are abortifacient, meaning they will not allow a fertilized egg to implant into the uterus)
  • It is free
  • It is natural
  • It does not affect your hormones or cycles (most birth controls wreak havoc on your body and your hormones)
  • It does not affect your ability to get pregnant in the future (some birth controls have been known to affect your future fertility) 
  • It gives you confidence and knowledge of how your body works, which is helpful for pregnancy and childbirth
  • It grows intimacy in marriage, as your husband will become aware of what’s happening in your body as well

NFP cons: 

  • You have to pay attention to your body and be aware
  • If avoiding pregnancy, you cannot just have free and easy sex at a moment’s notice
  • If you don’t have regular cycles, it will be hard to achieve doing NFP

Should you try Natural Family Planning?

I am a HUGE advocate for NFP. I honestly believe that it could work for almost any couple if they are willing to learn. The learning is the biggest hurdle, and after that it becomes second nature.

I believe that God designed for us to know our bodies, and I also believe it is our duty to take care of them and to take care of our future children. I believe that NFP is one of the best ways to do that, and absolutely the best way for our individual situation.

I hope that this post has answered some of your questions about NFP and shed some new light on the subject for you.

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