First of all, I would like to apologize for my absence these past few weeks. Family troubles intervened, and I am very bad at sticking to a schedule when disruptions are introduced. The latter is my fault entirely and also something that this blog is supposed to help me correct; at the very least, I am forcing myself to return to the project instead of hiding my face in shame for having been silent for so long, so that’s progress, right?
Anyway, to the post at hand. It’s Natural Family Planning Awareness Week! If you have any devout Catholic ladies on your Facebook newsfeed then there’s a chance you’ve seen #iusenfp or any number of signs or banners talking about how awesome women are and how great creation is. If you don’t, well, here are some links to give you an idea of what’s going down.
For my part, I’d like to take this week to address various aspects of NFP, starting today with the most obvious:
What is NFP?
Natural Family Planning (and its barrier-friendly cousin the Fertility Awareness Method) is a non-hormonal method of family planning. Instead of using somebody else’s hormones in the form of a Pill (or IUD or whatever you want to call Nuvaring), NFP users rely on the hormones naturally present in a woman’s body and the signals they give off as a woman naturally progresses through her cycle. Armed with knowledge of these signals and what they mean, NFP users can know exactly when a woman is ovulating and decide whether or not to have sex accordingly.
That might sound complicated, but listen, ladies, I promise, if you’ve ever had a cycle when you weren’t on birth control, you’ve seen the signs. They are kind of hard to miss. All you’ve been missing is the information to use them. Honest. Most of the methods require little more than that you go to the bathroom on a regular basis. If you have regular cycles unaided, you can pretty much teach yourself. If you don’t have regular cycles, you can still learn it AND probably learn a lot about various ways to correct your irregularities. That being said, instructors are available and recommended for all the methods.
If you want information about NFP, here’s a link with links to the major methods.
If you want to be even more specific, here are general-to-specific outlines of how the methods work:
- The Symptothermal Method (CCL teaches this one but Georgetown developed it) is what’s found in the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It relies on temperature and mucus observations.
- If you don’t wake up at the same time every morning, The Billings Method and The Creighton Method are both mucus-only. Billings allows you to create your own vocabulary to describe your fertility observations, while Creighton is standardized and uses stamps on a calendar.
- The Marquette Model uses science AND technology, so you always have the monitor’s backup whenever you’re feeling less confident about your observations.
I personally use the Symptothermal Method (STM), taught through a combination of that Georgetown link, my friend’s copy of The Art of Natural Family Planning, and two thirty-minute conversations with other STMers. Two months into charting, and I pretty much had it down pat. Nowadays I really only bother to check my temperature to confirm that my period’s on its way in. (TMI? Sorry. That’s a bit of the name of the game when it comes to NFP. Lucky for you, I have no shame. And neither should you! It’s your body; learn it and love it!) I should note that that is highly NOT recommended if you want to experience the full efficacy of NFP, especially when you are first learning it; I’m a three-year veteran. Do as I say, not as I do.
In my next post I’ll address some common misconceptions pertaining to NFP, and Friday’s post may or may not devolve into a feminist rant about celebrating our bodies instead of shutting them down for the sake of participating in the patriarchy (rather than reforming it to celebrate both men AND women). Or maybe I’ll just talk about why I use it, and why I strongly suggest you should at least consider it (do more than consider it) (use it). We’ll see. 🙂