My husband and I became a certified teaching couple through The Couple to Couple League in about 2003. Since then our teaching experience has been an incredible journey which has allowed us to meet many wonderful couples. To find when our next class series is being offered or to find a class in your area, check out www.ccli.org and click on the icon for finding a class in your area.
So what is Natural Family Planning (NFP) aka Fertility Awareness (FAM)?
It is the reading of a woman’s signs of fertility and infertility each cycle. It leads couples to a greater understanding and respect for their mutual fertility and allows them a moral means of postponing pregnancy when they prayerfully discern a serious reason to do so.
- It is scientifically proven to be 99% effective.
- NFP doesn’t involve prescriptions or medical devices (aside from a thermometer), so it is 100% green to your body and the environment
- It is economical
- NFP leads women to feel more empowered and respected, as they develop a keen sense of their bodies’ ability to heal, to nurture and maintain good health.
- It has also been referred to as marriage insurance since couples who practice NFP have a much lower rate of divorce (5% rate of divorce among NFPers compared to 50% rate of divorce among the general population).
- NFP leads couples to develop better communication
- Many couples report a honeymoon effect to NFP which keeps the spark of romance and intimacy alive
- NFP can help couples limited fertility achieve a pregnancy
In a nutshell, a woman experiences three phases during her cycle: Phase I infertility, Phase II fertility, Phase III infertility.
There are several methods of NFP or FAM and we teach the Sympto-Thermal Method which allows couples to read the woman’s 3 signs of fertility/infertility; thereby, offering them greater confidence should one sign seem less clear in a given cycle. The 3 signs we teach are basal temperature, cervical mucus and cervix.
Cervical mucus which is a health, natural secretion from the body undergoes changes from dry or thick to watery or stretchy and then back to dry or thick. Since cervical mucus provides protection and aids the sperm’s survival for up to 5 days, it is the presence of fertile mucus which extends the fertile time of a woman. Meaning, while the egg is only viable for 24 hours, cervical mucus can allow sexual relations that occur as many as 5 days earlier to result in a pregnancy.
The basal body temperature, or temperature taken upon waking, will rise approximately 4/10th of a degree after ovulation has occurred. Therefore, the temperature sign offers a non-subjective confirmation that ovulation has indeed occurred and Phase III infertility can be established. Additionally, a temperature sign that remains continuously raised for 21 days or more is a good indicator that pregnancy has been achieved. This sign also allows couples to more accurately date a pregnancy since it is directly connected to the individual woman’s date of ovulation and not some random calendar wheel that makes assumptions and applies that assumption to all women indiscriminately.
In response to the hormone shifts, the cervix will also change in texture, shape and position. It will move from lower, closed and hard to higher, open and soft and back again to lower, closed and hard. Reading the cervix sign can reduce the number of days of abstinence for couples who are feeling called to postpone a pregnancy.
The advantage to reading all 3 signs is that they allow couples to confirm their interpretations with another sign should one sign appear unclear or should one sign be affected by an outside factor (i.e. antihistamines dry up mucus, all mucus and so can obscure the cervical mucus; a fever could render the temperature sign ineffective).
What NFP is NOT
Early science was light-years behind where it is now and so the first method of NFP, known as the Rhythm Method, was based on now antiquated science. It made assumptions about a woman’s cycle and then applied that assumption to all women indiscriminately. Today, we know that each woman is an individual and so is her cycle and the timing of her fertile/infertile phases; that is why the sympto-thermal method is proven to be 99% effective at postponing a pregnancy when necessary.
Our recommendations for other resources:
The Couple to Couple League was founded by John and Sheila Kippley and we were privileged to be trained under their guiding hands. They are no longer with CCL, but they continue to work faithfully within the NFP ministry and have formed a new organization, Natural Family Planning International, Inc. (NFPI). Their new book focuses on NFP and ecological breastfeeding which is a form of child spacing. Please, check out their website and learn more about the home study course they offer as well as other resources. An added bonus is that you can download FREE charts from their site.
Must-Haves for your bookshelf
great resource on nutrition & supplements to improve common cycle problems
the Kippley’s original CCL course manual
A woman’s signs of fertility can be dramatically affected by her diet. Additionally, some cycle problems (i.e. PCOS, insufficient luteal phases, scant mucus patterns, PMS) can be corrected through nutrition and lifestyle changes. These 2 books are permanent additions to our home library and I’ve referred to them many times myself.