Natural Family Planning: love unfiltered
If you are wondering whether natural family planning or fertility awareness is for you, read on. If you have been on this road for a number of months and question it, read on. Last week we asked our readers to share their experiences in deciding to use NFP, learning it, and actually using it. We were grateful that so many were honest about their struggles and joys, surprised to read how women were working through special circumstances that made charting challenging, and heart warmed to hear why women were still thankful to steer clear of hormonal contraception and be in-the-know of their cycle health. In way of celebrating NFP week, we want to offer you a glimpse of the NFP experience through their words, which paint a life not void of difficulties but full of purpose.
The majority of our readers said they discovered NFP through marriage prep or at their church. For most, like Mary S., “It was a no-brainer.” Making the decision was easy, even exciting for Kaylene G.: “I love seeing all the science behind it. As a biologist, recording fertility observations and knowing what was going on in my body really fascinated me!” And almost all of our readers appreciated being hormone free, like Rachel K who said, “I do no want to put extra hormones in my body when it can be avoided!”
When starting their NFP journeys, some worried about unplanned pregnancy, while others worried about spouses being on board. Adjusting to NFP in the first year came with challenges in being counter-cultural for Madeline W., who said, “My biggest issue has been practicing NFP without a community and feeling as though my choice is wrong compared to that of my friends.” Molly G. struggled with consistent observations: “I’m very logical and analytical and struggle with perfectionism so struggled at first to trust myself with my observations.”
But finding support was crucial for those struggling. Brenda M said that she became more confident after working with an instructor through Skype, Facebook, and texting. (We love that tech can make NFP instruction easier!) Maggie C. said she “constantly questioned if they were charting correctly, just when they thought they were on track, they’d would be told they missed something.” Working with NFP-specialized doctors and instructors helped many in treating the root causes of their cycle irregularities.
Beth C shared that she was diagnosed with PCOS through her charts. “I took a couple of natural supplements to get my cycle back on track and become pregnant in the second month of trying!” Mairead V added that “By charting I was able to get to the bottom of my cycle issues in a matter of months. It was wonderful to be able to see my cycles regulate and clear patterns emerge from what had once been a jumble of confusing symptoms.”
But for some, like Alice P, they are still in the thick of NFP challenges. “I have long and irregular cycles. I looked for the cause, but my thyroid and prolactin, progesterone, weight are all fine, no PCOS. No infertility. Sad story. It’s not like you just go to the doctor, take some drugs, and magically turn into a healthy woman.”
Special conditions that made charting challenging varied from postpartum, breastfeeding, infertility, repeated miscarriage, PCOS, too much mucus, not enough mucus, unreliable temps, and unusual work schedules. One powerful story shared a woman’s journey beginning in the long hard fight against breast cancer. “Because we don’t know how chemo will affect me, we are in a period of total abstinence that is indefinite. It has been lonely walking this road. The greatest source of support has been close friends who also practice NFP.” This left us teary eyed and awe struck.
But ultimately, many of you said you were still happy to be using NFP. Despite the struggles, the days of abstinence, the eye rolls over your choice to go counter to the rest of our culture, and everything in between. Emily K said the most rewarding joy was the self knowledge, self respect, and sense of responsibility NFP gave her marriage: “It has added years to our marriage, another child, and a rewarding line of work.”
Many said that cultivating intimacy outside of sexual relations was challenging, especially during the most fertile times when your body wants sexual intimacy the most, but “back rubs, cooking for each other, hanging out etc.” did provide a special bond that hormonal contraception never could. Ginnie H said, “Even if it’s hard to say no sometimes, it’s nice not having sex all the time.”
So the honeymoon period? (The much awaited period of infertile sex after the fertile window.) It was mixed reviews. Hillary S. said “There is a much richer and more satisfying sense of intimacy when we are able to come together each month. It’s a reminder that we can’t rely solely on sex for intimacy.” Jodi L challenged this often acclaimed notion: “I don’t buy it (the monthly honeymoon). NFP and getting good at NFP is tremendously hard at times.” But Mary S. said that despite the challenges, “Fertility is a gift. We’re proud to use NFP and we wouldn’t want to live our married life any other way.” An anonymous reader called NFP love “unfiltered.”
So that’s it folks. We were blown away by your honesty. Thanks for all of your responses. In the spirit of NFP Awareness week, we embrace it all!
Photo: by Pedro Ribeiro Simões