Mary McCarthy: NFP: The Natural and Safe Alternative to Birth Control

Body Image

Cloth Diapers

Sign up for and log-in to your FREE GentleParents e-mail account here!

Subscribe to gentleparents mailing list

Have you ever wondered what all the hype is about Natural Family Planning (NFP)? As more and more women realize the harmful side effects of the Pill, implants, and other barrier methods of birth control, they search for a more natural birth control option. NFP is exactly that and is gaining popularity as a safe, healthy, and highly effective (99%) method of birth control.

First of all, what is it? NFP refers to the practice of avoiding or achieving pregnancy according to an informed awareness of a woman's fertility. NFP is NOT the old “Calendar Rhythm” method. Many people refer to NFP as the “Rhythm” method but this simply is not true. Calendar Rhythm was a method where a woman’s fertility period was based upon an average of other women’s fertility cycles, thus not accurate at all. On the other hand, NFP is based upon your own individual cycle and is perfect for women who have irregular cycles.

This article will concentrate on the Sympto-Thermal method, which is highly scientific and is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy (the same effectiveness as the Pill). With the Sympto-Thermal method, a woman observes her fertility signs; normal cervical mucus secretions and her waking temperature and then records the signs on a daily observation chart. Using NFP is actually a very simple yet accurate indication of a woman’s fertile time. The method can be used either to prevent or to attain pregnancy.

There are numerous advantages to using NFP over the Pill or other barrier methods. Here are some frequently asked questions about NFP:

Is using NFP safe and what are the side effects?
Yes! Using NFP is 100% natural and there are NO side effects, no drugs, no devices, no health risks at all. In fact, with the use of NFP, many women have discovered a health problem, just by studying their charts and discussing them with a health practitioner. One acquaintance of mine from college started to use NFP and after only two months of charting discovered that she had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Another woman realized that she could not get pregnant because of a problem with her thyroid. She had been charting for months and by studying them with her doctor, they quickly realized the underlying reason for her infertility. Fortunately she did not have to go through months, or maybe even years of infertility treatments to get pregnant.

But my doctor told me the Pill has minimal side effects!
There are side effects for every drug available, otherwise they would not have to be approved by the FDA! There are so many side effects of using the Pill that there is not enough room in this article to list them all. Some of the more common side effects are an increased risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, endometrial and ovarian cancer, liver tumors, blood clots, high blood pressure, cycle irregularities, miscarriages, headaches, migraines, cramps, bloating, nausea, vaginal infections, gall bladder disease, mental depression, loss of sexual drive, etc. In addition, there are also risks for using the other barrier methods, including increased birth defects for women who use spermicides.

Special note for nursing mothers: You should NOT take the Pill while breastfeeding. Artificial hormones pass from the mother’s breast milk to the baby; the Pill also decreases both the quantity and protein content of the milk produced.

What are the costs associated with using NFP?
Fortunately, there are minimal costs associated with using NFP and there are no continuing costs once you learn the method. There is a one-time fee to attend a series of four classes. After learning the method there is no other charge and you will have a life-long knowledge of your body and your fertility.

How much time does it take to practice NFP?
This is a popular question and surprisingly, for the amount of knowledge one gains from using NFP there is minimal time invested. Every morning a woman will take her temperature and record it on her chart. Then sometime during the day she will observe her mucus pattern. Both of these steps take about five minutes out of her day. It is such a small time investment for the benefits received.

Is it difficult to remember to take the daily observations?

This is also another popular question and in return, I always ask people if they remember to brush their teeth every morning. It takes about 21 days to make a lifelong habit and soon taking daily observations becomes second nature.

Why do my husband and I use NFP?
Well certainly because of the above reasons, but one of the hidden secrets of using NFP is that is actually has a low divorce rate, 4.2% to be exact. Couples who use other forms of birth control experience a divorce rate of almost 60%. So why is using NFP healthier for your marriage? Couples who use it find that periodic abstinence helps keep their sexual relationship exciting. Actually, the phase after fertility is sometimes referred to as the “Honeymoon Phase.” Think about it, if you are away from your spouse for the weekend, you are very excited, perhaps even more excited than usual, to see you your spouse again. The same is true for periodic abstinence.

Using NFP also increases better communication between spouses and gives them a deeper respect for each other. When you have the option every month to create a baby, many issues are discussed that otherwise would go unsaid. The problem with the Pill and with other methods of birth control is that every day you take a pill, but no one ever seems to talk about issues that affect each other. NFP builds a strong communicative foundation for marriage.

Women begin to see themselves in a new light and by educating themselves about their fertility they are empowered. Men, too begin to respect their wives even more once they begin to understand their wife’s fertility.

Interested in learning more about NFP? Contact the Couple to Couple League by visiting their website at to find a class near you, or call them at (513) 471-2000 for more information.

Mary and her husband Tim are Certified Promoters of NFP through the Couple to Couple League. They have one son, Timmy and are the owners of
Comfy Bummy Diapers . They are currently charting to achieve a second pregnancy.

Visit our sister site for all of your natural mothering needs.