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An Introduction to Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is not contraception. NFP gives a married couple a way to space out childbirths and limit the total number of children. But it does not give the couple complete control over procreation. Even when the couple prayerfully decides to limit their family size, or to wait before having another child, NFP is open to the possibility of life and to the will of God. NFP is used in a moral and praiseworthy manner when the couple, though making responsible decisions about family size, are still willing to accept an unplanned child from God's Providence.

NFP for a Just Reason

In most cases, a couple will use NFP only to limit the total number of children and to provide a space of time between births. They must have a just reason to do so, such as the limited resources of the family and the need to provide for existing children. Most couples today meet this standard and can use NFP to limit family size and space births. It is not moral in such cases to attempt to use NFP so strictly as to eliminate the possibility of conception. Using NFP with a contraceptive intention is immoral. The couples' intentions must be open to life and to the will of God concerning the procreation of children.

NFP for a Grave Reason

If a couple has a serious reason, they may use NFP very strictly, with the aim of avoiding conception entirely. Few couples have such a grave reason, which may include a significant risk to the health or life of the mother if she becomes pregnant, or a similar risk to the health or life of the child. All pregnancies involve some risk, so a grave reason must be well above the ordinary risk of pregnancy.

How NFP Works

Natural Family Planning uses the natural increase and decrease in fertility built into a woman's menstrual cycle to increase or decrease the possibility of conception. There are several different modern effective methods of NFP. Each identifies the most fertile time in a woman's cycle and requires the couple to abstain from sexual intercourse during that time, if they wish to avoid conception.

The Billings Ovulation Method uses observations about changes in a woman's body during her cycle to determine the time when she is most fertile.

The Creighton Model is a modified version of the Billings Ovulation Method.

The Sympto-Thermal Method relies on observations as well as changes in body temperature. It is more effective and more complex than observation-only methods.

The Standard Days Method is a new method of NFP developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University. It does not use observations or temperature. It is an updated calendar method. The couple abstain from sexual intercourse on days 8 through 19 of each cycle; cycles begin on the first day of her period, and cycles must be from 26 to 32 days in length.

The Two-Day Method, also developed at Georgetown, uses observations and a simple two-day rule. It is easier to learn than the Billings or Creighton methods, but somewhat less effective.

Ecological Breast-Feeding or the Lactational Amenorrhea Method is only used by mothers who are breast-feeding a newborn. It allows new mothers to delay the return of ovulation and their periods for weeks or months after a birth. It is the only NFP method that does not require periodic abstinence.

Effectiveness of NFP

The effectiveness of any method of NFP varies from one couple to another.

All NFP methods are significantly less effective for couples who do not follow the method closely.

Older couples are generally less fertile than younger couples.

All NFP effectiveness percentages refer to couples who practice the method correctly and strictly. Different studies show different degrees of effectiveness; there is no single exact number to cite. A 95% method effectiveness would mean that 5 out of 100 women, practicing the method correctly for one year, will get pregnant. Individual effectiveness varies.

The Sympto-Thermal Method: ~99% effective (reference)
The Creighton Method: >98% effective (reference)
The Billings Method: >97% effective (reference)
Two-Day Method: ~96% (reference)
Standard Days Method: ~95% (reference)
Ecological Breast-Feeding (LAM): ~94% effective (reference)


Note: this information is not copyrighted and may be freely reproduced and distributed.

Contact your local parish or diocese for information on NFP classes in your area. Take a course in NFP approved by your local diocese.

To use any NFP method effectively, take a full course of instruction from an experienced NFP teacher.

If you have any medical or reproductive health issues or questions, consult a doctor.
   
Natural Family Planning Links:

Download and Print Out (PDFs)
   An Introduction to NFP (1 page)
   The Standard Days Method® (2 pages)

Overviews and General Info
   Overview of NFP - Institute for Reproductive Health
   Fertility Awareness and Natural Family Planning

The Billing Ovulation Method
   World Organization of the Ovulation Method - Australia
   Billings Centre - Canada
   World Organization of the Ovulation Method - Canada
   Billings Ovulation Method - USA

The Creighton FertilityCare Method
   Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System
   American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals
   FertilityCare Europe
   FertilityCare™ Centers of America
   FertilityCare™ Centre of London
   FertilityCare Australia
   Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction

The SymptoThermal Method
   Overview of STM
   The Couple to Couple League International
   The Couple to Couple in Great Britain

The Standard Days Method®
   The Standard Days Method®
   Developing and Testing the Standard Days Method
   CycleBeads for the Standard Days Method
   The Standard Days Method™ Online Training for Healthcare Professionals

The TwoDay Method®
   The TwoDay Method® - Institute for Reproductive Health
   The TwoDay Method: A Simple & Natural Way to Avoid Pregnancy

The Lactational Amenorrhea Method
   LAM: Another Choice for Mothers
   Ecological Breastfeeding
   Summary of Ecological Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing Program
   Pope John Paul II on Breastfeeding
   Pope Pius XII on Breastfeeding
   Breastfeeding: Does It Really Space Babies?

NaProTechnology
Natural Procreative Technology: medical help for infertility in harmony with NFP
   NaPro FAQ
   NaProTechnology
   Pope Paul VI Institute
   The London Centre for Napro Technology
   Directory of NaPro and FertilityCare Centers