How Natural is NFP?

If you’re using NFP, chances are  you’ve encountered well-meaning friends or family that wish to express  their concern over your choice of family planning. The issue of whether  or not one should pry into such a private matter remains for another  topic, but I hope to address one argument that is sometimes thrown at  people trying to live NFP. Perhaps you weren’t even sure how to respond  to this one: Is NFP really that much more “natural” than other forms of  birth control?

 couple1After all, there is the  laborious time and attention taken to one’s charting and interpretation.  There is the aligning of your sex life with the defined fertile or  infertile times, based on how you’re using it. That sometimes doesn’t  feel very natural. And then there is that thermometer you have to  pop in your mouth every morning. Isn’t that an artificial “device”,  much the same as a condom, or IUD? And what about all those great  charting apps you can use to store your cycle history? You don’t see any  of the above waving around in the breeze of a grassy meadow, ripe for  the plucking. Nope, they’re right, the thermometer and apps can be  thrown in with the rest, all produced from technology and definitively  “artificial”. But we don’t try to deny it. Those of us who practice NFP  aren’t against all things artificial.

What Does “Natural” Mean?

So what then, does the “N” in  NFP stand for? Often people misunderstand what “natural” means. They  might assume it just means “easy”, in the same sense of breathing.  Breathing doesn’t require any thought or self-control. It just happens.  Shouldn’t NFP just “happen”, too, if it really made sense?

But we have to understand the  definition of “natural”, as it is applied here. Natural means “congruent  with our human nature”. It means not taking a pill every day of your  cycle in order to address the small fraction of days that you actually  are fertile. It means choosing to abstain from intercourse on days that  you know pregnancy would result, instead of using a condom on a fertile  day, which, if the condom tore, would introduce the very possibility  (nay, probability) you are intending to avoid. It also means knowing  that using condoms on infertile days are pointless and detract from the  experience of oneness that sex is naturally supposed to create. In sum,  NFP is natural in that we get to truly learn what our bodies are capable  of doing, and work with a normally functioning system.

Understand vs. Alter

So NFP isn’t always akin to  breathing, and we also use artificial devices like eyeglasses and  medication. We even may apply something artificially-made to family  planning. But what is the function of that artificial device? Eyeglasses  correct a vision problem. Medication treats a disease. But what  disease, then, does “the pill” treat? What’s wrong with the woman’s body  that “the pill” corrects? There comes the rub: our fertility is not a  disease. Healthy fertility is a sign of a healthy hormonally balanced  woman. The fundamental difference between NFP and contraception as they  relate to things artificial, is that when we use a device like a  thermometer for NFP, we use it to understand our body, not alter it. We use it to embrace the natural changes in our body, not suppress  them. In turn we get to experience our bodies as they were intended to  be, to treat them as the gifts that they are. We get to appreciate the  various seasons of change, and invite our spouses into that same  appreciation. And when things aren’t working quite the way they should,  NFP gives us the tools to really get to the root of the problem, instead  of throw a bandaid on it.

So sure, we can tout the “all  naturalness” of NFP…the lack of side effects, the lack of artificial  hormones, the absence of cancer risk. But beyond that we can also say  that NFP is so much more natural than what is at the surface. The  natural of NFP means that I understand my fertility. ·I accept it and work with it. It means that I can truly embrace my body as it was intended to be.