Myth #1: It’s the Rhythm Method
When they hear “Natural Family Planning”, many think of the method their grandmother talked of using. The rhythm method, also known as the calendar method, is in fact very simple. It consists of abstaining on a specific set of days that would typically occur near ovulation.
Unfortunately, this method only worked for avoiding pregnancy if the woman using it had very regular and standard length cycles. Many factors render this method unreliable. Breastfeeding, irregular cycles, stress and illness can all affect the timing of ovulation and render this method useless.
If the key to avoiding a pregnancy is to abstain from sex near ovulation, then without guessing from a calendar, how do we know when this is going to occur?
Thankfully, there are now many scientific methods for effectively predicting ovulation. Methods today look at several factors in the female body to predict when an ovulation is likely to occur. Temperature, cervical mucus, cervical position, and hormones in the urine all contribute to these predictions and are used to varying degrees in the Sympto-Thermal, Creighton, Marquette and Billings methods. Women using these methods chart their cycles on paper or using a phone app and abstain from sex on their fertile days. The methods are effective up to 99.6%, which is similar to other artificial methods out there.
Myth #2: It’s Catholic Birth Control
So, if it’s just as effective, isn’t it just Catholic Birth Control? The short answer is… not really. When you look at the purpose of sex, it’s about getting closer to your spouse and having some fun… but it’s also about making babies. These two purposes, unity and procreation, are equally important which is why you must never have one without the other. Sex for fun but not babies (sex using contraceptives) is going against one of the purposes of sex. In a similar manner, babies without sex (In-vitro fertilisation) is also going against one of the purposes.
Natural Family Planning isn’t only used for avoiding pregnancy. Once learned, the methods can also help couples achieve pregnancy faster by timing intercourse close to ovulation.
When a couple wants to avoid pregnancy, they can use natural family planning to time it such that they are very unlikely to conceive a baby. Every sexual act must still remain unitive and procreative. The couple is also asked to only do this when they have a serious reason. What’s a serious reason? Well, that’s different for everyone. It could be financial, physical health, or mental health. Still for some, it could be that they just want a bit more spacing between kids.
Myth #3: It’s easy
One of the realities is that using Natural Family Planning is far from easy. It is for this reason that it is difficult to use Natural Family Planning without a serious reason: when the method requires more effort than just raising a baby, it’s easy to see why couples would decide to throw caution to the wind and just have another! For those who have serious reasons to avoid however, it is still worth the work.
What kind of work? Some methods require you to take your temperature at the same time every day, and every method requires you to make notes every single day about your fertility. If you fail to do this, you greatly reduce the effectiveness of the method. On top of that, every method requires periodic abstinence during the time of the cycle where you are most likely to want to go ahead and have sex. This can sometimes create conflict with couples and impact their relationships. What happens when couples work together to resolve conflict? It can improve their relationship in the long run. That said, Natural Family Planning is the only method of avoiding pregnancy approved by the Catholic Church.
Don’t they say everything worth doing requires some effort? And if it means going to heaven, I’m willing.