Tag Archives: NFP

Something nasty in the culture can make NFP fail.

temp-chart-and-scanPeople use NFP for a couple of reasons; a), because of fertility issues, and b) because of a religious understanding. The second reason tends to be found among Catholics, Evangelicals, Orthodox and Orthodox Jews.

For those who use NFP because of God’s Truth, it surely must be tied into a relationship with Him. And, surely that should mean a respectful marital relationship. But, just occasionally – and thankfully, it is just occasionally – I come across a situation in which the “rules” are being more or less obeyed, but the commandment to love isn’t.

It is sad, but even in otherwise Christ centred marriages the toxicity of the culture can leave it’s mark. There are stories of people using NFP for selfish reasons. I personally haven’t come across this, but the culture affects all of us, no matter how hard we try to keep it at bay, so I wouldn’t be surprised to know there’s a lot of such stories. The Catholic Church teaches that couples can use NFP to avoid pregnancy for ‘just reasons’ (iusta causa HV 16) but there’s been some unfortunate retranslations that use the word “grave” instead of “just” and on the opposite side “any” seems to have replaced the word “just”. In both extremes it’s the toxic culture that has made things tilt wrongly.

One effect of this toxicity is that couples are often very unsure about when to be open to a new child, and when to use NFP to avoid a pregnancy. The “Is this a serious enough reason…?” questions get asked for often than “Should I be avoiding for this..?” end of questions, but there are issues on both ends of the scale.

But now, I have come across a couple of incidents in which I think the “a man must have sex whenever he likes” side of the culture has crept into the good Catholic bedroom.

The first case I came across was some years ago. A woman in what came across as a very abusive marriage asked if she could use contraception to avoid pregnancy because her husband was ignoring her desperate pleas to not get pregnant again. She had a number of young children and was both physically and mentally unwell. She was so desperate she had moved into another bedroom but he was forcing himself on her anyway. I have to admit being very angry that the official response she received was that contraception is a sin so she must use NFP if she had serious reason…blah blah. Not at all helpful for her awful situation.

Then recently I’ve heard a husband complaining that his wife is using contraception to avoid pregnancy and he wants to follow the Church: all very commendable, but then he said in passing that they’d had two unplanned babies and that his wife is very ill during pregnancy and that he didn’t mind having another one.  So he is quite happy for another whoops-baby even though he knows his wife will be made very ill! No wonder she’s taken to contraception.

Whenever the Big Names blog about NFP, the row in the combox starts. On the one side are those who have had to use NFP, on the opposite are those who’ve never needed it and can’t believe anyone ever does. In the middle are those who can’t get pregnant, with those who have had problems with pregnancy avoidance, and finally those who don’t give a fig what Jesus wants, they’ll do what they want thanks a lot.

But underlying a lot of the ranting is the culture’s insistence that having sex whenever you like is vitally important. So there are those who go along with this, or who react to extremely against it, they fall off the other side of the raft.

There’s a reason the Church hasn’t handed us a list of “just causes” to avoid pregnancy. It’s because She thinks we are supposed to be grownups when we marry. An adult marriage means proper love for one another with Christ in the centre and if things get genuinely difficult your PP should have some advice (and that’s another problem, but I won’t tackle it now).

We are supposed to consider the children we have and each other in a decision to have another baby or avoid pregnancy. In doing so a lot of prayer has to be said and in difficult cases a wise spiritual adviser can help.

Contraception is always grave matter because it separates the life giving aspects of the sexual act. Sex is for marriage and children. It’s why it’s grave matter to have sex outside of marriage.  But just as deliberately refusing the life God would give you, willfully, is a mortal sin; deliberately ignoring the health of your spouse, just because you want sex and don’t care about the consequences is also a sin, and an attack on the Covenant bond.

It’s not easy to love someone else. If it was, God wouldn’t have had to make a command of it. But if we follow the Golden Rule and Love God first, loving the other isn’t as hard. As St. Augustine was supposed to have said, “Love God, and do as you like.” That is, IF you love God, you will like doing things His way.

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Are more Catholic women ditching contraception in favour of real marriage and health?

“For forty years this generation wearied me, And I said their hearts are wondering and they do not know My ways; and I swore in My anger that they would never see My place of rest.” (Ps 95:10-11)

As families are torn apart by selfishness, divorce, and loneliness more and more women and couples are turning away from the generation of contraception and genuinely seeking God’s will in their lives. If what I am seeing is anything to go by, it isn’t just Catholic couples who are turning their noses up at drugs and surgery that breaks a healthy part of the body, and has damaged marriage so badly, that perhaps even the prophets of the inevitable didn’t see it coming.

No Christian church/community believed that contraception was in any way allowed until after the Church of England Lambeth Conference in 1930 were contraception was deemed allowable to a married couple in very extreme circumstances.

The wise and Spirit led Pope Pius XI immediately responded with Casti Connubii (1930) which reiterated, strongly, the 2000 year teaching of Christ and His Church. But the damage from England spread out and soon other churches were allowing contraception and more horribly Christians began to favour killing the unborn children who were conceived despite the contraceptive use.

By the time Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council the state of families was already a concern. But it had nowhere near reached the depths we face now.

When the Cassandraesque prophecies of Pope Paul VI were published in Humanae Vitae in 1968, he was ignored or vilified.  It is with sadness and in many cases bitterness and anger that many (especially women) of my generation have learned he was right.

Most people my age in the Western Church didn’t get much catechesis in school or family life. We grew up with a set of Jesuses from “He can’t wait to send you to hell” Jesus to hippy-stoned- do-whatever-feels-good-Jesus; and a plethora of Jesuses in between. We were given, at best, mixed messages about sex and marriage and left to fend for ourselves.  For many that lead to chemical contraception with all its side effects both physically, emotionally and spiritually as well as broken relationships and complications in marriage.

And from what I can gather it wasn’t just Catholics getting out the golden calf religion. Other Christians were doing just as badly, if not worse than us.

But the generation is done and the next generation are growing up and they don’t want the deal my generation got. They want the Truth – all of it. As the Church is improving in getting her message across more and more couples, and particular women, are asking for a better deal in marriage, more respect for their/our bodies and more love and generosity in accepting and parenting our children.

Jennifer Fulwiler has written a lovely observation on all this. Some of the comments show the change in thought and the massive obstacles in moving from  the “contraceptive mentality” to open to life and God’s will in our lives. There are those who find any of the forms of Natural Family Planning very difficult. One person even found the Marquette method hard.

Personally I have to admit to some irritation (and surprise) that the best way of learning NFP for me has been from secular sources. Fertility Friend.com which has a huge number of charts to be studied so you can learn to spot stuff on your own chart.  and the Toni Weschler book, Those are the resources I recommend when I’m helping someone chart.

We had some lessons from the Couple to Couple league as well which was a great help, especially as we were learning while I was breastfeeding!

A properly recorded NFP chart can tell you a whole lot about your health, or lack thereof. It will tell you when to catch that twinkle from God’s eye and when you can avoid doing so.

In a Christian marriage, child spacing should be done with prayer, not just with charts. The Church says we can avoid pregnancy for just reasons; which includes financial, emotional and physical health reasons. There is no church teaching that says a couple have to have as many children as possible no matter what. God isn’t nearly as stupid as some people want to think He is.

Having children is a massive responsibility and a joy; it should be a three way decision, God, husband and wife. Sometimes God gives a child even when you don’t think you’re ready, and sometimes He doesn’t give you one when you think you are ready and ask Him for one. Whatever He does He provides the grace required, you just have to accept and use it.

I think I’ll write a post on the health issues that charting can spot.

Teaching teens NFP.

Parents need to have the various talks with their children on how their body is changing, and where babies come. It doesn’t just happen in “the talk” and it is a very bad idea to leave it to school (especially if your children don’t go to school).

So, you’ve got past the initial stage of body changes and hygiene and now (for girls) it’s how to monitor your cycle.It’s not uncommon for girl’s cycles to be irregular in the early years and there’s often other things going on that can make a girl’s life (and those who live with her) difficult.  So many crisis pregnancy workers (pro-life) mention that the young mothers know almost nothing about the way their own bodies work. As parents we carry a responsibility to ensure our children are properly prepared for adult life.

There are a number of initial symptoms a girl can look out for, spots, cramps, cravings, mood hair changes (getting greasy or dry) Then there are other things such as extra bleeding, long cycles, overly short cycles and so on that can be seen almost immediately. Many women say that just knowing to take a painkiller the day before a period is due can make managing serious cramps much easier.

Once the young lady is charting well enough she could introduce temperatures as well. Lots of people find the symto-thermal method really useful, especially if there are health problems going on. Temps are a sure way of spotting an underactive thyroid.

Pinpointing ovulation is not the main reason to chart, at this point, but knowing more or less so that the luteal phase can be seen is a good indicator of health. It’s astonishing what doctors will say to girls and women that is completely untrue. For example, having a bleed every month is NOT a sign that you are ovulating every month, or at all. Anovulatory bleeding is different from a period, but you need to have charted for a while to spot the difference.

I saw more than one friend have hormonal bloods taken at completely the wrong time in their cycle so the results were inconclusive. (I dx a friend’s PCOS more than 2 years before she finally got the medics to dx it).

There are ways of dealing with problems using vitamin regimes but these must be properly planned and researched. Just taking multi-vits is no help at all.

To begin with a girl can mark on her calendar when each period begins. She can then mark those days as  (H)eavy (M)edium (L)ight and (S)potting. Basic symptoms such as pain, mid-pain (if she notices this or has it), spots, hair and skin changes, mood changes, nausea, breast pain…and so on can be added and then basic mucus patterns. Finally she can learn to use a BBT thermometer.

Using the BBTT isn’t difficult especially if your daughter wakes up a regular time. She can sit up in bed and take her temp which shouldn’t be more than a couple of minutes and just note it down. It is less accurate if she works shifts or keeps irregular hours – but one might consider that a young lady should not be keeping irregular hours.

PCOS and endometriosis, along with thyroid problems, blocked tubes or other issues can be seen once you are used to the chart. So many women don’t get proper medical help because they don’t see for themselves what’s happening, and shamefully doctors will just prescribe the Pill for anything.

Some resources to help parents learn enough to pass it on;

Antonia who commented on my first post mentioned TeenSTAR which looks like a good set up.

The Billings Method

Fertility Friend  I highly recommend this site as a mine of useful information. I learned loads from here. You can also learn about the Symto thermal method from CCL

Taking Charge of your fertility (not Christian) excellent information with easy charting.

Creighton Model

Standard Days method (Don’t know much about this method but I’ve heard good things. Beads look helpful)

BOOKS I HAVE and have either read and used or intend to read.

The Art of Natural Family Planning This was our “bible” of NFP for a long time. It’s pretty complicated and these days I wouldn’t remember half the bit’n’pieces in it. It is very good and gives the whole kit’n’caboodle of the sympto-thermal model, including charting while breastfeeding and though perimenopause to menopause.

I have the NaPro book for us ordinary folk. The medical tome is very big and very expensive so I’m grateful this version has been published.

Patrick Coffin’s book Sex au Naturel is also on my “to read” list. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Coffin and so I am guessing this will be an excellent book.

When or should teens learn NFP? (pt I)

I’ve designed a very simple chart to teach my adult daughter the basics of NFP. If she finds it easy to use I will use the same chart to help a friend’s dd learn. My friend who is fighting breast cancer is very determined her daughter wont be taking what even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has as a Class 1 carcinogenic, chemical contraceptives. More and more women are becoming aware of the horrible side effects and serious repercussions of using any contraceptive, but especially the chemical ones. They want better for their daughters. Thankfully Catholic medical people have long ago come up with safe, effective methods of natural family planning.

Unfortunately NFP is too often advertised as being 98% effective (or more depending on the study and which method of NFP) in spacing pregnancies, as though that’s the only reason to use it. It’s true that all methods are good at avoiding pregnancy if that is what a couple needs to do, but there’s far more to NFP than that.

And that raises the question of when or whether to teach our teenage daughters how to chart and whether unmarried women should bother. Most women who use NFP will agree that learning to chart before you are married is way easier and better than learning while breastfeeding or when a crisis has hit the family.

The number one reason I want my daughters to learn in their late teens, is health reasons. Not that long ago a young wife saved her own life when her chart picked up she had cancer. Many of the methods will identify basic fertility problems or hormone imbalances, but a complete symptom chart such as Creighton or even basic symto-thermal methods will show all sorts of health problems up front so they can be fixed.

I have self-solved two major problems that showed up clearly in charts. While the hospital staff insisted that miscarriages can “just happen” I was aware that mine were a result of luteul phase defect. This means that the time after ovulation was too short, meaning there wasn’t enough progesterone in my system. High doses of Evening Primrose Oil for the first half of my cycle along with a large fresh carrot a day for just the right amount of Vit A kicked everything back into gear and Heleyna came along. All NFP methods are just as good for catching that twinkle from God’s eye as in postponing pregnancy.

Not long after that my temps nose dived to below 96.7 F. all the time. This is a sure sign of thyroid problems (hypo not hyper) so I took a load of sea kelp which is rich in iodine and kicked those temps back up to healthy levels.

Spend any time on Fertility Friend studying other people’s charts and you’ll soon spot all sorts of health patterns that if you see on your chart you can learn to deal with, or find a doctor who will help (In the UK where even midwives have NO IDEA about charting this is a massive challenge).

I want my daughters to know their own bodies, respect themselves and be on the ball for health and fertility.  Simcha Fisher has just written on this (mentioning that a friend of hers has done what I have done and made a simple chart) a day after a friend and I were discussing it with my oldest daughter.

My next question on this issue is which method to teach first? My simple chart is essentially the Billings Method with room for some basic symptoms such as cramping, but as Simcha mentions spot break out and mood are also important for girls to recognise.

There are a couple of downsides in charting. The number one problem is that there are next to no doctors or midwives who have any clue about it. That wouldn’t be so bad if they would listen to the person who does know about it, but most of the time they refuse to accept the mere patient has any knowledge. Now I’ve come across two professionals who were not like this. I spoke to a GP about my luteul phase defect and he actually listened and said he was really interested in learning more about NFP as he could see it would help women’s help. God bless him.

The second person was a midwife. I was in hospital after having a baby (can’t remember which one) and it had obviously been a conversation point at the nurses station that I used NFP. One of the midwives came to ask my advice. She admitted that in all her training not one day was spent on NFP and yet a friend of hers desperately trying to get pregnant kept sending her charts, begging for help.

So, learning NFP can pinpoint all sort of things, but when should a teenage girl start to learn, and what should she be taught?

Teaching NFP to our teens; when and how? And whether there should be an holistic teaching of NFP as part of family rights and responsibilities.

Talking with a fellow HE mum the other day, I wondered at what point I should be teaching the children not just about NFP, but how to chart.

Obviously, I have taught them (the older ones) what Christ expects of them in terms of chastity, preparation for marriage and marriage itself, but the mechanics of NFP are still, to a large extent, to be taught and learned.

So, when to do it and how? Do I approach the lessons now with my daughter as she is nearly 18? Do I teach the whole kit’n’caboodle to my sons, (aged 20 and 22) or just the bits that will help them help their future spouse? Or do I leave it until they are engaged? That seems a little late. I did wonder about teaching my daughter and getting her to chart for six months just so she had the system, but if her body changes before marriage – and it might – she may need to relearn.

I did wonder about her charting for a while when she was unwell, and we suspected thyroid problems. A chart would have shown it up, but in the end we didn’t get around to it.

So folks, when do you teach yours?

Then there’s the question of which method of NFP to teach. I must admit I think the sympto-thermal method is the most thorough and is excellent at showing health problems and possibly risks to fertility. But the Billings method with symptoms can also be a good aid to spotting health problems, so if a single woman charts, it would really be for health reasons and not fertility or child spacing. I have no doubt that spotting health and fertility problems early is a good thing – getting a doctor to listen, understand and not just prescribe the Pill is a whole new obstacle course.

I am inclined to teach NFP as a complete and graded holistic package, for want of a better word. First of all the children need to know how to eat a healthy diet.

Perhaps the next area I might want to teach is how the endocrine system works. Knowing how hormones are produced and balanced in a healthy person is a massive first step to appreciating the beauty and complexity of fertility, and will hopefully mean my children are well enough educated to avoid the sledge hammer approach of using the Pill to hide, rather than cure, any fertlity problem they might have. Obviously they don’t NEED to know all this to successfully use NFP, but I have met so many women who have problems conceiving or have repeated miscarriages and have no idea how their own body works. Most women I have talked to don’t even know what a Luteul phase is, much less how it might contain the answers to why they miscarried their baby, or can’t get pregnant in the first place.

There are many good reasons for teaching and learning NFP. One is, as Michael pointed out IN THIS POST ON STRONG FAMILIES, that the divorce rate among couples who use a natural approach is around 3% which is significantly lower than the over 50% in the general population.

The separation of sex from having babies has helped increase the distructive influence of pornography. The spread of this poison has been enhanced by technology and very poor supervision of children by parents and other adults.

By teaching our children some self respect, and respect of others we can hopefully curb some of this.

NFP and some interesting science on sexual maturity.

I have been listening to past programs from the Catholic Lab Podcast where Mr Maxwell goes through the science of the Theology of the Body. There’s some fascinating research going on at the moment, which is going very far indeed to vindicate the prophetic words of Pope Paul VI, who of course was only reiterating 2000 years of teaching. Truth doesn’t change.

Anyway one area of research I have been interested in is the research on early menarche and it’s causes. THIS is a short pdf summary of some of the research. More and more evidence is building up to show that girls need a good close relationship with their father for them to have periods at a healthy age, and remain healthy. There is evidence that girls who grow up without a father or with an emotionally distant father will start their physical sexual maturation much earlier than girls in healthy relationships with their father.

It has been found that in the 19thC the average age for a first period was around 16, nowadays it is 13 and girls with absent or distant fathers start much earlier. Evidence is building that shows girls who start earlier will often start sexual activity earlier too and are at a very high chance of teen pregnancy.

Other views about the increase in early menarche link it to environmental factors such as hormones used in raising beef and dairy cattle, and the fact that chemical contraception leaves synthetic estrogens in the water supply. Going by how the research is going the “absent/distant father” factor looks strong, but as life is always more complicated than that there is probably some factors that include food and the concerning problem of artificial estrogens being pumped through the water supply.

UPDATE

On a slightly different note this article and discussion on whether NFP can ever be equated with what has been called “contraceptive mentality,” is very good.

NFP, yes to God and just what is providentialism?

Inside Catholic have run a couple of interesting articles recently that to me at least seem to go together. The great debate on Is NFP Mysogynous? continues in the many comments while Danielle Bean writes her heart rending colomn on what it’s like to say Yes to God even when He is saying “not yet”.

DSCF1164The short answer to the question of whether NFP is mysogynous is simply “of course it isn’t.” NFP empowers women, gives back their health and understanding of their own bodies as well as helping to space babies when there is a serious reason to do so.  For many women it has been the way they have tackled fertility problems and achieved that longed for pregancy. While I think I see where the argument that NFP is anti-women might come from; essentially that NFP is primarily the woman’s responsibility-I just don’t see the problem. As many in the comments posts pointed out contraception is often the woman’s responsibility and with it comes the horrible side effects (as well as the moral problems). Even those areas that men take on have nasty problems associated with them for the men too. NFP is at least safe!

The comments looked at the contraceptive mentality that can lead to the misuse of NFP while others pushed the providentialist line.  I think it is interesting how much debate there is on this subject. The Church teaches in Humanae Vitae that children can be spaced in line with the Will of God. I find it difficult to grasp why some people think they can over ride HV and say using NFP is just contraception and is wrong. 

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