The Church teaches us how to be good, holy, and loving. She allows us to grow in our relationship with Christ and one another. As a part of this mission, married couples are asked to be open to life. The marital embrace is love-giving and life-giving.
When it comes to our human sexuality, knowing our body and the beautiful way we were created by God is important. As women, knowing our cycle and our times of fertility enables us to respect our body. One way we can do this is by learning Natural Family Planning (NFP) and incorporating NFP into our daily lives.
Why Not Contraceptives?
Within our marriage, my husband and I have chosen to use NFP. We could have chosen to use hormonal contraceptives instead, but we didn’t and still don’t. Why not?
Makes Your Body Think You’re Pregnant
Hormonal contraceptives were actually designed to make a woman’s body “think” and work like it is pregnant, but with a monthly bleed (depending on what contraceptive you use). The scientists ending up creating a mix of synthetic hormones that allow a woman to have a withdrawal bleed thus creating the placebo effect that her body is cycling regularly.
Learning more about the birth control pill and other forms of hormonal contraceptives, I learned that these items were pumping artificial hormones into the woman’s body. As women, we have four main hormones that fluctuate throughout our cycle. Knowing that, as a woman, I already had so many hormones that went up and down, putting more hormones that were man-made would most likely only cause additional emotional and physical turmoil.
Women Die from Hormonal Contraceptives
Digging a little deeper, I learned that when the pill came out, many women died and became extremely sick. What happened next? The scientists lowered the dosage of artificial hormones and still prescribed the pill. Do women still die and get sick from the pill? Yes. Plus new research is showing that the body is more affected by the pill than originally thought (this is why when the pill is prescribed, they have all those warnings on the label in small print).
Group 1 Carcinogen
The chance of dying and becoming sick was alarming to me, but not as much as when I learned that the pill is a group 1 carcinogen. It’s lumped into the same category as asbestos and formaldehyde which is illegal to have in any building. It causes cancer and if people don’t want asbestos and formaldehyde in buildings, I knew I didn’t want the pill in my body if it was like those two things. My husband also didn’t want this.
The last thing that bothered me about the pill was it can be an abortifacient. What does that mean? It can cause a woman to have an abortion without her even being aware of it. It alters the woman’s endometrium lining (making it toxic or unhospitable) which doesn’t allow for the baby to implant. Thus the abortion happens.
It’s Not Just the Pill…
I mainly focused on the pill since this is given not only as a form of birth control, but also to women as a way to help with acne, heavy or irregular periods, and more. If a woman is given this for these symptoms, it’s merely a band-aid as it is covering up the root cause of her acne, heavy/irregular periods, and possibly causing more harm to her body and future fertility issues since the pill has fake sex hormones within it.
Any type of hormonal birth control (IUDs, patches, injections, vaginal ring, etc. ) puts synthetic hormones into the body and acts similar to the pill.
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Benefits of Using NFP
With learning this about hormonal contraceptives and knowing how taking these can have negative impacts on marriage, relationships, and the environment, NFP seemed to be the best option. There are many benefits in using NFP.
When using the guidelines/rules to postpone or avoid pregnancy, NFP methods are 99% effective. This is just as effective as any hormonal contraceptive.
*Note: Some women experience hyper-fertility that can make navigating their cycles more difficult.
A big benefit to us is that NFP is completely natural. Nothing is ever put in or on my body or my husband’s body.
NFP is a way to track the woman’s fertility. That is why a woman does not have to wait until she is engaged or married to learn an NFP method.
Fertility Awareness is a life changer. One woman I know used NFP for 20+ years. She was starting to go through menopause and noticed some unusual things with her cycle. With being perimenopausal, she should have been seeing less fertile signs, but instead, she was seeing some extremely fertile signs. She went to the doctor and was checked for cervical cancer (they checked her cervix because this is where the woman’s mucus is made and mucus is one sign of fertility).
The first time she was checked, the cancer test came back negative, yet this woman still felt like something was wrong. She went back to her doctor and she asked him where he took the swab from to check for cancer and he indicated it was from the lower part of her cervix. With her knowledge of NFP, she asked him to check again, but to take the swab from the upper part of the cervix. The doctor did that. Later, when she got the results back, she did actually have cervical cancer.
Now, if she would not have been her own advocate, knew how her body worked, and was paying attention to her signs, she would have never known she had cancer. Crazy, right?
My husband and I work together as a team. When it comes to our fertility and planning our family, that responsibility does not just fall on me and what I’ve discerned within prayer. We are working together and communicating constantly about what is going on with my body during the different times of the month. We are praying about our family and what the Lord wants for us.
Identify Emotions and Feelings that Go Along with Hormones
It is helpful to know my body and how my hormones are working because then my husband can deal with my wide range of emotions a little better. Depending on the time of the month, I can be extremely irritated or lovey-dovey and that all has to do with the change in my hormones.
Charting has allowed me to have more control over my emotions and feelings as well. Now since I know what to expect at the different times of my cycle, I’m more prepared.
Communication is huge in life, especially married life. When my husband and I are talking about our family and what our future looks like in regards to the choices we make using fertile or infertile time, all other aspects of our marriage (financial, emotional, spiritual) seem to be easier to talk about. We reveal more to each other. We collaborate. Our selfishness diminishes and we look out for the other person more. We grow in virtue, especially in times of abstinence.
Open to Life and Love
It allows us to be completely open to life and love. We work at winning each other’s heart every day. My husband likes to say he’s always trying to get his master’s degree in Ann, which means he’s always figuring out how to please me and understand how I think. I value this since it shows me how much he cares about my well-being.
Allows for Responsible Parenthood
Being open and honest with each other is a must. With NFP, you are inclined to do this since every month there is a chance of becoming pregnant and welcoming a new baby within nine months. Being responsible parents is important and NFP allows us to do that.
In Line with the Church’s Teachings
Lastly, NFP falls in line with the Catholic Church’s teaching on family planning. This is important to us. We never shut God out of the picture. He gives us life and helps us value each one of my cycles. Every month we prayerfully discern what He’s asking of us and how he’s guiding us for our future family.
We are thankful for NFP and all that it has brought to our married lives. There are times when NFP can be challenging. Yet through this challenge, a couple grows in virtue. Being love-giving and life-giving allows for freedom. It allows for a couple to grow in virtue and their love for each other and the Lord.
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Ann Marschel is a licensed teacher who is currently a stay-at-home mom. She loves to be with her family, go on walks, spend time in nature talking with Jesus, and teaching the Billings Ovulation Method (NFP). You can find out more about her here.