As we celebrate Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week July 21-27, Catholic Times is highlighting the physical, spiritual, and psychological benefits of NFP, the health risks associated with birth control, and the reasons why the Catholic Church promotes NFP.
So, what is NFP? The United States Council of Catholic Bishops writes that NFP is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and avoid pregnancies. These methods are based on observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Couples using NFP to avoid pregnancy abstain from intercourse during the fertile phase of the woman’s cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy.
Brad and Audrey Bolt of Edwardsville are parishioners at St. Boniface and have been married for eight years. The couple has been blessed with two children, Pier Giorgio, 3, and Giovanni Paul (due date Aug. 26). Catholic Times Editor Andrew Hansen caught up with the young couple to discuss why they practice NFP, how it has helped their marriage, and why they would encourage other couples to practice NFP.
Why do you two practice Natural Family Planning?
Audrey: We started NFP because we were hoping to conceive a child. As we were exposed to the rationale behind NFP, we were in awe of the focus on the dignity of the individual. It cultivates communication between the spouses and works with the woman’s reproductive cycle. NFP caused us to learn more about what was going on in the woman’s reproductive cycle, and it helped us navigate through the infertility we were experiencing as a couple.
Was it challenging learning NFP and if so, how did you go about learning it?
Brad: No, it was not difficult to initially learn NFP because we met with an NFP practitioner who taught us the Creighton Model Fertility Care System. She trained us to identify fertile signs and taught us how to chart. We were thankful to have her as a resource as we started the process.
Did anything surprise you about practicing NFP?
Brad: I was surprised about how little I knew about the woman’s reproductive cycle. For example, I had never heard of fertile mucus. I knew women typically had their periods once a month, but I did not know how the entire reproductive cycle worked in order to achieve a pregnancy.
How has NFP helped your relationship?
Audrey: NFP helped my relationship with Brad because it forced me to talk to him not only about planning our family, but about all topics revolving around intimacy and our bodies. I felt more bonded with him because we were talking about those topics that were not typically brought up.
Many women are taking contraceptives. Describe the health benefits of practicing NFP compared to taking contraceptives.
Audrey: It is completely natural and does not throw your body out of whack! I feel like God did a pretty good job designing our bodies to function as they should. I have found when I work with my body instead of against it, it functions better, I sleep better, I am in a better mood, I physically feel better, my mind is more clear, my skin is clearer, I can manage my emotions better and the benefits are endless. When I was in college, my cycles were not normal and out of naivete, I took birth control since the doctor said it would help with my cycles. It did cause me to bleed, but I did not have a cycle. It made me feel anxious, moody, and affected my sleep, from what I could observe at the time. Thankfully, I did not experience extreme side effects such as weight gain, acne, nausea, etc., but it did affect the way my body functioned.
Why would you encourage other couples to practice NFP?
Brad: I would encourage other couples to practice NFP because it is a way to work with the woman’s reproductive cycle instead of trying to control it through medications which can be damaging to the woman. It also provided me with the opportunity to be more in tune with my wife’s reproductive cycle making me realize we were a team in all areas, including her fertility.
Audrey: I would recommend it because it can unite a couple, help strengthen their marriage, and opens the door to beautiful conversations that may be left unspoken without practicing NFP. In addition, it has helped remind me that God needs to be first and will best guide our marriage, as opposed to the world and all the distractions that try to guide us, only leaving us lost and empty. After learning NFP, I was motivated to help my body cycle naturally.