Thursday, January 24, 2013

Whatever Happened to That NFP Series?

Okay, so I was supposed to be writing a series about NFP and it turned into a series of philosophical dialogues about homosexuality instead. Blame the Muses. I do, however, have a lot of things to say about NFP, and that's what I promised, so here goes.
There are seven common things that I hear about NFP from real people on the ground:

1. NFP is so beautiful because it really respects a woman's body and her natural fertility. I'm not married yet, but I'm really looking forward to practicing it. (Naive Family Daydreaming)

2. My spouse and I used/are using NFP to get pregnant, and it's great. (Natural Fertility Promotion)

3. We used NFP to space our ten beautiful children. (No Family Planning)

4. My husband and I used the Pill until we had both nearly reached the age of infertility, but I felt like I was being used and my body wasn't being respected. Now we're using NFP and we both really love it. Right dear? You love it. See, he loves it. (Natural Family Procrastination)

5. My spouse and I are using NFP...supplemented with, uh... (Natural Family Contraception)

6. NFP failed for me last time, but I talked to my instructor and we were able to figure out the minor, niggling mistake that I made in my charting, so the failure was really my fault. Now I'm learning a new method that I hope is going to work better. (Natural Unplanned Pregnancy)

7. My wife is making me use NFP. We never have sex anymore. At least not with each other... (Natural Family Porn Addiction)

NFP is used by approximately 1-2% of the Catholic population in North America. So far as I can tell young, fertile couples who are able to successfully use it to prevent pregnancy in situations of grave necessity are about as common as successfully “repaired” ex-gays. The problem is straight-forward: on the one hand, it would seem that there genuinely are circumstances which may arise where it is not reasonable or responsible for a couple to have another child, and on the other hand the only method of pregnancy avoidance which is permitted by the Church is not very effective when used in accord with the“natural law” as it's usually defined in Catholic discourse on sex.
The efficacy of NFP can be massively increased if it is used in conjunction with “unnatural” acts. I suspect that's why it has had fairly high rates of success in tests by secular organizations like WHO who were primarily testing it with populations that have low access to contraception, but who don't necessarily have any moral problem with mutual masturbation or other...variants. (With regards to this, note the coy references in Billings' handbook.) Trials with religiously motivated North American populations have had high rates of failure, with one commonly cited cause being “complex personal reasons” -- which I think we can take as a euphemism meaning that the couples involved were not able to tolerate the amount of abstinence which the methods demand. The other commonly cited causes of failure (mistakes in charting, failure to chart reliably, uncertainty as to the meaning of the symptoms, etc.) are also only problematic if there is a lot of pressure to get it right. If you can simply say “You know what, I don't know what's going on. It's been a wonky month. We'll try again next month” that radically increases the likelihood that you're going to succeed. The problem is, people who are so indifferent to sex that they don't mind indefinite stretches of celibacy generally do not get married in the first place.
Anyways, that's a teaser. I'm going to resume my series of dialogues now, and I'll write more about this when that series is finished.

39 comments:

  1. I very look forward to the rest of the series. My experience at this point has been a mix of 3 and 6, so I don't have much to say about it. If you haven't already seen it, the comments thread on this Caelum et Terra post hold a lot of thoughtful perspectives from across the spectrum of NFP promoter, practitioners, and haters. http://caelumetterra.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/is-natural-family-planning-really-natural/

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    1. Thanks. I'll check that out. My experience is also a mix of 3 and 6, and I scrupled pretty long and hard about even talking about it for that reason. I finally decided that telling the truth is ultimately more morally valid than telling a lie-of-omission in order to set a "good example."

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  2. You've never heard of a couple who has used NFP succesfully and is nowhere close to celibate? That would be our situation. After coming off several years on the Pill (and condom use), we've used Billings and Sympto-Thermal for 18 years and they've worked just fine. :)

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    1. Hi Leila,

      I've encountered people in the abstract, and there do seem to be a couple of you out there, but I've never met someone where I was in a position to ask the difficult questions or figure out what they're doing differently.

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    2. ...to space your eight beautiful children. You're #3, Leila.

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  3. Maybe I am commenting too soon because you said this was a "teaser." I really, really hope you are going to debunk everything in Part II. Because this piece places way too much emphasis on bad experiences with NFP and draws erroneous conclusions as a result. As one who teaches a natural method, a few thoughts jumped out at me:

    "3. We used NFP to space our ten beautiful children. (No Family Planning)" Huh? "Spacing" IS planning and yes, even 10 children can be "planned" and spaced. Having 10 children does not mean a lack of planning or self-control. Or is it impossible to imagine that some couples want 10 kids?

    "6. NFP failed for me last time, but I talked to my instructor and we were able to figure out the minor, niggling mistake that I made in my charting, so the failure was really my fault. Now I'm learning a new method that I hope is going to work better. (Natural Unplanned Pregnancy)"

    Well, in the method I teach, instructors are specifically trained to NOT assume the client is "at fault." (And using terms like "fault" and "mistake" make pregnancy sound like a curse instead of a blessing. Not to minimize the stress a couple may feel with an unexpected pregnancy - because that stress is real - but talking about "mistakes" and "fault" only adds to the stress, in my opinion.) As an instructor, in the ONE case I've seen a "surprise" pregnancy (and it wasn't a true "surprise" as days of fertility were knowingly selected), I STILL saw how I could have instructed the couple better on a particular charting pattern that would have helped them understand their fertility better, and I told them so. It's not about pointing fingers and blame (or even switching methods).

    Regarding the "winking" research... uh, unless all my clients are pathological liars, I know a LOT of people who use NFP effectively without combining it with contraceptives. And what about research like Dr. Hilgers' that shows natural methods to be 96% effective? His research is very careful to separate out using a natural method vs. a combination of natural and contraceptives.

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    1. Okay...I'm going to deal with a lot more of these in detail later, but two things jumped out at me.
      1. "spacing is planning." I used NFP to successfully space my eight beautiful children (six living, two miscarried). That's what I thought, and that's what I told myself until, after my last miscarriage, my health was bad enough that it was actually essential that I avoid pregnancy for real. At that point I had to be honest with myself and acknowledge that the pregnancies which were "spaced" with NFP were exactly the same distance apart as those "spaced" with no method whatever.
      The second point is that although I don't think your clients are pathological liars, I would never, in a million years, discuss mutual masturbation with my NFP instructor. No way. Nuh uh. And I'm a woman who blogs and speaks about her sexuality to strangers on a regular basis. I did ask my instructor how to deal with the emotional stresses involved in the interpersonal side of NFP, and she said that no one had ever asked her that before. That tells me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that people are not comfortable disclosing a lot of the problems with their NFP instructors. And I'm not surprised by that. It's intensely uncomfortable, especially within the context of NFP culture in which the party line is that NFP is easy to practice, joyful, life-giving, and works for everyone who seriously attempts it.

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    3. Melinda - believe it or not, couples discuss these things with me. Sure, some don't. But I feel like I've heard it all. Also, I am trained to discuss these things with them because with the method I teach (Creighton), all genital contact is considered. I am required to ask the couple about any genital contact too and discuss the definition of genital contact *at each follow-up.*

      I do not mean to discount the stresses that can come with NFP. I do not advocate for a rose-tinted picture of NFP - just a fair one. NFP really does work for many and prolonged abstinence is not required. Obviously, for confidentiality reasons I cannot start parading out personal stories. :) And yes, there are couples who have trouble, but I think it's inaccurate to portray that as the norm.

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    4. Although since I do not have to be confidential regarding my own story, I can say with certainty that NFP has been a great part of my marriage with no struggles with things like mutual masturbation. (Please don't think I am saying *no one* struggles with this, though).

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    5. Sarah, ditto. I am sure some folks struggle with it, but to say that a lot of folks do? It just was never an issue for us, nor any of my girlfriends, and man, do we talk about a lot of things. We are not shrinking violets. I've never heard anyone bring it up.

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    6. No, people don't talk about it. Especially to people who they know do not approve of it.

      Which means they are either (1) driving themselves crazy (2) risking pregnancy (3) feeling guilty about it or (4) feeling guilty about not feeling guilty about it. (Ain't Catholic guilt grand?)

      But does God REALLY care about this? Why are married couples debating mutual masturbation? This isn't a healthy discussion of sexuality.

      I just wrote a post about this today.

      http://allpartoflifesrichpageant.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/lets-talk-about-sex/

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    7. I'm going anonymous for this one. I have three close friends who use NFP with their husbands, and all of them have admitted to struggling to some extent with mutual masturbation and other non procreative acts when trying to use NFP. My husband and I have too. We do not talk about it to NFP instructors or to other Catholics.

      One of these couples is just not very legalistic in their Catholic practice and don't seem very concerned about it (in many ways I think this is the best attitude). Another couple is very legalistic about it, and suffers a lot of guilt over it, but are having major financial struggles right now and can't risk a baby even though they really want to have another. The third couple has given up each time they tried to practice NFP and gotten pregnant, and are now overwhelmed with the kids they are having very very quickly.

      My husband and I are somewhere in between. We are both scrupulous people, but both firmly believe that God cares more about the spirit of the law than the letter. Also for me personally, I have considered just giving up using NFP and using contraception. When I think of using NFP very legalistically I really want to just forget it. Trying to focus on the spirit it, rather than worrying about getting everything right has helped me to begin to like NFP. And I really think God would prefer my husband and I keep trying to live our sexuality well, while occasionally messing up, than giving up.

      I don't foresee getting much support though. I think many Catholics would tell me I am giant impure sinner because I occasionally get frisky with my husband without ending 'correctly.' I had our local priest compare me to a prostitute when I confessed some of these things. And that really hurt. I love my husband, and we try so hard to be loving to each other in every way. We are trying to help each other become better people, even in the sexual realm.

      Sorry this is so long and convoluted, but I get really riled up about these things.

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    8. I think the difference between who struggles with guilt and shame and who finds abstinence easy has more to do with their pre-existing views of sex than with any virtue they have as a couple.

      Compare this http://www.myfemininemind.com/2013/01/loyalty-for-some.html with this http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/11/on-married-women-and-separating-sex-from-procreation.html

      Women who grew up in sexually permissive backgrounds are more likely to find ideas of self-control empowering and liberating, while women who grew up in sexually restrictive backgrounds are more likely to find it another source of shame and fear. Women who grew up in sexually permissive backgrounds appreciate being appreciated in non-sexual ways, while women who grew up in sexually restrictive backgrounds are more likely to return to old patterns of repressing their sexuality. Many Catholics have absolutely no clue the second group exists and there aren't many resources to help them.


      Sarah, I had forgotten about the "genital contact" question, but now that you mention it, we remember that was a particularly humiliating and shameful part of our Creighton experience. We chose Creighton because it was less religious than CCL, only to get grilled on our sex life by our FCP. Our FCP suggested that we had marital problems or maybe God was calling us to make a baby. As a health care professional, that's none of your freaking business!

      Oh, and we had a true surprise with Creighton: We waited until infertility to have a double-peak show up the very next day.

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    9. 42: The Priest calling you a prostitute in the confessional is spiritual abuse. Even if you were confessing having sex for money, it would be abuse. You do NOT have to tolerate abuse. Go to a different priest. You should be forgiven and challenged, not humiliated and abused.

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    10. 42- Lovingly touching your husband isn't a sin. Never was, never will be. The CCC defines masturbation as AUTO-erotic, as OUTSIDE of a relationship. You&your husband were lovingly caressing each other in an intimate way--which belongs in marriage. So why agonize over it? It's a part of marriage.

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    11. Oral sex&mutual masturbation are only sinful if they are done in an abusive way, or are abused, and/or done for contraceptive reasons.

      No truly loving human being apologizes or has remorse for showing affection for their spouses in intimate ways. Does a REAL human wife with a heartbeat repent&feel remorse for giving her husband a hand job in the shower? No, she was showing compassion, affection for him, going by the Golden Rule. When you love someone, you want to please them sexually. Should a REAL husband apologize&feel remorse for performing oral sex on his wife instead of intercourse? Not at all. He'd probably be happy that he pleased her... and it is more blessed to give than receive. Normal human beings don't apologize or feel remorse for showing affection in intimate ways for their spouses. If it's done simply to avoid babies, it's bad, but if it's done with loving intent (for example, an impotent husband fingering his wife), it's not sinful at all.

      Oral sex&mutual masturbation are intimate acts of affection that are reserved for the married. It's a beautiful way to express your love&show affection. I don't believe a loving God punishes spouses for engaging in mutual loving activities. They are neither disordered nor sinful unless it's abusive and/or contraceptive. Giving sexual pleasure to one's spouse is in itself pleasurable.

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  4. I've attended a few sessions on NFP, and I'm surprised at your line "the amount of abstinence which the methods demand," since, as the doctors described it, it demands abstinence only on a few days each month.

    Are you saying that people are so lacking in self-control that they can't restrain themselves for a few days?

    It sounds to me as if you're in a position similar to that of the advocates for condom distribution in high schools: "Sure, abstinence is best but we know that these [kids/adults] can't control themselves," which is not an argument against continence/NFP but an indictment of the potential user population.

    I'll be interested to see how differently from my expectations your argument turns out.

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    1. Hi naturgesetz,

      The "only a few days a month" line appears fairly regularly in NFP propaganda. In my experience, it requires 10 days a month around the fertile period, another five days a month around menstruation, between two and five days during the on-a-day, off-a-day period between menstruation and ovulation, and possibly more if the symptoms are indeterminate or difficult to read. My cycles are often two and a half to three weeks apart. Last month, during the time when I think I was fertile (based on post-dating from my period) every single person in my house had a severe stomach flu. I was so exhausted from being sick and bathing children that I had no idea where I was, much less what my mucous symptoms looked like, which meant that abstinence was necessary during the non-fertile period of the month as well. When I was using NFP to "space" births, that was fine -- I'd just take the risk -- but now I'm trying to use it when there are actually grave reasons why it is necessary not to get pregnant. I've encountered a lot of people who are severely frustrated because when you go to NFP sessions, you get this "only a few days" rhetoric, and then when you actually try to put it into practice there are only a few days a month were you actually can have sex. I don't think that's a reasonable indictment of the potential user population -- no one even tries to use these methods unless they are serious about the virtue of chastity.

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    2. Sorry, I don't mean to overload your blog with comments. :) I agree that it's misleading to tell a group of couples that NFP only requires "a few days" of avoiding genital contact for avoiding pregnancy (although there are couples where "a few days" is true, but it's unfair to set everyone up for that expectation). That said, this doesn't mean you are doomed to prolonged periods of celibacy, either. (Although I suppose "prolonged" could be very subjective to the couple. Some find waiting 2 days difficult whereas others would get wrapped up in the busyness of life and forget to make time to be together on a given month unless they were charting, so NFP drastically increases their time together. Those are two more extreme examples, of course. Each couple is unique).

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  5. Just a short note:
    I just can't get it through my head that something should be considered 'natural' that requires so much niggling record keeping and other concerns. Everything I read about the so-called 'rhythm method' leaves me with the impression of something even less 'natural' than the use of various appliances and potions.
    Might be a fualt in my reasoning, but I can't manage to make any sense of it at all.

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    1. Thanks Ed! Most Protestants that I know see it the way that you do here, because that's the "natural" (in the sense of unimpeded) reaction to the method :)

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  6. naturgesetz: Saying abstinence with NFP is only a few days a month is not quite true. In my circle of NFP friends no one experiences the 7-10 days often touted as normal. Most of us have more like 2-3 weeks of abstinence per month (usually just a little less than half the cycle). That's not even taking into account post partum, where it is quite common for months at a time of abstinence be called for in order to effectively avoid pregnancy. I'm sure some couples out there do experience only a week of abstinence, but shouldn't we be talking about averages?

    November

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  7. I have to disagree with this blog post too. I'm with Leila and Sarah. And to add to those points: I can see how different people may face their own frustrations within their relationships, and they should certainly be able to discuss those frustrations and find ways to problem solve, but I find it odd that married couples can't endure some abstinence. I love my husband (married 9 years, 4 kids), I'm very attracted to my husband (and he still chases me around the house!), I can honestly say there is no hanky panky in infertile periods during spacing, but sometimes we have longer periods of abstinence for reasons you've stated in comments, like illness. And what's the big deal? Sex really doesn't have to be a weekly endeavor -- Sure, sometimes 5 times a week, but sometimes a whole month or two off. Maybe that sounds weird to you, but think for a moment of military spouses with deployments. Is marriage impossible or unhealthy with that abstinence? My husband used to travel a lot, occasionally still must travel. Now he's in school again, so not much is happening during exam time or big papers. But our life just doesn't revolve around sex, and we respect each other enough and communicate well enough to not take it personally or feel overwhelmed with lust or dissatisfaction or anything like that. I take those times to watch a movie or talk to my sisters. We have a busy life, so I use those times to do things like read a good book after the kids go to bed, the "me" time that rarely comes in family life. He finds similar pursuits should the issue be on my end with an illness or a fertile period where conceiving is not a good option. If the issue is fertility, and we're both free that evening, we have some time together as a couple that does not involve sex or physical "hanky panky" beyond cuddling and hand holding. I cherish those times to connect with him on a different level. I love long conversations with him -- stuff I thought most couples appreciated once kids made long conversations more difficult :). Maybe I'm blessed to be married to a talkative guy.

    Anyway, I don't mean to ramble on and on. I really identify with your #1 point, except that I am married and have been happily married for nine years. I'm not naive. We are just committed to living this life together and we learned over time to focus on the good of the moment instead of what we maybe can't have at the moment.

    And please know that I don't mean to criticize couples who struggle -- Marriage sometimes comes with sacrifices and struggles, and they need a support system that can help guide them through those struggles. Maybe the NFP community can find better ways to help couples through those struggles. We had to figure it out a little in the beginning ourselves, but we didn't allow discouragement to fester and resentment of NFP to take over, and I'm so glad that we didn't.

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  8. In this discussion about natural family planning, all the attention thus far has been given to systematic NFP which is based on chaste abstinence during the fertile time as the “method” of avoiding or postponing pregnancy. I want to call attention to the kind of breastfeeding that truly does space babies and thus deserves to be recognized as a form of natural family planning, or better yet, a form of natural baby spacing. The key is frequent nursing, but there are cultural patterns of breastfeeding that do not allow the necessary frequency of suckling. The so-called Lactational Amenorrhea Method sometimes comes close to the required frequency, but it is considered a baby-spacing method only for the first six months of amenorrhea. What truly does space babies an average of two years apart is Ecological Breastfeeding, a nursing pattern defined by the Seven Standards of ecological breastfeeding. It does not involve abstinence, and it is the most natural form of baby spacing simply because it is God’s own plan for spacing babies with many health benefits for mother as well as baby. Research shows that American mothers doing ecological breastfeeding, on the average, go 14 to 15 months without menstruation. For more information, see www.nfpandmore.org where you will find several books dealing with this sort of breastfeeding and mothering as well as our manual that teaches both ecological breastfeeding and systematic NFP.
    Sheila Kippley
    The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor

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    1. Thanks for mentioning this -- we've never charted a day of our marriage but still have kids two years apart due to breastfeeding. Of course not everyone has results like this, but it's worth a mention, especially for those people who are just looking for a healthy spacing and don't have other serious reasons to avoid.

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  9. I think Catholics have a valid complaint about the difference between what is advertised and what is reality. We're told that a women can only get pregnant a few days a month, so were left to think NFP requires only a few days of abstinence. The problem is that NFP promoters also want to show the scientific community that the method is reliable, so they build into the system extra abstinence days just to be safe. When all is said and done there aren't always a lot of days one can have sex. What can make this particularly difficult for married couples in practice is when you get that one sex day, it turns out that you've already committed to spending the whole day with the in-laws, or you have to work late, or you get in a fight about something petty.

    In my own case, NFP seemed to work great for trying to avoid pregnancy, until, of course, we started trying to conceive. In both cases the effect is the same, no pregnancy.

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  10. Another lurker here. I'm a revert who basically falls into the category of #4 & 7. I was on the pill for years and then tried NFP. DH was not on board with the small window of infertility that NFP provided. After confessing "having sex in a way other than church teaching" and being told it wasn't a sin, lets just say, we find other ways. I greatly admire people who can live up to the standard of Church teaching and pray for God's mercy.

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    1. This is Ann: There's different forms of Nat.Fam.Plan. which can add to the confusion/mix of responses in the original post. Symptothermal methods { charting temperatures w/mucus + possible cervix} have the highest effectiveness. Using abstinence adds more effectiveness to NFP versus "withdrawal" and/or condoms in the fertile time. Single sign-methods such as Billings or Creighton have less effectiveness as well as are very difficult to learn/use for many. I have met some women who still do 'calendar rhythm" which is the least effective but it is "easy" for them. My husband helped me w/charting symptothermal + interpreting charts for over 20 years; we never had any "surprises" or unplanned pregnancies; we also used the "ecological breastfeeding" mentioned above + we went for 12-14 months without cycles. We used "abstinenece" without any contracepting behaviors. We know other couples who use NFP this way 'n like it a lot. Many w/NFP "problems" will be the noisy, "squeaky wheels" that folks hear about but there are many who live the Church teaching + aren't even able to be involved in discussions as this as they are busy @home with the family life. Proper spiritual formation can help couples when the "going gets tough" but it is rarely given. "Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach" book is a great question - answer format book with a lot of the Church formation/spiritual helps that are needed to live this fully the way God intended.
      @EDPACHT: the beauty of this is that WHEN the couple comes together: Nothing is USED/ no barriers or devices/appliance or potions. Using artificial/THAT is what is considered immoral + NOT using these was SO liberating for US - I was doctor-free and patch-free and pill-free and pharmacist-free +NFP is FREE; it is wonderful to not feel like garbing up for "war" against my hubbie and seeing him as dangerous or a problem // good observations to all.

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    2. It's lovely that this is your experience of NFP...but there do need to be real and useful answers for people whose experience is completely different. I get my cycles back within 2 months of giving birth, and I practice every one of the guidelines for ecological breast-feeding except for babywearing (my body can't handle the stress of bearing the weight of a second person all the time, and with six kids baby-wearing is not very realistic.) I've had three pregnancies that were the result of NFP failure, and trying to use NFP has meant serious conflict and sexual disfunction between my husband and I. To present that as an atypical experience is highly misleading: remember that this is a method that looks so insane and impracticable to most people that they simply ignore the teaching altogether. You, and several others in this thread, have been graced with an easy road in using this method, and that's wonderful. But it's a lapse of charity to behave as if everyone who has tried it to the best of their ability, and found that it is the opposite of what it supposed to be, is having that experience because of a lack of proper spiritual formation.

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    3. I feel like any time there is a discussion about possible downsides to NFP those who have had great success with it just keep saying "well it was awesome for me!" and imply that anyone who has a tough time with it is simply full of unbridled lust. If someone says NFP has been bad for their marriage NFP promoters will blame it on a lack of self control, other relationship issues, or anything really other than the method itself. Some people really do struggle both in the actual practice, and in understanding the teaching altogether. And I don't think this struggle is because good married couples are out to use each other in lust.

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    4. Please forgive me for sounding uncharitable {Ann here; I don't know what the other profile symbols mean below, so I post "anonymous"}. I sincerely believe that many do experience difficulties because of a lack of spiritual formation as well as incomplete method instruction on the provider's end. But I was not judging your situation at all. There are many posts & blogs elsewhere where things such as moral formation 'n temperature taking/urine testing 'n such are not even known about. There is hope that things can improve by couples who then see that there is more than single-sign methods 'n using withdrawal & condoms. As a NFP-only RN, I have spoken to many in person as well. We live in a society where NFP is not even talked about by NFP-users, as alluded to above, or they won't even talk to an instructor. That can be a disadvantage as well. Simple support by real "users" can be a huge help for carrying this cross.
      You mention babywearing as a "guideline" for ecological BFeeding and I am not a babywearer either, it is not in Sheila Kippley's "Seven Standards" of Ecological BFeeding either. Maybe part of "attachment" parenting? that is not eco-BFeeding BTWay.
      It is also fact that some will get the cycles back before 6 months PPartum, as well, but I have seen such charts where some women take temps 'n see that they are having a bleed but it is not a return of fertile ovulations, yet. But anyways, the posts were hoping to add an insight or a help to those who maybe CAN do more to make less abstinence a reality: symptothermal CAN often decrease abstinence. I was not 'cutting down" couples but hoping to add insight as to what does seem to help couples: more NFP data and/or proper educating about BFeeding styles, virtue formation, etc. There IS a lot of NFP ignorance out there, sadly. Yet, there truly do seem to be STM-users who have switched over to it & finally do better. There ARE women who finally learn about nursing style differences & nurse the next one differently 'n are very pleased w/extended BFeeding infertility. I also know women who have had a few unplanned pregnancies and they just keep rolling with it,"tweaking the rules" or they just begin charting when cycles DO return early: many happy to be able to chart and see what their body is doing. Maybe it is an attitude or temperament mix as well. Someone approaching NFP as "insane" and "impractical" may not fare well unless they are given a complete treatment of it as well as change their thinking into WHY this can be good. I am not sure what may help you & I apologize for offending. Were the failures method-failure or user-failure? Was anyone able to tell you? If not, I wonder if you were using temperatures, mucus and cervix, etcetera because a little bit of knowledge can help that "surprise" not happen again but as I originally posted: there is what I consider an unethical omission of much NFP instruction by "single-sign" users and others & sometimes the only answer they can give is, "You must have had sex on a fertile day," because they were not marking intercourse down or not even having a hard-copy "chart" or a book or anything such as I consider essential. There is a disadvantage to online posting, too; I am sad there are hard feeling from your wonderful post; it really is great.

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    5. In regards to the original post with so many varied responses, how many husbands help with the charts and interpreting, too? If husbands are involved it is so much better from my experience but if the wife is doing mucus-only and not writing it down and there is a : "Tell me when" attitude, that would be frustrating for me. NFP is the business of the couple and if a woman is the sole one charting and interpreting, it'd be too much to ask for me alone. But that may not be a problem for all. Waywardson had some good points above, too, although one cannot generalize completely.

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  11. Months of post partum abstinence? I have found quite the opposite to be true. Lactational Ammenhorrea (sp?) has given my husband and I between 12 and 18 months of marital relations pretty much whenever we wanted. I don't think it is that way for everyone but it is quite common to have extended periods of infertility post partum.

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    1. Ann here; no, Celina: we had about a year+ post-partum w/o cycles and so we did not need to be charting was what I meant; it should have been a new paragraph that we used abstinence w/o contracepting behaviors as our family planning. Many LAM women do have cycles back before 6 months, unlike you, is my understanding + many don't want to nurse in the stricter 'eco-breastfeeding' manner.
      **I am sorry that BRIAN has had some infertility problems; I say "never, never, never give up" and MAYBE use a symptothermal NFP chart if you are not; to maybe pinpoint if ovulation isn't happening + to be timing relations in the mucus days as well as into a few higher temp days { we have seen some charts where better timing was only needed.}
      **We also bring up contracepting behaviors + Church teachings as we teach + bring up confession + sexual sins + being a disciple of Christ....I had to HATE sexual sin before I could give it up + many programs don't teach this morality at all as I said, so, they muddle along w/questions and then:
      **the sad situation above where Anonymous seems to have been LIED to in the confessional? No wonder there is so much confusion and varied response to NFP.
      --there's also couples who think SEX is the primary purpose of marriage; so to not have it seems a sin itself + many think that having children is a primary purpose of marriage and so feel guilty about not having sex or children...the basic problem seems to be a lack of proper spiritual formation with the NFP lessons. Blessed JPII said that NFP MUST be taught in a moral context and if they don't get it from the NFP teacher - when/where will they get it?

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    2. let me just now say that someone in a confessional may not realize they are not speaking the truth; I guess even priests can be mal-formed from a variety of places; we must pray for our priests and help them who can be very needed for teaching the truths about married love; we also need the doctors on board for a strong three-legged stool.
      **And, yes, couples abstain for so many reasons, many just blame the NFP for the abstinence but in a busy home w/dads working away from the home and moms not having the help from extended family members, we cannot express physical love as often as we may wish; my husband and I were disappointed the other morning when we needed to use the time to discuss some topics instead and he said, "Don't worry, we get together enough!" NFP life is great. Blessings

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  12. I'm very interested to see where you take this. I have only been married for 7 months and we've used the Creighton method the whole time to postpone pregnancy. Sometimes (like this past month), it is pretty difficult to abstain during the 7-10 day fertile period, and other times it is not. This is compounded by the fact that we're working opposite schedules and I go to bed before he's home most days, so the pre-peak "end of day" only phase actually means not at all for us.

    I would like more frank and open discussion about NFP but I hope that it is balanced by good discussions about it. We are very grateful that we have been able to use it to postpone while we get all our school debt taken care of. We are also grateful that we are still aware of the life-giving nature of our marital relations.

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  13. Melinda,
    Only one clarification. You said: I practice every one of the guidelines for ecological breast-feeding except for babywearing (my body can't handle the stress of bearing the weight of a second person all the time, and with six kids baby-wearing is not very realistic.)

    Babywearing is not one of the maternal behaviors associated with ecological breastfeeding. It is not one of the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding. For those interested in eco-breastfeeding, please read the latest book on the topic, The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding.

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  14. (Yet another Anonymous...)

    I think the most frustrating thing in talking about NFP is how women's bodies and experiences vary to such an extent that it's difficult to remember we're all discussing the same practice! Even just among my own sisters things are different. I kind of hate chiming it to say, "Well, it's easy for ME!" But...the truth is, recognizing fertility CAN be falling-down easy for some of us...and those who are curious about trying NFP ought to know the possibility really does exist. I don't know why I'm "lucky" - and I have total sympathy for all those who are not: one of my sisters took surgical measures after three "surprises" in three years. So I know what it's like when it's hard. Just...please do bear in mind that (God knows it's unfair) for some of us it does work. And work easily, with unmistakable signs and just one week of abstinence.

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