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How to Practice Natural Family Planning

Catholic Responsible Parenting - the behind the scenes look at Natural Family Planning.
by Elizabeth Stromberg, Consecrat | Source: Mater Ecclesiae College

How do I practice Catholic teaching on contraceptives and still live my married life responsibly? NFP.

Why not Contraceptives? 

Contraceptives intrinsically contradict Church teaching on sexuality because they close the sexual act to the possibility of life-either by preventing conception or even in some cases by acting as an abortafacient-making the body reject a newly conceived fetus.

What is NFP?

 NFP stands for Natural Family Planning, it is the Catholic way of responsible parenting, but it is NOT Catholic contraceptives because it remains intrinsically open to life. NFP is natural and yet is proven to work (there have been over 75 million abortions since 1960 from failed contraceptives). NFP when applied correctly never fails.

How do I use NFP?
NFP is based on knowledge of the biological process that happens in a woman’s body every month:

• After her menstrual period a woman has about two weeks during which her cervix is closed and “plugged” with G-type mucous-which doesn’t allow anything-including sperm, to enter. During this time stimulated follicles in the ovaries are producing increasing amounts of estrogen. 

• When a high level of estrogen is reached the cervix opens. The “G-plug” (a greenish mucous) is released (you can see this when it happens-this is important) and the cervix opens. For the next 3-5 days the cervix will be open and there will be a clear slimy mucous which can revive and nourish sperm. Only during this time can a woman get pregnant. 

• The high levels of estrogen send a message to the pituitary gland which releases the lutenizing hormone which causes one of the follicles to burst and release the egg. This is ovulation. The day of ovulation the woman can observe a brief sharp pain in her ovaries and a small drop of blood. If the egg is fertilized in the next 24 hours-either from sperm that is present from the past three days that is being sustained by the mucous or that enters in those 24 hours, then the woman can become pregnant. 

• After those 24 hours the egg can no longer be fertilized, the cervix begins to close, and the vagina is dry of mucous. i.e. after 24 hours the woman can not become pregnant again for almost another month.

What does all of this mean? 

That there are only about 3 days a month that a woman even has the remote possibility to get pregnant, and that she can know when those days are by observing her body. By having or abstaining from sex in that short time the couple can plan their family.

Recommended precautions also include the woman taking her temperature every day before getting out of bed (to ensure that it is accurate it is helpful that she is peaceful and that it is the same time of day) the woman’s temperature will drop slightly below normal (to 97.0 F) for ovulation and then rise slightly above normal (98.0 F) 24 hours after ovulation.

The woman can also get to know her body and the time between each ovulation-usually it is about 28 days. By charting the time between each period (the woman starts bleeding exactly 14 days after ovulation) and finding out if the body is consistent (it usually is, though not always), she can also predict when ovulation will take place and know the three days before when she is capable of getting pregnant. However, observing the mucous is the most accurate way of determining the days a woman can get pregnant.

The Man’s Key Role

Now perhaps you’re asking yourself what the man’s job is in all of this. That’s a good question. His job is to communicate and respect. If couples want to use NFP they need to agree to follow the rules and communicate to know where in the month the woman is at.

Advantages of NFP

This communication that NFP requires is often what can save marriages which otherwise might have been reduced to physical pleasure without real unity between them. Couples who are trying to space their children through NFP learn to find other ways of expressing their love and affection on the days when they are abstaining-they talk, they go for a walk, watch a movie together, etc.

It also makes the couple more free because they consciously have to decide each month if they’re ready yet for another kid, and because they’re already communicating, it’s a lot easier to come to an agreement if they are or not.


NFP is the real choice that couples get to make concerning their relationship and their kids. NFP not only is in line with Catholic teaching and proven to be more successful than contraceptives; it also builds communication which is an essential element for the perseverance of married couples. “I have set before you life and death…choose life” (Deuteronomy 30.19)

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Post a Comment
Published by: Pagan
Date: 2011-02-16 13:02:13
I practice NFP not due to some religious idiocy but because it's the best thing for me as I do not like hormones. BUT, I don't feel it's my right to push that on anyone else. We are all individuals and capable of THOUGHT and making our own decisions. I have been married for 10 years. 5 of those years I was on the pill and to be honest with you, I have noticed absolutely no difference whatsoever in my relationship with my husband from when I was on the pill or practicing NFP. We have a wonderful relationship either way. I attribute the wonderful relationship to the fact that we BOTH respect each other and don't play the man is king game. We are equals and it has nothing to do with birth control.

Published by: Elizabeth
Date: 2011-02-15 11:49:02
I'm so happy to find this, especially after a heated conversation about abortion with an Episcopalian family who argued it is a woman's body and right to end an unborn childs life. I felt pain and anger, and had difficulty finding the right words to help them understand, and it ended badly. I did ask them if their daughter were to get pregnant, and choose to get an abortion, would they be okay with her killing their grandchild? That seemed to make an impression. Thank you for the posting, which will help us guide our son.

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