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4.25 How does Natural Family Planning work?

Sexuality

In contrast to the pill and other contraceptives rejected by the Church, Natural Family Planning (NFP) is based on a couple’s conscious monitoring of their sexual fertility.

Methods that monitor the various changes in the woman’s body are most effective. The main difference with contraceptives is that with Natural Family Planning, a couple very deliberately opts for a responsible, natural and healthy way of living their love together in marriage.

> Read more in the book

NFP works by checking for certain bodily signs that tell the couple whether the woman is in a fertile phase.

The Wisdom of the Church

When is it moral to regulate births?

The regulation of births, which is an aspect of responsible fatherhood and motherhood, is objectively morally acceptable when it is pursued by the spouses without external pressure; when it is practiced not out of selfishness but for serious reasons; and with methods that conform to the objective criteria of morality, that is, periodic continence and use of the infertile periods. [CCCC 497]

What are immoral means of birth control?

Every action - for example, direct sterilization or contraception - is intrinsically immoral which (either in anticipation of the conjugal act, in its accomplishment or in the development of its natural consequences) proposes, as an end or as a means, to hinder procreation. [CCCC 498]

May a Christian married couple regulate the number of children they have?

Yes, a Christian married couple may and should be responsible in using the gift and privilege of transmitting life.

Sometimes social, psychological, and medical conditions are such that in the given circumstances an additional child would be a big, almost superhuman challenge for the couple. Hence there are clear criteria that the married couple must observe: Regulating births, in the first place, must not mean that the couple is avoiding conception as a matter of principle. Second, it must not mean avoiding children for selfish reasons. Third, it must not mean that external coercion is involved (if, for example, the State were to decide how many children a couple could have). Fourth, it must not mean that any and every means may be used. [Youcat 420]

Why are all methods of preventing the conception of a child not equally good?

The Church recommends the refined methods of selfobservation and natural family planning (NFP) as methods of deliberately regulating conception. These are in keeping with the dignity of man and woman; they respect the innate laws of the female body; they demand mutual affection and consideration and therefore are a school of love.

The Church pays careful attention to the order of nature and sees in it a deep meaning. For her it is therefore not a matter of indifference whether a couple manipulates the woman’s fertility or instead makes use of the natural alternation of fertile and infertile days. It is no accident that Natural Family Planning is called natural: it is ecological, holistic, healthy, and an exercise in partnership. On the other hand, the Church rejects all artificial means of contraception—namely, chemical methods (“the Pill”), mechanical methods (for example, condom, intra-uterine device, or IUD), and surgical methods (sterilization)—since these attempt to separate the sexual act from its procreative potential and block the total self-giving of husband and wife. Such methods can even endanger the woman’s health, have an abortifacient effect (= cause a very early abortion), and in the long run be detrimental to the couple’s love life. [Youcat 421]

This is what the Popes say

Natural methods of regulating fertility should be promoted as a valuable help to responsible parenthood, in which all individuals, and in the first place the child, are recognized and respected in their own right, and where every decision is guided by the ideal of the sincere gift of self. Marriage and family counselling agencies by their specific work of guidance and prevention, carried out in accordance with an anthropology consistent with the Christian vision of the person, of the couple and of sexuality, also offer valuable help in rediscovering the meaning of love and life, and in supporting and accompanying every family in its mission as the "sanctuary of life".  [Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 88]