Natural family planning is an incredible skill that is completely safe, free to use, and empowering for women and couples. So why don't more people use it? Here are a few beliefs that may keep couples from using NFP.
1. It's not effective
I'm not sure why so many people don't believe NFP is a reliable way to avoid pregnancy. Perhaps they are confusing NFP with the old-fashioned Rhythm Method, which relied on counting calendar days rather than observing a woman's physical signs of fertility. Perhaps they've heard from people who were unsuccessful at using NFP for some reason (maybe they didn't have an instructor, tried to learn from a book, or used a phone app). Often a woman's own doctor will discourage her from trying it, because unfortunately most medical professionals are woefully misinformed about the effectiveness of fertility awareness based methods.
But the fact is, when learned correctly with proper instructor follow-up and used consistently, the sympto-thermal method of NFP is 99.6% effective(according to this 2007 study). This study also shows that after a year of using NFP, around 90% of couples are so satisfied with all aspects of the method (not just effectiveness!) that they keep using it!
2. It's too difficult to learn
Sometimes when couples first get a glimpse of an NFP chart, they are intimidated. They may think there is too much to learn, it's too finicky, and they wonder what happens if they get it wrong...?
Like any new skill, learning to observe and chart your fertility signs does take some practice. But a good NFP class series is designed to teach you one step at a time, in bite sized portions. As your knowledge and skills grow, so will your confidence. You'll also have an instructor available to review your charts, answer questions, and help you every step of the way.
It may seem 'hard' at first, just because the information is all new. But within just a few short weeks, those previously meaningless symbols and terms will become familiar. After a few cycles, observing and charting your signs will become second-nature. In fact, I've heard from women who have tried to STOP observing and charting and can't! Once you are in tune with your body and understand what it's telling you, that awareness becomes so ingrained that it's impossible to unlearn!
I believe the key to learning NFP successfully is motivation, a supportive, involved partner and a good instructor that you feel comfortable working with. If you have these things, there is absolutely no reason why you can't use NFP with ease.
3. My cycles are too long/irregular/I have PCOS/I'm breastfeeding/premenopausal etc.
This myth makes me sad, because women who have cycles outside of the 28 day 'normal' range can perhaps benefit from using NFP the most. Learning fertility awareness can make previously confusing or unpredictable cycles suddenly make sense. Maybe for the first time, you'll be able to know exactly when your period is coming! Because natural family planning is based on observing the physical signs of fertility, your chart will be based on your hormone levels and not on calendar dates. By learning this awareness, women can become more in tune with their bodies, their emotions, and the incredible way that they are designed. It is incredibly empowering information that can lead to greater appreciation and understanding of oneself.
4. We can't possibly abstain for 8-12 days each month.
This is perhaps one of the most daunting aspects of NFP, at least initially. But the truth is, every couple already has experience abstaining for good reasons. Traveling, illness, house guests, and children could all be reasons why you and your spouse may already abstain from sexual intimacy from time to time. It may be a sacrifice in the moment, but if it's for an important reason abstaining feels acceptable (going on vacation and sharing a camper with your in laws, for instance!)
That's how periodic abstinence in NFP works too. If the couple is on the same page in their intention to avoid pregnancy, they can also make the decision together to avoid sexual intercourse during the woman's fertile period. While inconvenient and sometimes difficult, periodic abstinence can actually be a very loving way of showing each other that you care about working toward the same goals and being partners in the responsibility for family planning.
One pleasant result from abstaining for a portion of each month is that couples often appreciate those infertile phases in a woman's cycle even more. It can create a bit of a 'honeymoon effect' as couples wait, anticipate, and then joyfully come together again when the time is right. Though it feels like a change in lifestyle, periodic abstinence can truly be a beneficial part of your relationship.