When I share that I use Natural Family Planning (NFP), I'm often met with confusion, embarrassment, or even good-natured mockery. I recall upon first getting engaged, some friends asking what I was planning to use for birth control. When I said NFP, they replied with something snarky like, "Just wait, you'll have a honeymoon baby!" As unhelpful as comments like this can be, it's actually not surprising that NFP users hear them. There is much confusion and misinformation floating around about NFP! Here are 5 common myths that people often believe about natural family planning:
1. It's the Rhythm Method
This is probably the most common myth. If you ask the average person what NFP is, they would likely start describing the Rhythm Method. The Rhythm method involves simply counting the days of a woman's cycle, and then picking a handful of days in the middle of the cycle when fertility is assumed, during which the couple will abstain.
The problem is that these types of 'calendar' methods do not take into account the differences between individual women or the variations in cycles a woman can have. That's why it's important to track your physcial signs on a chart!
2. You abstain from sex most of the time.
Not true! In fact, some people would argue that couples using NFP actually have MORE Sex then couples using contraception! Yes, there are usually about 8-12 days in a cycle that a couple avoiding pregnancy will abstain, but that often leads to couples being more likely to take advantage of the days they do have available. Some would say that sex becomes less of a priority when it's available any time.
3. All NFP users have big families
This myth probably comes from the assumption that NFP is unreliable, or from people using some kind of Rhythm method and claiming that it's NFP. The truth is that many couples who only want one or two children (or who want to wait several years between children) use NFP quite successfully, often for years! Even young women who decide that they are done having children are quite able to avoid pregnancy, naturally, until menopause.
Another possible root of this myth is many who use NFP do have large families, but by choice. NFP requires frequent communication between husband and wife about their family planning intentions and feelings about more children. The opportunity to conceive is there every month. This is different than being on the Pill, when infertility is the default, and deciding to conceive requires a lot of planning ahead and waiting around. This monthly opportunity to consider growing a family sometimes leads a couple to be more open to having another child than they would have been otherwise.
4. You can't get pregnant while breastfeeding
There is understandable confusion regarding fertility while breastfeeding. It's true that in the immediate weeks following childbirth, if a woman is 'intensively breastfeeding' (no pacifiers or bottles, baby continues to nurse at night, nurses a certain number of times in a 24 hour period) infertility can be temporarily assumed. But after that, return of fertility can vary greatly. It's very possible to ovulate, and therefore get pregnant, while breastfeeding before ever getting your period back!
The good news is, you can STILL use NFP while breastfeeding! Since NFP does not rely on counting days since your last cycle, you can use it even when you aren't cycling. Diligent charting of your physical signs will reveal the earliest hints of your first postpartum ovulation, even if i'ts 2 months, 6 months, or 18 months after giving birth.
5. NFP ruins spontaneity and romance
While NFP does require patience, selflessness, and self-control in order to work, I don't think that those are qualities that kill romance. Quite the opposite! And like I mentioned above, if intercourse is not available 24/7, it suddenly becomes more important and precious during those times when it is available.
And if you really hate the idea of 'scheduled sex' or worrying about checking signs, there is still the final post-ovulatory phase of the woman's cycle when spontaneous sex is possible. Since ovulation can only occur once a cycle, once it's confirmed, the couple is free to do as they please until the next cycle begins.
NFP is certainly a chance in lifestyle. It's never easy to adjust to something new, and it make take quite some getting used to and a lot of love and patience. But for many happy couples, NFP actually makes their relationships more romantic!
If you know of any other myths, have questions about NFP, or would like to see any other topics covered in this blog, feel free to visit the FAQ page, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or using the contact form on this site =]