This is NFP Awareness Week. I will be celebrating with some great guest posts related to NFP this week, and then a few more in the upcoming months.
Sadly, many people know nothing about this great evil that plagues a small minority of the population. Approximately 5% of 44 year-old women have at some point in their lives tried a method of avoiding pregnancy which has enabled them to do so with no side effects, and 97-99% effectiveness.
And that is just horrible and must be stopped! Right? Oh, wait. That is not what I meant!
What I meant to write was that it would make sense if many of you were confused about why I would celebrate NFP Awareness Week. Because when it comes to Stuff White People Like, awareness weeks or months or decades are typically dedicated to raising awareness about things that hurt us, like breast cancer or Down syndrome.
But someone out there decided that we needed to raise awareness of NFP as if it were a disease, rather than celebrate it and its great advances. And since I always go along with what someone out there once decided, I am here to raise your awareness!
Before we get started with the good posts, here is what you need to know:
- Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term used to describe several methods of avoiding or achieving pregnancy based on a woman’s fertility cycle.
- NFP is often conflated with the better-known rhythm method. While only 5% of women will use a modern method of NFP during their reproductive years, 20% will use the significantly less reliable (but equally morally acceptable) rhythm method. (source)
- People sometimes use the terms NFP and fertility awareness interchangeably.
- NFP is can be very effective for most women, most of the time, but it can also be a royal headache for some women, some of the time.
- Significant gynecological health problems, the postpartum period/breastfeeding, and menopause can all make NFP more difficult for avoiding pregnancy.
- For the few couples with true infertility, NFP will not miraculously enable them to conceive.
- NFP’s effectiveness for avoiding pregnancy varies tremendously depending upon a couple’s dedication to observing fertility, and willingness to abstain from sex.
- A simple method of NFP which requires no charting is 96% effective for avoiding pregnancy with correct use, and 86% effective with typical use. Compare this to the male condom which is 97% effective for avoiding pregnancy with correct use, and 80-90% effective with typical use (source) or the female condom which is 75-82% effective (source).
- More complex methods of NFP are 99.4% effective for new users with correct use, and 92.5% effective with typical use. One study with only experienced users found NFP to be 99.7% with correct use, and 96.1% effective with typical use. Compare this to the pill which is 97-98% effective with correct use (source) and 92% effective with typical use or the contraceptive patch or ring which is more than 99% effective with correct use.
- A woman must chart her cycles for two years before she is considered to be an experienced user (with lower failure rates for avoiding conception). If she gets pregnant during that time (even if intended) then she will not count as an experienced user until she has been able to chart two years worth of cycles, and this could take quite a while given 9 months of pregnancy + postpartum infertility.
- A typical couple who abstained from sex both on the fertile days of a woman’s cycle and on days of heavy menstrual bleeding would typically have to abstain 50% of the time.
- Nevertheless, couples who use NFP to avoid pregnancy still have sex as often as those who use contraceptive methods of birth control. The NFP users simply have sex more often during the infertile times.
I believe that NFP is ideal for many reasons. And while I believe that NFP is better than hormonal or barrier methods of contraception, I do not believe that I am better than those who use those methods.
My point in posting about NFP is to enable others to understand a bit more about what NFP really is. After all, despite what you may have heard, NFP isn’t actually as bad as cancer.
- TMI: I am a Woman
- Natural Family Planning: Liberator of Women