This week is Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week! I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post anything on this because even though it’s something I’m passionate about, I didn’t want to alienate anyone and I know this is a pretty personal, sensitive, and sometimes scary topic (hence the title 😛 ). There are also already a lot of resources out there on NFP written by medical professionals and/or people who have been practicing NFP for a lot longer than I have. I encourage you to check those resources out! I do think that my experience and how I came to using NFP is something worth sharing though. Although there are obvious connections between NFP and my faith, I thought I’d focus on some of the more scientific and practical reasons I use NFP. As a trained school psychologist, I am all about data-based decision making, and NFP is allllll about data and science! It’s really nerdy and awesome stuff! 🙂 #nerdalert! So without further ado, here are the reasons I use NFP:
- Nothing bonds you more quickly and closely to your spouse than talking about cervical mucus…out loud…in front of a nurse…for weeks at a time as you go through NFP training sessions. We did this training while we were engaged. Talk about putting it ALL out there! In all seriousness though, it is actually pretty awesome that my husband and I can talk about my cycles and he and I both know what is going on pretty much every day of the month.
Remember back in the early 2000s when everybody used a tanning bed because looking as orange as possible was in? Then people realized how harmful tanning beds can be to your skin and to increasing your chances of getting skin cancer. Fortunately, for our pocketbooks, our skin, and our health, it seems that fad has gone of style. I’m kind of hoping this is where hormonal birth control is going to end up as well. Hormonal birth control, as well as ultraviolet-emitting tanning devices, have been listed as a class 1 carcinogens. In some studies, it’s been shown to increase your risk of breast, cervical, and liver cancer. Um, no thank you.
- In the summer of 2010, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). After having very irregular cycles since they began, being put on birth control for about two years to manage my symptoms and regulate my cycle, and doing some digging of my own, I went to my Dr. with my concerns. If I hadn’t done this, who knows how long I would have gone undiagnosed? Not only am I still frustrated that birth control did the opposite of helping…hello more acne, weight gain, and still never knowing when my period was going to come, but I was the one who had to fight to have more testing (blood draws, ultrasounds, etc.) done to get to the bottom of my irregular cycles. I later switched doctors and was put on a medication that helped regulate my cycles without the nasty side-effects of hormonal birth control. I used this until my first pregnancy. Somehow, my cycles have regulated themselves since weaning my son without any form of medication!
- NFP has helped me track my cycles and actually know what my body is doing. It’s also not a one-size-fits-all approach, which is exactly what I needed because of my PCOS. The method my husband and I use is the Creighton Model. This method is really great for women who have PCOS, endometriosis, or other reasons for having irregular cycles. Each day, you track your cycle by checking for the absence or presence of cervical mucus. If your cycle doesn’t fit a perfect 28-day window, that’s okay! Your practitioner (often a nurse and/or someone who has gone through extensive training on the Creighton Model) can help you navigate through this and get to the why behind your irregular cycles, instead of masking the symptoms with hormonal birth control. They can then refer you to a doctor who is also trained using the Creighton Model and NaProTechonology, the surgical/more intensive medical portion, should it be warranted.
- I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% sold on the whole eating organically thing yet. For some things, sure, but for everything? I don’t know. I like to have scientific studies backing up my decisions. If you have some to share with me, please do so! Anyways, it seems that our culture is obsessed with being organic, non-GMO, all-natural, etc. etc. with our food, our vitamins and medicine, our beauty supplies, our clothing, etc. etc. 🙂 Why don’t we feel this way about our fertility? We know the short and long-term effects of hormonal birth control, so I’m going all natural with my fertility.
- Have I already mentioned how cool it is that at any given day, I know the status of my fertility?! Call me a nerd if you want (I already know I am one! :)), but having this knowledge is seriously awesome. Talk about data-based decision making! If we’re trying to achieve pregnancy, we know the exact days of ovulation and optimizing becoming pregnant. If we’re trying to avoid pregnancy, we know the exact days to avoid intercourse. Is this sometimes difficult to put into practice? Absolutely. But when has anything worthwhile been easy?
- I find it kind of thrilling to be counter-cultural and go against the grain in this way. I really don’t like to be “put in a box.” I like that I am a twenty-something woman who doesn’t use the most common use of birth control out there. Call me a hippie (along with calling me a nerd), but it’s kind of fun to make people go, “Wait, you practice what?”
So there you have it: a few reasons that I practice NFP. Going down the Yellow Brick Road of NFP has helped me understand how and why my body works the way that it does. NFP is “organic,” data-driven, and empowering. There absolutely are sacrifices that come with it, but there is also great joy and true freedom as well.