By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Natural Family Planning (NFP) can help couples achieve or avoid pregnancy. And it’s approved by the Catholic Church. The Diocese of Davenport hopes to spread the word beginning with Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, which is July 19-25.
Marianne Agnoli, the diocese’s Marriage and Family Life Coordinator, said, “I firmly believe that living the NFP lifestyle is beneficial for the health of marriages and families. Natural methods of family planning encourage couples to practice skills of intimate communication, mutual respect and self-giving that transcend the couple’s sexual relationship; development of these vital skills helps to establish a strong foundation on which thriving marriages and families are formed.”
There are several different methods of NFP that couples can choose from.
Al and Beth Budelier of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport practice and teach NFP. The couple took NFP classes during marriage preparation in the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois. They also knew others who practice NFP.
“We initially chose to practice NFP to live according to the Catholic Church’s teachings. Since then we have experienced many benefits from using NPF,” Beth said. Awareness of Beth’s fertility and overall health through charting has helped enhance the couple’s communication and their sense of connection. They’ve been able to plan for and space their children for the health and benefit of the whole family.
Al and Beth decided to teach NFP because it has allowed them to grow in their marriage and faith. “It has been a gift to us and we really feel called to share that gift with other couples,” Beth said.
The Budeliers teach the Sympto-Thermal method taught by Couple to Couple League. Couples teach this method to other couples. “It encourages both the husband and wife to learn and practice the method as a team,” the Budeliers said.
Lessons are taught through a “Catholic lens” conveying that NFP is a sacrifice-based way of life. “It is much easier to practice a method when we understand why we are sacrificing,” Beth said.
Sympto-Thermal uses several signs to accurately determine fertile and infertile times. “If I’m ever uncertain with just using one sign, I can cross check with another sign to be confident in interpreting my chart and knowing if I am fertile or infertile on any given day,” she added.
Several recent studies show NFP method effectiveness at 99 percent or higher and user effectiveness at 98 percent or higher, Beth said. That effectiveness rate equals or exceeds several forms of artificial contraception.
The Budeliers teach three classes a year beginning in January, May and September. Each series is composed of three classes, one month apart. They offer free childcare for families. While they teach classes in person, Couple to Couple does offer virtual classes.
“No matter how a couple chooses to learn the method, we are available to answer questions and review charts. Once a couple signs up to take a class (in person, virtual or home study), they can always sit in on a future class series, take a one-hour refresher course, post-partum or pre-menopause class without an additional fee.”
Kristin Detloff of Minnesota, formerly of St. Mary Parish in Pella, said she didn’t know much about NFP growing up. “I remember knowing I wouldn’t use contraception and being aware of some of the negative side effects and risks involved even from just a strictly health-focused perspective.
“By the time my husband and I met and got engaged, some close friends of ours were already in the middle of learning NFP as part of their marriage prep, so we went ahead and scheduled an introduction session to start learning what it was all about.”
Kim said she and her husband-to-be had a desire to be obedient to the church. Since then, they have grown in their knowledge and understanding of Catholic teaching and the health aspects of NFP.
“I think a big part of cultural stigma with having an unplanned pregnancy while using NFP versus using some form of artificial contraception goes much deeper than reliability and the out-of-date rhythm method,” Kristin said.
NFP can be seen as countercultural and there are many misunderstandings about it. “The truth is that we now have numerous, reliable modern methods to choose from — ranging from methods that allow for cross checking and multiple signs to methods that use one sign and have as few as four rules, to methods that use a fertility monitor that does the checking for you,” Kristin said.
Although many use NFP to avoid pregnancy, it also can be used to achieve pregnancy. “Using the knowledge of our fertility combined with proper medical assistance has been shown to be twice as effective as in vitro fertilization (IVF) in having healthy successful pregnancies among couples struggling with fertility,” Kristin said.
When living in the Diocese of Fargo, N.D., Kristin and her husband became certified instructors with Couple to Couple League, which had just rolled out its long-distance instructor training course.
The Detloffs teach SymptoPro Fertility Education. She said she likes this method because it is flexible and instructors have tools to help students in various circumstances. “We can simplify the method or add in extra signs and symptoms to cross check for couples who like to see the data.”
Now living in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Kim primarily teaches NFP online and has had students overseas. Online courses are like an interactive PowerPoint class with quizzes and follow-up forms. Classes can be taken as students’ schedules dictate.
“A good instructor and proper support go a long way to being happy with your method of choice. If you aren’t finding what you need, keep looking,” Kristin said.
To learn about NFP
A list of NFP instructors in the Diocese of Davenport and a list of online classes are available on the diocesan website at http://www.davenportdiocese.org/faithform/Marriage%20and%20Family.htm
Interested in teaching NFP?
* Couple to Couple League’s Des Moines Chapter will offer a free teacher training seminar on the Sympto-Thermal Method Aug. 21-23 at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Des Moines. Training is available in both English and Spanish. The seminar includes meals and free child care.
* Grants are available for teacher training in the Creighton Model through St. Wenceslaus Knights of Columbus Council 14385 in Iowa City.
* The Diocese of Davenport is looking for couples or individuals to be trained as instructors in the Billings Ovulation Method. Tuition and material costs will be provided through diocesan funds.
For more information on NFP, contact Marianne Agnoli, Marriage and Family Life coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (563) 888-4242.
Couples may choose from many different forms of Natural Family Planning, but should learn how to use the method of choice through classes — whether in person or online. Some of the options:
Billings Ovulation Method (BOM) – Begun in the 1960s, this method relies on the women’s perception of vulva sensation and self-examination for changes in cervical mucus.
Creighton Model FertilityCare System (CrM) – Begun in 1976, this method teaches women to observe cervical mucus to identify fertile and infertile times. The technique, type and charting differ from BOM.
Family of the Americas Foundation Method (FAF) – A simplified method based on BOM. Charting involves pictures and natural color.
Sympto-Thermal Method – This method uses three primary signs – basal body temperature, cervical mucus and calendar calculations. Secondary signs include change in cervical position, breast tenderness and sensitivity, lymph node swelling in groin, abdominal pain and/or swelling of vulva.
Marquette Method – Started in 1999, it incorporates all primary fertility signs. Couples use cervical mucus observation, basal body temperature and Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor.
— From “Natural Family Planning: A Catholic Approach.”