Some Uncompelling Reasons You Should Use NFP

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Dear People Who Feel We Shouldn’t Talk About Reproduction and Sex and Stuff in Public — I disagree, but am honoring your opinion by giving you a disclaimer that this post talks openly about reproduction and sex and stuff. Proceed at your own discretion.

I don’t have a strong opinion on natural family planning. I have strong experiences, mind you, but they are not the kind of experiences ideal for prescriptive purposes.

First of all, I am a fatalist when it comes to family planning. I have friends who conceived on NFP, the pill, and an IUD. Not the “oh, I knew somebody who knew somebody” “friend.” Immediate friends.

Your body wants to have babies. It will have the babies it wants. That is my current philosophy on reproduction as I cry over the prospect of being indefinitely pregnant until menopause.

Second, my use of NFP is borne of bitter travails with my body rather than a joyful acceptance of it. I don’t have a happy conversion story where NFP fixed my life and my marriage and my body image and prevented unwanted pregnancy.

Mostly, I just hate condoms. Hate them. And I am terrified of hormonal and chemical birth control’s side effects, which would mess with all my existing problems.

I’m of the opinion that the more natural a method is, the better, but I’m more of the opinion that something should get the job done. I take zinc for colds not because it’s natural but because it works. I take ibuprofen for cramps because peppermint oil and warm baths don’t. Natural and side effect free is a huge plus, but it is, in the end, only a plus.

I’m far more utilitarian than idealistic in my approach to the natural vs. unnatural showdown.

But since I’m a reproductive fatalist (see above), it’s nice to weakly combat the body’s intense desire to get pregnant with a natural method that doesn’t complicate sex or my mood.

Feminist friends, I am partially kidding about my reproductive fatalism. I’m not trying to spread misinformation about the effectiveness of certain reproductive methods over others. I’m not trying to disempower women’s choices over their bodies.

I’m just saying that my personal motto is, if you’re having sex, you might have a baby. Babies and sex often go hand in hand. It’s a natural thing. It’s a good thing — at least, babies are, even if the having of them isn’t. And I appreciate that NFP keeps that emphasis on natural in this context — using the body’s natural infertile period to plan your family as opposed to drugging up and suiting up as if you actually were in combat with your reproductive system.

On the flipside, I am no Michelle Duggar, God bless her. I love children. I love them so much that I believe they deserve as much time and individual attention as Mama can give them. My goal is quality, not quantity, mothering. If that means I feel I can only raise a handful of kids, so be it. If I feel I can effectively mother a string of five or six siblings one and a half years apart as planned, great. My actual children come first over potential children that I theoretically want.

That’s the idea, anyway.

With that in mind, I am strongly opposed to any notion that I should have a certain number of children or just forego all family planning and let Jesus take the wheel.

Obviously, there’s an important, abstract part of my beliefs that will happily welcome any child, no matter whether she’s number two or (gulp) number ten. But there’s also an important, practical part of my beliefs that knows that resources, time, and energy shrink the more children one has.

I don’t think it’s immoral to steward those resources, time, and energy for the good of existing family members, even if it involves unnatural means of family planning.

Fortunately, NFP provides an effective natural planning method (99% in fact, if you can forget that everybody you know got unexpectedly pregnant using NFP).

That leads to my experience with NFP itself.

Here’s my vote of confidence: I got pregnant while using NFP.

In NFP’s defense, we did not follow NFP strictly. We didn’t have any Catholic guilt or deep desire against children egging us into abstinence during the fertile period. We got lazy and lustful, relying too much on our luck and the regularity of my cycle to pay too much attention to basal body temperature or the exact consistency of cervical mucus.

So that happened.

I honestly don’t know what I’ll do if I ever want to actively prevent pregnancy, instead of half-heartedly saying, “Eh, maybe we should wait a year or two.” I extremely disliked intensive, conscious NFP tracking.

I’ll go into more detail in another post, but my time with NFP was nothing like the happy Catholics told me. It was wonderful to understand the rhythm of the female reproductive cycle — something I now miss as a pregnant lady — and that’s an aspect of NFP I think all women should learn.

But it also inadvertently introduced me to my reproductive fatalism. My body desperately wanted to get pregnant. It was made for pregnancy. I was nothing but a baby-making machine. 

That was my happy encounter with NFP.

It felt dehumanizing, frankly, to check for cervical mucus all day, every day. I was being a drama queen about it, but that was my honest reaction. It was a headache trying to figure out how that particular consistency of the day matched up with the three vague categories of egg whites, water, and school glue.

And don’t even get me started on basal body temperatures. I struggled far too much with insomnia, particularly when I first started tracking as an engaged college student, to go to bed and wake up at a regular enough time that my BBT meant anything.

But I couldn’t stress too much about tracking, because stress (and alcohol and travel) also could throw your predictions off.

I don’t know who these 99% effective ladies are, but they’re definitely all stress-free, teetotalling homebodies.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of NFP for me was the failed promise that NFP would bring my husband and me closer. “He’ll understand the natural rhythm of your body!” the brochures said. “He’ll track with you! Your marriage will be rainbows and sunshine all because of NFP!”

Yes, my husband understands how women’s bodies work and mine in particular. He suspected I was pregnant long before I did and could roughly predict where I was in my cycle. That was nice, and helpful. I could commiserate in my reproductive fatalism with him, and he would listen politely.

But beyond the emotional support, there wasn’t much of anything he could do to help me. I was the one sitting alone on the toilet checking cervical mucus. I was the one entering data in my Ovia Fertility app. I was the one pausing during cuddle times to remember how close I was to my fertile period.

It brought us together in one sense, but it also reminded me that men still don’t have any clue of what it’s like to be potentially pregnant and how stressful that is if one wants a life outside of being a pregnant and nursing mother. (He meekly agrees to carry the next child to term whenever I complain about this. If only. But he’s a gem nonetheless.)

So those are my strong experiences. To try to extrapolate some helpful advice from those experiences: NFP works, allegedly, and if it works for you, I highly recommend it. If you cried as much as I did, I feel you. And if you think your beloved form of birth control or family planning will protect you from you body’s reproductive wiles, well, I’ll start prepping your baby shower gift right now.

I’M KIDDING.

(Kind of.)

Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash

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31 thoughts on “Some Uncompelling Reasons You Should Use NFP

  1. calijones

    I have absolutely no clue where my body’s reproductive cycle is at any given time… I use the depo provera shot and I LOVE IT because the *only* side effect is that it took my period away, which I see as a positive. (It comes back if I go off the shot, although irregularly at first).

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    • Bailey Steger

      Huh. I wonder if your reproductive cycle hits pause completely if you’re taking the depo provera shot and it skips your period altogether? I clearly haven’t researched much on hormonal BC. ;) It was funny, because when you mentioned it took away your period, I was like, “Noooo not the period!” And then I paused and was like, “Wait. Is my initial reaction *really* in defense of the worst time of the month??” Maybe I’m more of an NFPer at heart than I realize!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lauren

    Haha, yes! I got pregnant on NFP, too, but this was immediately after getting married, and I didn’t really know what I was doing yet. I second your statements about how nice it was to understand one’s own rhythm, though; after a while, it becomes less of an effort to understand exactly what’s happening at any point.

    And props to Ovia– I’ve used them for both fertility tracking and pregnancy. (Though I freely admit to only entering minimal data at times.)

    I’ve read that some women insert a wedge of lemon for roughly a day before having sex as a form of birth control… Haven’t really explored that option yet, though. 😊

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    • Bailey Steger

      Oh goodness! It’s tricky at first. I immediately started tracking once I got engaged, and I’m glad I did, because if I waited until marriage, I would have definitely conceived a honeymoon baby. ;)

      Same! I don’t enter any data into the Ovia pregnancy app, but I did try to keep up with data entry for their fertility app.

      ….a lemon wedge? WHAT. Okay, I am not THAT natural. :D :D :D

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  3. lynorarose

    Glad I’m not the only one who struggles with the limited non-hormonal options apart from horrid condoms and the terrifying copper coil. Currently my partner and I use ovia along with the pull out method. I really like that that requires us both to be responsible and in touch with our bodies, along with giving us a larger “safe” margin for error than just using one method or the other.

    I was wondering: what is your opinion of emergency contraception very early on (as soon as a period is late) such as plan B, or a large dose of vitamin C?

    I appreciate your honesty so much. Congratulations on your little one! I have no doubts that you’ll be a quality mama.

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    • Bailey Steger

      We sound like we’re kindred spirits in the birth control department, indeed!

      To be honest, I haven’t thought much about emergency contraception because I haven’t found myself in a position where I would utilize it. The only concern I would have is if it is abortive, and I’ve heard mixed opinions on that. It’s on my list of Things to Research, so unfortunately my opinion is not at all informative at this point. :P

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  4. Korie

    Your experience with NFP was so similar to mine! I got pregnant after 2 months of marriage (intending to wait a year). And both of my boys were one-and-done conception, I’m pretty sure. Yep, my body wants to be pregnant. Having two kiddos back to back really wore me out, so we are using condoms until we figure out what to do. I just don’t like any of the options.

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  5. Kristin H.

    After your pregnancy announcement, I was wondering if you were going to do your NFP posts! When I first started looking into it, it sounded like a great idea. There are only a few days a cycle that I can get pregnant?? Awesome! Then I started doing more research, ha. Not as simple as it seemed. I bought a basal thermometer and have been consistently tracking my temperature every morning for the last couple of months. I sort of half-heartedly and sporadically check my cervical mucus. I guess I’m doing it more for my own information than anything else. When we get married in 2 months we’re planning on starting out with condoms, because I really don’t want to use hormonal BC and they seem like the only other option.

    Out of curiosity and if you don’t mind me asking, why do you hate condoms? I obviously don’t have any experience with them yet but I keep hearing such vastly different things…some couples use them all the time and don’t seem to mind, others hate them, etc.

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    • Bailey Steger

      That was my first reaction to NFP too! After it became more complicated than I initially thought, we decided we would use condoms and then I didn’t track as consistently. But then condoms didn’t work out…..

      So, condoms. I don’t like them because it’s an extra step you have to insert into lovemaking. It was hard for us to know when to put it on, because if we put it on too soon, it made things more difficult. At the time we had to really lube up too, which was ANOTHER added, messy step that killed the mood. Sex was already complicated for me in the beginning, so anything that made it more complicated was a huge frustration. It was so much simpler, sexier, and felt better to go without condoms.

      Having said that, as I’m sure you’ve heard, everyone is really so different. I’ve heard people say that putting on the condom is a fun part of foreplay, or it at least doesn’t bother them whatsoever. So don’t let my bad experience scare you away. It’s totally possible it’ll be a breeze for you. :)

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      • Kristin H.

        Oh okay! Thanks for sharing. That makes me feel better that was more of an inconvenience thing rather than being painful or irritating, etc. I’ve had one person tell me that condoms were always very uncomfortable for her, and my gynecologist told me that a lot of guys don’t like to wear them. But I realize that doesn’t mean they’ll be uncomfortable for everyone, and my fiancé has already said he’s willing to use them. The inconvenience doesn’t seem like a big deal to me right now…of course my mind may change drastically after I’m actually married. :)

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      • Bailey Steger

        Oh, yeah, it was mostly just inconvenience. We did have a couple instances where we didn’t get it on right and it was a bit irritating (especially if it slipped off….UGH), but that, to me, is just part of the learning curve. Tampons were similarly irritating and frustrating the first few times, but now they’re a breeze and I would never live life without them! I’m sure things like condoms are a similar case for many people.

        I heard that condoms shouldn’t actually be uncomfortable for guys, and if they are, it might be due to sizing or incorrect placement. But I *can* see it cutting down on intimate enjoyment for them. I don’t think that was a big deal for either my husband or myself, though.

        Haha Yup, you’ll know exactly where you stand once you’re married! I hope you take a look at some of the other suggestions some ladies are offering on this thread — I’d never heard of them and they sound so much better than condoms and the NFP method I was using!

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  6. Allison Caylor

    Oh, such a complicated thing, this family management stuff. Once you’ve wrestled through whether managing conception is even okay (which can be hard if you’ve been around fundamentalism much!), you still have to figure out what to actually *do.* For myself, I am firmly resolved against messing with my hormones — they’re too vital, too interconnected, too little understood — and also against having more children at a time than I can fully, intimately care for. And we also hate condoms. So.

    Thankfully (I truly see this as God’s mercy!) I stumbled upon something that suits us perfectly. It’s a vaginally injected spermicide (brand name Conceptrol, also made by VCF). They’re at Walmart for about a dollar apiece, easy to put in, effective immediately for up to an hour. And we’ve been using them successfully for over a year now. I previously conceived on our first cycle of trying, so it’s pretty reliable stuff. I don’t think the risk percentage is as good as condoms or the pill, but for something so simple and non-invasive, I’ll take it. (From what I’ve heard, it’s still more effective than NFP. :D)

    Thanks for opening up this conversation, Bailey! :)

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      • Bailey Steger

        That sounds amazing and a million times better than condoms. Still not as amazing as having no worries about conceiving, but beggars can’t be choosers. ;)

        P.S. I’m so glad WordPress decided to let your comments go through!! I had several people losing their comments around the same time you lost yours. So weird.

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    • Bailey Steger

      This is incredibly helpful. I’d never heard of Conceptrol before — honestly, I’d never looked too much into spermicides, I guess because I lumped then in with hormonal birth control (which I, for the same reasons you stated, am determined to avoid).

      I’d need to do more research, but I’m wondering if its risk percentage would be even better if you combined Conceptrol with a form of NFP tracking — being aware of when you’re fertile and using Conceptrol when you’re not 100% sure.

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      • Allison Caylor

        So glad it helped! It’s really the bomb for us. And come to think of it, I guess I do implement a very loose version of NFP, in that I’m generally aware of where I am in my cycle so I know when to be extra careful, and when (for a few days after my period) I don’t need to bother.

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  7. Anna

    Good post! I liked how you put this: “my personal motto is, if you’re having sex, you might have a baby. Babies and sex often go hand in hand. It’s a natural thing. It’s a good thing.”

    I’m not Catholic or an NFP-only die-hard, but my outlook is somewhat similar. I *want* to avoid conceiving via NFP/FAM for the first year of my marriage, but I realize that sex means the possibility of babies, and so sometimes a baby comes along despite our best efforts to the contrary! If my future husband and I don’t manage to successfully avoid, we’ll be over the moon that we’re welcoming a new little soul into the world. :)

    Also, you mentioned that you hated NFP tracking because of the cervical mucus checks and so forth. It sounds like you were using a symptothermal method? Have you looked into other methods? I’m learning about the Marquette method through a Facebook group (Marquette Method NFP) and a class I’m going to take with a certified method instructor. It doesn’t require any mucus or temp checks; just checking the hormone levels of your urine with a fertility monitor every morning. It is mostly used by women in the postpartum phase, but there are protocols for women in regular cycles as well. It’s very objective and has a high effectiveness (98-99%, up there with other popular methods). Just a thought! I knew as soon as I learned about mucus and temp methods that those would NOT work well for us, so that’s why we’re learning Marquette!

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    • Bailey Steger

      Really? I was vaguely aware of things such as ovulation monitors and such, but didn’t look into anything like the Marquette method because of cost. And because, frankly, everyone in my circle used the symptothermal method. I’m going to google that right now, because that sounds like a good fit for me postpartum. Thanks!!

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      • Anna

        Yeah, there is the cost issue. I decided that not having to temp or check mucus was worth the extra money! The upfront cost for me (I’m just starting out) is a $100 instructor fee and a $58 used-like-new monitor off eBay. You can buy test sticks for about $30 per box of 30 on Amazon (or cheaper on eBay), so each stick is $1-ish. During regular cycles you use about 10 sticks per month, and during postpartum cycles you use a stick every day, so the average monthly cost of the method depends on what stage of life you’re in. :)

        Anyway, there’s lots of info about the method protocols in the Marquette method Facebook group and on various NFP blog posts around the interwebs; the Marquette method website itself is really out of date and doesn’t have the latest protocols, I believe.

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  8. Karen Wright

    NFP always makes me nervous…I think by nature I’m a low-risk person and I know too many people that got pregnant before they wanted to on NFP to be sold on it. I’m totally with you though that the idea of not taking hormones sounds awesome…..but for me, the pill actually made my life a lot happier. It helped my mood swings a lot and made my periods non-events. Win x3. If it wasn’t for the fact that the pill makes my life 100% better in so many ways, I’d probably be a copper IUD girl….I like that it’s hormone free. I think if I was married and still didn’t want kids, I’d probably ditch the condom cause I’m with you, they kind of suck. (but getting pregnant sucks more- for me, anyway!)

    My sister had 4 kids back-to-back. They were “kinda” using condoms, so of course they had a lot of kids in a short time. However, she reached the point where they knew that #4 was their last, so he went in to get snipped. I really admired them for that decision. Of course there’s always the risk you might regret a permanent decision like that, but it took guts for them to be able to say “this is our family now”. I also loved that my bro in law was willing to go experience a little discomfort and take one for the team since my sister went through labor 4 times for them. So just in case you’re worried that you’ll have kids until menopause, you don’t have to do that. :)

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    • Bailey Steger

      Oh, wow! That’s nice to hear a happy outcome with taking hormonal BC. I’m glad that works so well for you!

      I don’t think I would ever be decisive enough for my husband or I to ever get snipped, but I’ve heard that some people just “know” when they’ve reached their limit with a certain number of kids. Maybe that’ll be the same for me. :)

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      • Lea

        “So just in case you’re worried that you’ll have kids until menopause, you don’t have to do that. :)”

        Yes, either vasectomy or tubes tied tends to be popular with people I know once they feel like they are really done. (and they are both reversible I believe although I hear a vasectomy is a rather painful thing to reverse)

        Like

  9. WorkinMama

    Interesting, and thank you for the open, honest discussion.

    Are you planning to continue NFP after your son is born? I would recommend breastfeeding him as long as possible (two or two-and-a-half years if you can), for many reasons, but especially if you are going to continue to use NFP as your birth control method.

    Breastfeeding can be a little challenging when you’re first getting started (first couple of weeks), but it can be a wonderful experience after that. Much better than pregnancy! I felt great when I was breastfeeding, and sometimes I wish I could lactate indefinitely.

    Feel free to email if you have any breastfeeding questions or just need someone to talk to about it. I breastfed my oldest until he was almost two, and I weaned him then only because we were trying to conceive again and I couldn’t get pregnant, not because I ran out of milk or really wanted to wean him. A few months later, our youngest came to live with us. He was two months old, and we adopted him from foster care. I couldn’t breastfeed him because he wouldn’t latch (he was already used to the bottle) and my milk supply was really low (I had weaned my oldest several months earlier). But I was able to hand-extract a little breastmilk and add it to his bottles.

    A lot of this NFP stuff sounds very familiar to me — temping, checking cervical mucous, charting cycles, using ovulation predictor kits — only I used it to TRY to get pregnant. My husband said at one point that he felt like I only wanted him for his sperm, LOL!

    Another thing I would add, is that just being close to your baby — cuddling with him, carrying him around in a sling during the day, sleeping with him at night — decreases your odds of getting pregnant if you are also breastfeeding. There is some medical science behind this although I don’t have time to look it up right now. I experienced something similar to this a few months ago when I was fostering another newborn. I was NOT breastfeeding, but I was carrying her around all day and sleeping next to her at night. I got all emotional and “hormonal” feeling (as if I had just given birth) and my cycle went haywire. I wondered if maybe it was in my head, but I mentioned it to the baby’s pediatrician and she totally agreed that it was a real thing and that my hormones were responding to the fact that I was caring for a newborn.

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    • Bailey Steger

      I plan on breastfeeding for as long as needed, which I heard naturally keeps your period away…except for the unlucky few who get their period back regardless. ;)

      Right now, birth control options are dependent on how soon after this baby we want to try for another. And I have no idea when that “soon” will be!

      It’s crazy how caretaking affects hormones!!! I’d just recently read how dads involved in caring for their children have their hormonal makeup changed a bit.

      Like

  10. ArieltheHuman

    Thanks for sharing so honestly in this post! My husband was in school when we married so it was pretty important that I not get pregnant (being the breadwinner.) As such I picked the hormonal BC with the least amount of actual hormones (the ring) and was very happy with it for 3 years.
    In the back of my head though I really did want to stop messing up my body’s natural cycles. So as soon as he graduated and got hired I switched over to FAM (basically the same as NFP but based on a really excellent book by Toni Weschler). Since it’s only been a month, I don’t have too strong an opinion on it, but it has been hard to track! I totally relate to what you said about the stress of trying to figure out which consistently your CF is. 😂
    Curious: in NFP do you abstain (vs condom or whatever) during your fertile days? That’s the way in FAM. I think many people that got pregnant “on NFP” perhaps were trusting a condom on a fertile day….

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    • Bailey Steger

      Wait, FAM and NFP are different? I guess I always equated them in my mind!! :)

      We weren’t too careful about abstaining, but we theoretically tried to (because again, we hate condoms and we know the pullout method is not actual that effective….). It would be very interesting to hear if most women got pregnant because of the form of prevention they used during their fertile days, rather than a failure of NFP itself.

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      • ArieltheHuman

        I think the only difference between the two is FAM requiring abstinence and NFP allowing barrier methods. I could be mistaken but I think other than that they are taught pretty much the exact same way.

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