Natural Family Planning
What is Natural Family Planning and Why Does the Church Want YOU to Use It?
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a term for certain methods used to achieve and postpone pregnancy based on the awareness of a woman’s fertility rather than the use of artificial hormones or devices. These methods are all natural, low cost, and have no adverse health side affects. However, because of their ability to postpone pregnancy, many people struggle in understanding the differences between NFP methods and most other modern contraceptive methods. Contrary to popular belief, the Catholic Church promotes responsible family planning and recognizes that there are legitimate reasons couples may have to postpone or avoid pregnancy. However, it is the method in which couples go about postponing and avoiding pregnancy that the Catholic Church is concerned about.
To understand this more deeply, let’s first look at the Church’s teaching on the topic of marriage and sex:
Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. (CCC 2360)
The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family. (CCC 2363)
Intercourse with the use of contraceptives blocks the ability of the couple to transmit life, and so compromises the “good of the marriage and the future of the family”. How is this different than abstaining from sex during fertile times of a woman’s cycle to avoid pregnancy? Saint Pope John Paul II’s writings on the Theology of the Body explain that man was made in the image of God “not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning”. (TOB 9:3). As summarized by Christopher West in his book Theology of the Body for Beginners, the sexual love between a married man and woman is an “earthly image of the inner life of the trilogy.” (pg 51). Just as the Father cannot be separated from Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit, so too we as men and women were not meant to enter into a sexual union with any sort of barriers that prevent us from giving ourselves fully (including our fertility) to one another. During times of abstinence when couples choose not to have intercourse to avoid pregnancy, couples are practicing a type of love called agape–or sacrificial love.
Abstaining from sex acknowledges and respects a couple’s fertility while responsibly waiting until a more appropriate time to add to the family. In this way, when a couple does have sex, they are able to fulfill both purposes of marital sex for the “good of the spouses” and the possible “transmission of life”. Using contraception blocks the fertility of one or both members of the couple, making it impossible for the “transmission of life”. Unable to fulfill the second meaning of marital sex, intercourse becomes solely about the “good of the spouses” and may lead to a lustful love instead of an all giving, self-sacrificing, agape love as imitated to us by Christ by his crucifixion for the forgiveness of sins of his bride–the Church.
There are many different NFP methods, and some may work better for you and your family than others. To date, our diocese offers in person instruction for the Billings Ovulation Method, the Creighton Model, and the Sympto-Thermal Method with online options for the Creighton Model, the Marquette Method, and the Sympto-Thermal Method. What’s the difference between them all?
The Billing’s Ovulation Method is a NFP method which analyzes the unique mucus pattern belonging to a woman to identify periods of fertility and infertility that are naturally part of her cycle. The Billing’s method requires no internal examination, monitors, or hormonal tests but rather, relies on the sensation of and visual observations of mucus characteristics throughout the day. By correlating the developing mucus patterns with physiological and hormonal changes experienced by women over the course of a cycle, Drs. John and Evelyn Billing established and scientifically validated the Billing’s Method, which can help those wishing to avoid pregnancy with a 99.5% success rate. Because the Billing’s Method treats each woman as an individual with unique patterns, this method is great for woman with both regular and irregular cycles and who are in different stages in life (e.g. menarche, breastfeeding, menopause).
The Creighton Model Method is a standardized mucus only method. The benefit of a mucus only method is that you do not have to wake up at the same time every day, or get consistent amounts of sleep at night. The Creighton Model is a standardized modification of the Billings Ovulation Method. The research on this system has continued up until the present day and it has an extraordinary degree of scientific understanding and validity. It was developed by an OBGYN and is a very effective method to avoid a pregnancy, 96.8%. It is truly the only family planning system which has networked family planning with gynecologic and procreative healthcare and health maintenance.
This method is ideal for anyone who would like to gain an in depth knowledge of their reproductive health and fertility, or is experiencing reproductive health problems (ie. PCOS, endometriosis, infertility, repeat miscarriage, PMS, etc). Because of the standardization of the Creighton Model Method when a woman is experiencing gynecological health issues, we are able to identify those underlying problems and get to the root cause. The teachers are trained allied health professionals, and specifically-trained physicians have been educated to incorporate the Creighton Model charting into their medical practice.
The Fertility Education and Medical Management (FEMM) Method is a comprehensive women’s health program that first educates women on charting for health and family planning via certified teachers, and second, utilizes standardized reproductive endocrinology to diagnose and treat women via trained healthcare providers. This protocol teaches women to chart cervical mucus biomarkers and monitor LH to observe for ovulation. The LH monitoring is optional, but encouraged, and accomplished via inexpensive strips that can be purchased at most drug stores and online. It’s efficacy rate is up to 98% effective with perfect use.
FEMM teachers are trained to understand concerning red flags in cycle symptoms and patterns and to teach women how to do the same. Physicians trained in medical management are able to diagnose and treat patients via sensitive and comprehensive protocols. Telemedicine is available depending on state laws.
FEMM is a wonderful method for those who want a straightforward, cervical mucus method with optional cross-checks. It is easy to understand and implement. Perfect for teens and women whose focus is on charting with their health in mind. There is a free app available for both iPhone and Android users or the option to chart on paper.
The Marquette Method is designed to take the ambiguity out of NFP. Instead of relying on symptoms associated with ovulation, women will track their reproductive hormone levels by testing a urine sample every day using a ClearBlue Fertility monitor. These results, combined with Marquette instructions, algorithms, and methods of charting, provide women with a method that is 99% effective in avoiding pregnancy. Testing for the presence of the ovulation hormones directly allows for couples to maximize the number of intimate days available in their cycle. This method is great for women during times of their life when it may be difficult to read ovulation symptoms such as cervical mucus (e.g. breastfeeding, menopause).
The Sympto-Thermal Method is based on the observations of cervical fluid, basal body temperature (waking temperature) and biological signs (i.e. changes in the cervix). Used perfectly, the sympto-thermal method is 99.4-99.6% effective in avoiding pregnancy. With typical use and applicaiton, it is 98-99% effective in avoiding pregnancy.
Meet Our Instructors
Torey Burns and her husband have been married since 2015 and have successfully used NFP to achieve and avoid pregnancy. She is an aspiring homeschool mom who also desires to run a small homestead with chickens, goats, and sheep. She and her husband just purchased a fixer-upper farm in Harrodsburg, Kentucky that they look forward to turning into the perfect home for their daughter and future children. NFP has enriched their marriage, and Torey is excited to share the ease and beauty of the Billing’s Method with other couples and women wishing to better understand their fertility. Method: Billing’s Ovulation Method (BOM)
Brett and Julie Ervin have been married for over 33 years, having learned about NFP as an engaged couple and used it throughout their marriage. They are the proud parents of six sons and are now grandparents of a boy and a girl as well. Brett works as a business analyst for Unified Trust, while Julie continues to homeschool their two youngest sons as well as teach high school Spanish online through Freedom Project Academy. She also is a piano accompanist at St. Joseph in Winchester and fills in at other parishes as well. The Ervins live in Bourbon County and are members of Church of the Annunciation in Paris. They have taught the Sympto-Thermal Method through Couple to Couple League since 1991 and strongly believe that practicing NFP builds and strengthens marriages. Method: Sympto-Thermal Method
Rita Johnson is a homeschooling mom of 4. She and Ben have been married for 14 years and have been able to use Natural Family Planning to achieve and avoid pregnancy. She is passionate about her faith, her family, and natural family planning. She chose to teach FertilityCare because she believes that couples with infertility should get real answers to their problems and what is causing their infertility. Website: naturalfertilitycare.org. Method: Creighton Model (CrM)
Mairead Suthoff, ATC learned FEMM initially for fertility awareness to help heal irregular and painful cycles. Now, she and her husband use FEMM for health and family planning with great success. Mairead’s love for the FEMM method stems from the fact that it teaches “ovulation as a sign of health” and instructs women of all ages and cycle types how to chart so they may document their personal health data. As someone who suffered many cycle irregularities and was concerned for infertility, charting for health first, family planning second, resonates deeply with Mairead. The ability of informed women to view their cycle data in real time allows them the freedom to participate in their healthcare as opposed to having healthcare treatments “happen” to them. As a certified sport’s medicine provider, Mairead is particularly interested in how cycle health impacts female athletes. She personally experiments with syncing both her lifestyle and her exercise routine to her cycle phases. She encourages other women to tap into this method of body literacy to understand how changing up their routines can support their fluctuating hormones. Mairead teaches mainly online through group workshops, but private and in-person sessions are available on request. Self-paced, online classes for experienced charters looking for a new fertility awareness protocol are also available. Website: www.luminahealthservices.com. Method: FEMM
Sarah Tramonte BSN, RN, CPN was born, raised, and still lives in the South. In 2008, she married her best friend from high school. They have used the Marquette method to avoid and achieve pregnancy and have 5 children. Sarah worked as a pediatric nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta before becoming certified in 2014 to teach the Marquette Method. In 2018, she cofounded “You, Me and NFP” with a mission: “Rooted in prayer, we joyously and shamelessly share the good news of sex and marriage as given to us through the wisdom of the Catholic Church. Using today’s technology we will: reach people where they are, empower with knowledge, make NFP easily accessible, and accompany each other on our journeys.” Website: youmeandnfp.com.
Method: Marquette Method
Johnna Wilford’s passion for women’s health and fitness preceded her knowledge of Natural Family Planning. Learning about NFP inspired stronger communication in her marriage and a deeper devotion to her Catholic faith. Consequently, her scope of holistic wellness education quickly expanded; Johnna pursued NFP certification and includes fertility coaching in her wellness coaching. Johnna’s mission focuses on helping women grow in their physical wellness, spiritual strength, and self-image. Her programming involves in-person and online resources, from group fitness classes to workout and recipe plans. Johnna brings her Catholic faith and unique background in anthropology to her collaboration with women. Website: risafertility.com. Method: Sympto-Thermal
To schedule a lesson, contact the teacher of your choice!
$15/ follow up
(first two free)
$45 fertility kit
$50/ follow up
|Sts. Francis and
|St. Peter Chanel
register at: ccli.org
(pay plans available)
register at: ccli.org
register at: ccli.org
**Three live onsite classes are taught per year. See ‘Group Classes Already Scheduled for the Diocese’ section below for dates.
***More info on live online and self-paced online classes with Sympto-Thermal instructors can be found below in the ‘Online Classes Offered by Couple-to-Couple League’ section.
Method Type Cost Description Sympto-Thermal Live Online $135/couple
With this option, you both take a live class together,
even from separate locations. You’ll get premium
support from a teaching couple who can answer your
questions face-to-face (virtually) before, during, or after class.
Sympto-Thermal Self-Paced Online $135/couple
This option is best for couples with varied schedules
that make it hard for you to attend live on-site or virtual
classes together. Couples can enjoy the flexibility to
proceed at their own pace.
*To register for online Couple-to-Couple league classes, visit CCLI.org
*Our Diocese Couple-to-Couple league classes are offered by Brett and Julie Ervin (english), Omar and Silvia Mendoza (spanish) and Blas and Imelda Lopez (spanish).
Am I required to take a NFP training course?
In order to get married in the diocese of Lexington, you are required to take a couple’s NFP training course with a certified instructor during your marriage preparation. If you believe you have extenuating circumstances that may make the class unneccesary or inapplicable, please consult your parish priest or deacon.
What if you aren’t getting married? While you aren’t required to take an NFP training course, single women are highly encouraged to do so in order to better understand their bodies. NFP methods can help identify possible fertility or health issues in addition to giving women a sense of understanding instead of mystery when it comes to their natural cycles.
Is NFP even accurate? I don’t want to end up with 50 kids.
While you would certainly be living out God’s commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), the Catholic Church recognizes that couples have legitimate reasons for avoiding pregnancy. The success of NFP methods at avoiding pregnancy varies by the method, but some are rated higher if not the same as modern contraceptive methods.
*Table 2 from Smoley et al 2012. Natural Family Planning. American Family Physician. 86 (10): 924-928.
*Note: accuracy stated here may not represent effectiveness claimed by official method organizations. Problems with 3rd party study methods can lead to lower effectiveness reported. The main take away is that NFP methods are just as effective if not MORE than typical contraceptive methods.
I tried NFP, and it didn’t work for me. Or, I know someone who tried NFP and it didn’t work for them.
There are many different methods of NFP, and some will work better for you and your family than others. Branch out to new methods and be sure to let the teachers know what you have tried in the past.
Is NFP the same as the rhythm method?
Though NFP may have started out as the rhythm method, the scientific community has since moved on because of its inaccuracy. The Rhythm Method tries to predict ovulation by using a calendar exclusively rather than monitoring signs of ovulation produced by the individual woman. Similary, many fertility apps on the market today are based on the Rhythm Method and give you a “fertility window” based on a calculated number of days based on previous cycles. This method fails to account for fluctuations in a woman’s cycle from one month to the other due to reasons such as sickness, stress, or simply the stage of life they are in (e.g. menarche, breastfeeding, menopause). This method also requires long periods of abstinence for avoiding pregancy. Much more accurate methods have since been developed.
I would like to do NFP, but I struggle with endometriosis or PCOS.
The Church recognizes there are some cases in which medical birth control may be necessary for health reasons.
The Church does not consider illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever (Humanae Vitae 15).
To conclude, birth control is allowed for medical reasons if the person using them is not using it as a contraceptive but rather as a treatment for underlying health issues. That being said, NFP methods can be used to diagnose (and thus lead to more specific treatment) of health issues such as cysts, endometriosis, cancer, and PCOS. Talk to your instructor about how you can use NFP despite your health conditions.
Need a NFP friendly health physician? Check out these health professionals:
Name Specialty Phone Number Location Dr. Steve Vogelsang Family Medicine 859-8739188 Versailles, KY Dr. Mary Sheppard Family Medicine 859-2573253 Lexington, KY Dr. William Wehrman III Family Medicine 859-3359041 Lexington, KY Dr. Nancy Mullen Internal Medicine 859-3235544 Lexington, KY Dr. Rachel Saunders Obstetrics and Gynecology 859-2578801 Lexington, KY Dr. Jason Mattingly Family Medicine 513-9815922 Cincinnati, OH Dr. Lauren Hruszkewycz Family Medicine 513-3983445 Cincinnati, OH Dr. Paul Day Family Medicine 513-9815922 Cincinnati, OH
*Want to keep your doctor but not sure how to approach them about your use of NFP? Your instructor can help prepare you to meet with your doctor and explain your cycle charting so that your doctor can help you get the treatment you need.
Is NFP just for Catholics?
By no means! NFP empowers women to become more familiar with their cycles and brings couples closer together as they have to strengthen their communication and learn the beauty behind a woman’s fertility. NFP is an all natural, low cost method with no side effects and can still accurately help you to plan your family according to your needs and desires. Know someone who’s not catholic who wants a birth control alternative or is struggling to get pregnant? Encourage them to reach out to our instructors!
Thinking about giving NFP a try, but not sure you are ready to contact an instructor? Or want to branch out into the world of NFP and the Theology of the Body?
Here are some resources that you can check out on your own:
The Sinner’s Guide to NFP by Simcha Fisher
Love and Responsibility by Pope John Paul II
Why Humanae Vitae was Right by Janet Smith
The Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West
Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West
Theology of the Body Explained by Christopher West
Fertility Care Clinics and Services:
Divine Mercy Fertility Care in Florence, KY; (517)775-7229
Fertility Care Services in Cincinnati, OH; (513)851-1188
Links for FEMM Method:
FEMM official website
The Case for FEMM; research paper
FEMM, FAM, & NFP… Who, What, Why?
Websites for NFP and Fertility:
The Guiding Star Project
Managing Your Fertility
Natural Family Planning – Catholic Diocese of Lexington Facebook Page
There are many more people involved in making NFP available to the diocese of Lexington and the local community than just our teachers.
Natural Family Planning Coordinators:
Brandi Carey (St. Leo/Versailles, KY); firstname.lastname@example.org
Torey Burns (St. Andrew/Harrodsburg, KY); ToreyAnneBurns@gmail.com
Diocesan Director of Family Life Ministries:
Mike Allen; email@example.com
Natural Family Planning Instructors (Retired):
Tom and Kathy Fister (St. Francis and St. John/Georgetown, KY); firstname.lastname@example.org
Natural Family Planning Promotors:
Nick and Mollie Such (Holy Spirit/Lexington, KY); email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ray and Ann Marie Grijalba (St. Francis and St. John/Georgetown, KY); email@example.com
Fr. Steve Roberts, MD (Holy Spirit/Lexington, KY); firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Vogelsang, MD (St. Leo/Versailles, KY); Svogelsang224@gmail.com
Beth Grant (St. Mark/Richmond, KY); email@example.com
Amy Thompson (Cathedral of Christ the King/Lexington, KY); firstname.lastname@example.org
Diocese NFP Website Coordinator:
Torey Burns (St. Andrew/Harrodsburg, KY); ToreyAnneBurns@gmail.com
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We are here for YOU! Let us know if there is someway we can serve you better!
May God bless you in your NFP endeavors!