Okay Then, Let’s Talk about Natural Family Planning

A number of the Catholics who commented on my pro-life movement article pointed me to Natural Family Planning as the solution for everyone who has sex and doesn’t want to get pregnant. As one commenter said:

Natural Family Planning, when done correctly, is more effective that ANY form of artifical contraception. It is a fairly simple method but it does take a little time and effort. There must also be a willingness to abstain for a period of time during the woman’s cycle. This time of abstinence allows the couple greater opportunity to express their love in non-sexual ways, which only enhances the relationship. You should check it out.

So yes, let’s do talk about Natural Family Planning. The assertion this and other commenters have made is that it is the most effective means of birth control, that it’s “fairly simple,” and that it actually “enhances the relationship” between a married couple. Let’s look, shall we? Because in contrast to what these commenters quite naturally assumed, I am not actually ignorant about NFP. Quite the contrary. I actually used it for four and a half years and only stopped using it this past summer.

Is NFP the Most Effective Birth Control Method out There?

First, the assertion that NFP is the most effective means of birth control. Here is a chart from a website one of these commenters linked to:

First, I would point out that even this chart does not say that NFP is the most effective method of birth control, but rather one of the most effective methods of birth control. What you have to understand though, that this chart shows perfect use failure, not typical use failure. In other words, if you use the method perfectly, this is the failure rate you will experience. The problem with that is that NFP is the hardest birth control method to use perfectly. To use the pill perfectly, you just have to remember to take it at the same time every day. To use an IUD or an implant perfectly, you don’t have to do anything at all. To use NFP perfectly, you have to know your body backward and forward and perfectly chart each menstrual cycle.

So let’s take a look at typical use statistics:

This chart uses the term “Fertility Awareness-Based Methods,” which is a term for Natural Family Planning. Note that in this chart NFP is below everything except spermicide. Why the difference? Because this chart shows typical use rather than perfect use. According to the Guttmacher institute, the typical use failure rate of NFP is around 25%. Of course, Catholics have taken issue with this number, insisting that it is way too high. So I looked around and another number sometimes used for NFP’s typical use failure rate was 12%. One Catholic writer suggested that it was 2% to 5. Note that even that last number shows that the typical use failure rate for NFP is higher than IUDs and implants.

The thing about NFP is that you really do have to practice it perfectly. If you break the rules when you use NFP you will get pregnant. After all, the rules of NFP are this: figure out when you’re fertile, and don’t have sex during that time. If you break the rules, you are having sex when you are fertile – a perfect recipe for getting pregnant. In contrast, if you skip using a condom once there’s is a decent chance you’ll be okay, since you only ovulate during a certain period of the month. Similarly, if you miss just one pill, you’ll probably be fine. But if you break the rules of NFP, even just once? The chances are pretty high that you’ll end up pregnant.

So yes, NFP can and does work. But you have to be very careful to practice it perfectly, and even then claiming that it “is more effective than ANY form of artificial contraception” is quite simply false.

My Experience with NFP

Let’s turn now to my own experiences with Natural Family Planning. I used it for four and a half years, though given that I was pregnant or for eighteen months of that time, I suppose it’s probably more fair to say that I used it for three years. And yes, it did work for me. Both of my children were planned. Let’s turn for a moment to what’s involved in practicing NFP.

Temperature: NFP involves taking and recording your temperature each morning. At first glance this sounds simple. That’s misleading. For maximum effectiveness you have to take your temperature at the same time every morning. You need to not have been in bed for at least an hour before checking it, so if you wake up in the night and have to use the bathroom you have to make sure that you’re not within an hour of the time you’re supposed to wake up and take your temperature. Also, if you want to sleep in on a given morning, you risk messing up your temperature. Ditto for when you’re sick or out of town. Even vast swings in the room’s temperature can throw the reading off a bit. At some point I became so jaded that I concluded that the charts they show in the NFP books, where the low temperatures followed by a temperature jump to indicate ovulation are oh so obvious, have got to be fakes. The temperature jump is almost never that simple or obvious, and it always includes second-guessing.

Cervix and Mucus: The next thing you have to do is check your cervix’s shape and texture and your cervical mucos. In the books this always sounds simple. Your cervix is softer, wider, and lower before ovulation and harder, smaller, and higher afterwards. Similarly, the mucus is tacky or watery when you are not fertile, and becomes like egg whites in consistency when you approach ovulation. In practice it is not this simple or easy. There were times when my cervix would firm up and get smaller only to suddenly soften up again the next day, leaving me to wonder what in the world had happened. Sometimes the mucus never got to egg white consistency like it was supposed to, leaving me to wonder for days after I should have ovulated whether I actually had. Other times my cervix would get to about medium softness before hardening up again, leaving me to wonder if I had ovulated yet or not. Sometimes my signs were simply all over the chart. It’s really not as simple as the book makes it sound.

Charting Fertility: Finally, I had to put all of these signs together and determine when intercourse was safe. From everything you read and hear, it sounds like a quick look at the charts should tell you conclusively when you ovulate, and sometimes it really was this simple. Most months, though, I would stare at the charts, burning holes in the signs I had recorded before finally making the agonizing decision of whether or not it was now safe to risk intercourse. There were many months when I waited several days or a week longer than I technically needed to, sometimes waiting so long that my period arrived, because I was afraid I had misread the signs and hadn’t actually ovulated, especially in a month when the signs were confusing, with my temperature jumping up or down, or a missing temperature, or a day I had been sick. And I never enjoyed the first time we had sex once I decided that ovulation had passed and it was safe. I wanted to, but instead I couldn’t help but spend the entire time worrying that I might have misread the signs and that I might be about to get pregnant. When it was over I could enjoy the next time, since I knew that if we were going to get pregnant we were going to get pregnant and having sex again wouldn’t change that. That first time, though? Agonizing.

Abstinence: I was always careful and always played it safe, which I think is why it worked for me. However, this meant that between 50% and 60% of the time we couldn’t have sex. Some months, if the signs were confusing, it was more like 75% of the time that we couldn’t have sex. All the books say that this abstinence makes the times when you can have sex that much better. My experience didn’t bear this out at all. Instead, it made both of us feel like we had better have sex during the time we were allowed to, whether we were in the mood or not, because otherwise we were wasting our chance and would regret it later. And it made both of us frustrated when we couldn’t have sex and desperately wanted to. Sure, there is cuddling and making out, but that’s not the same, especially as a newlywed. And yes, you can engage in sexual contact that doesn’t involve sperm in the vagina. However, I was always afraid that if we did that and sperm ended up anywhere near my vagina, some of it might travel up through my uterus and I might become pregnant. Whether this was a rational fear or not, the result was that it was very difficult for me to enjoy any sexual contact at all during my fertile period.

Conclusion

So yes, NFP can be used as birth control, and it can work, as it did for me. Or sometimes it can not work, as in the case of a friend of mine who was careful and still ended up getting pregnant while using NFP twice. I should note, of course, that it doesn’t work at all for women with irregular periods – it by definition can’t work for them. [Edit: I have been informed that this is incorrect; since my periods have always been regular I have no experience using NFP while having irregular periods.] I did learn a lot about my body through using NFP and I don’t regret that, and some people absolutely love NFP and talk about it in glowing terms. More power to them! I am all for people using NFP if that’s the method they feel is best for them, and I do understand the appeal it has to those who want to go all natural and enjoy the knowledge about their cycles. But assuming that NFP is some sort of easy fix to substitute in place of artificial birth control, or assuming that it’s all rainbows and sparkles, or assuming that it’s something every woman can or should do, is extremely disingenuous.

This past summer I got an IUD. Not only does the IUD have a lower typical use and perfect use failure rate than NFP, but it’s also something I don’t have to worry about, or even think about at all. I don’t have to check my temperature, chart my cervix’s shape, or wonder if it’s safe to have sex yet. My husband and I can have sex when we’re in the mood, or not have sex if we don’t feel like it. I don’t have to worry with every approaching period about whether I might be pregnant. It’s absolutely amazing. If I had it to do over again, I would probably have gotten an IUD in between my two children rather than using NFP. So yes, NFP works. But to tout it as some sort of perfect cure-all? I’ll have to sit that one out.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • veganatheist01

    “I should note, of course, that it doesn’t work at all for women with irregular periods – it by definition can’t work for them.”
    As a woman with a menstrual cycle anywhere between 22 and 31 days, I guess I’m out, then.

    In the passage about NFP’s failure rates, you wrote: “One Catholic writer suggested that it was 95% to 98%” – don’t they mean an effectiveness rate there, with a failure rate of 5%-2%?

    • Jessica

      Veganatheist01,

      *If* you wanted to practice NFD, you could use an ovulation test kit. It works like a pregnancy test but it tells you if you are ovulating or not. (It can help you get pregnant too. Especially if your irregular so you can have sex during that period).

      I agree, everyone should pick what works for them. :)

      • Claire

        If she got an ovulation kit, how much would that cost? How many uses would she get out of it? Would she have to use every time she doubts her charts? How long would it take to get the results? Trying not to sound confrontational (which I probably do sound), but I am just wondering that if someone does use this test with NFD with having irregular periods, what would be the costs?

      • KellyLynne

        Having used an OPK (for trying to get pregnant, rather than trying to avoid it), they cost about 20 bucks, and one kit lasts you a month. You’re supposed to start testing daily when you finish your period.

        Getting a positive result means you should ovulate within the next 48 hours. (It’s not accurate if you have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, because your body might produce some of the pre-ovulation hormone even when you’re not about to ovulate.)

        So, like Danielle said, it doesn’t give you any useful info pre-ovulation, but once it identifies that you are about to ovulate, that does give you some indication when it will be “safe” to have sex.

      • Danielle

        Ovulation predictor tests will not show you when it is “safe” to have unprotected intercourse pre-ovulation. By the time they give a positive result because of the LH surge you are 0-2 days away from ovulating. There are several days before that that would be within the fertile window and not “safe.” They are one tool that can be helpful, but even when try to conceive, you can’t just wait for the test to turn positive or you will have missed several important days when you should have been having intercourse the several days before ovulation if you want to be successful.

      • Jessica

        I use NFP. I am Catholic but not “one of those” Catholics. I don’t care what kind of birth control anyone else uses besides myself. As long as you BC when you do not desire a child. When I couldn’t afford a child and did not want a child, I did not have sex(my choice b/c even using BC like the pill and a condom(together) you could still get pregnant. I didn’t have the resources at the time to support a child). I would use a more effective type of BC if I did not have the resources to raise a child or did not want children. While my husband and I want children, we are not actively trying. If it happens we will be delighted and the child will be loved. That being said…

        I have irregular periods. I went 4 months without one and then 2 normal 28 cycles(and this has been going on for two years). Growing up I could always tell when I was ovulating. I would have a pinching feeling/cramp. I ask my mom about it and she said she gets a mild pain too when she ovulates. So since I was 14 I have been aware of my ovulation and cycle. I used to be regular back then.

        Fast forward to meeting my husband, becoming an adult, and having a stable income. I don’t actually have a chart. When I was regular I would ovulate and remember “oh yea” the last time my period starter was # days ago, I have to remember to buy tampons. Now that I am not regular, if my husband wants to have intercourse and I know I am ovulating w/0 using a test, I tell him “I’m ovulating.” And he understands. IF I haven’t ovulated or don’t know if I have, I take a test. Recently, our family has been going through rough times, so we haven’t been very active.

        “If she got an ovulation kit, how much would that cost?”- You can purchase a kit of 100 on amazon for $25. I buy the Target brand, I think there 12 in a box and I paid around $15. I probably should purchase them online. ;/

        “How many uses would she get out of it?”- One stick per use.

        “Would she have to use every time she doubts her charts? ” – I would .

        The cost would probably vary person to person and how active they are.

        “By the time they give a positive result because of the LH surge you are 0-2 days away from ovulating. There are several days before that that would be within the fertile window and not “safe.” ” That is very true. I really believe over time the use of predictor test along with understanding your body could reinforce our intuitions. I think it is great and empowering to know when you will ovulate. I am not implying anyone should change whatever BC method they have chosen. I’m just sharing my experience. :)

        I think it is great we have so many BC options to chose from. In the future I may use a different option or combination.

    • Sarah

      Veganatheist, you would get a two week window for sex, once you’d confirmed ovulation. OPKs are incredibly finicky and hard to interpret. The results depend on the time of day you take it, and vary for different women. Charting is much easier (charting is NFP). However…

      I charted for two years to get pregnant. The problem within a relationship where you’re trying not to get pregnant is that ovulation is when you feel the most sex drive. So when you are gogin to be most responsive and enjoy it the most is when you’re not able to. And that is really really awful for your relationship.

      I would like to point out that the ‘normal usage’ data for condoms includes not using them at all. In the surveys they ask what your normal method is, so someone who uses a condom a couple of times a month is included in the condom oregnancy rate. They are very reliable when used properly (I get headaches on the pill).

      • Christine

        Oh, my goodness. I don’t know why they don’t teach what normal usage for condoms is in high school. I was so freaked out that I wasn’t going to be able to use any kind of birth control after having a baby (the thought of anything that I couldn’t just stop on my own if it gave me trouble gave me so much stress that not having sex was a better option). I was thinking “well condoms are better than nothing, but I don’t know why they’re considered birth control with a failure rate like that”. Then I learned *why* the as-used rate was so low (I had always thought that they were tricky enough to use that people just couldn’t do it right, and was terrified.)

      • Anat

        OK, now you make me wonder. During times when I wasn’t on hormonal birth control and wasn’t nursing my periods were anything from 4 weeks to 4 months apart. Suppose I had decided to chart in order to avoid pregnancy. Does this mean that whenever I landed on one of my longer cycles I’d have to avoid PIV sex for several months?

        BTW, when i was trying to conceive it took me some 13 months, during which I had some 6 cycles total. One day I realized what was meant by stretchy, egg-white-like mucous and indeed I conceived that cycle. That was the first time I saw anything like that. Quite amazing in a way.

      • Christine

        According to what I was taught for STM, yes, you would have had to. (And remember – if you were doing this because you were a conservative Catholic, PIV sex is the only appropriate kind). I know that there are special methods taught in some circumstances, but in the method I learned the only “safe” days before ovulation were a) no mucus at all and b) no later than day n-20 where n was your shortest cycle out of the last 12. (Or possibly the shortest cycle in the last year, which makes much less sense).

        It took me a long time to see fertile mucus. I don’t know where the claim that it takes 2-3 cycles to recover fertility after the pill comes from. Probably from the same people who say that you ovulate 14 days after your period starts (the number of arguments I had with my doctor and midwife about that…)

      • ariofrio

        Point of clarification: other kinds of sex are appropriate as long as male orgasm is PIV.

      • Nathanael

        About condomes: goodness, yes. While it is mildly tricky to put on a condom correctly the first time, it’s really not that hard — there’s a reason many colleges now give demonstrations (with bananas). Failure rates for condoms used competently are very, very low. Those “as-used” failure rates really do include a lot of people who just don’t bother.

      • Anat

        Nathanael, I recall seeing ‘as-used’ failure rates that differentiated between people using that method for the first year and those who continued using it for over a year. Indeed the improvement was very significant. (And I suppose it would be for any of the error-prone methods – if you get them you continue using them, if you don’t you switch to something else, though often after dealing with a pregnancy on the way.)

  • Judy L.

    If we’re going to be honest about it, and I think we should be, we need to recognize that abstinence is not really a method of contraception, and that includes the scheduled abstinence of NFP. The planning, organization, and work of NFP and Fertility Awareness are very worthy activities, but the abstinence part is a non-activity (however much self-discipline it might require). NFP itself can only be effective if the ‘safe period’ to have sex is in fact safe, and there’s no way to be 100% certain of that, which means that couples practicing NFP (and not using condoms) are not using any method of contraception both when they abstain and when they engage in coitus. If we count not having coitus as a method of contraception, then we could just as easily count every other activity that is not coitus as a method of contraception too (and there are certainly people who joke about golf or shopping or their spouses’ annoying habits as effective forms of contraception). Think about it for a moment: Can I genuinely count my method of not getting a sunburn at the beach as a method when it consists entirely of never going to a beach? Even if I track the weather patterns and determine which days are likely to be cloudier and I only go on those days, my ‘method’ is really just avoidance and hope that the sun doesn’t shine when I do take the risk of going out.

    Yes, by definition, NFP and abstinence can be ‘methods’ that someone can employ to prevent pregnancy, but I just think it’s problematic and misleading to lump NFP and other forms of abstinence in with active contraceptive methods that function to prevent contraception in situations where people are actually having penis-in-vagina intercourse. It’s like saying that not getting into a car or wearing your seatbelt are both methods of not getting thrown through a windshield in the case of an accident. It’s a factually true statement but it ignores the very important difference between avoiding an outcome by refraining from an activity or situation and actively taking measures to protect yourself from a potential outcome of an activity or situation that you’re either choosing to engage in or that you might be forced to engage in without your consent. You wear your seatbelt because cars go fast and on the road there are other people and dangers that you can’t control. People use contraceptive methods to try to prevent pregnancy because they are having sex or might have sex or might be the victim of forced sex.

  • http://kindminusgoodleft.blogspot.com// Janice

    That is like saying meal planning is for everyone. I like the IDEA of NFP, meal planning, daily exercise and EC… but I know that I cannot do them perfectly. You have to have a certain personality to do those things and I certainly do not. My husband and I used condoms and now he has had ‘the surgery’ which we have found fun BTW. Previously I have used the pill and the diaphragm with other long term boyfriends. Sure, they weren’t my favorite, neither was the condom but it limited and spaced the pregnancies of my three kids. (EC is elimination communication where you ‘teach’ babies to use the potty…. great Idea but takes a certain skill and dedication…EVERYONE should do it…imagine the money savings, imagine the connection between child and parent…you should check it out! *roll eyes) Luckily there are other options for us without perfect type A personalities or those who are type A who have stresses.

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    I used the method you describe (FAM) for several years. It worked perfectly for me, and I wasn’t even that careful. Then my DH and I decided to go ahead with having a baby and lo and behold we can’t. It makes me wonder what percentage of a birth control’s success rate is due to infertility.

    I’d also like to point out that in my experience, it is difficult to enjoy sex when it is constantly assigned to certain times. This was true both when we tried to avoid pregnancy and when we tried to create pregnancy. It definitely put some stress on us.

  • Attackfish

    Also, there’s plenty of evidence that, for those of us who ovulate, our sex drives increase during our mot fertile period. So when you want sex the most, no dice.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      This is a good point, but I just want to point out that it’s not true of all women. Some women do have a major surge in sex drive during ovulation, some women have surges in sex drive at other points in their cycle, some women’s sex drives go up and down in a way that relates in no way to their cycles. I’m sure you don’t mean it this way, but I just don’t like to see women’s behavior and feelings reduced to their hormones in such a simplistic way (when it’s really not simple at all) and I have even heard the “women are horniest when they’re fertile” trope used to argue against ALL birth control, including NFP. So, I’m glad you brought this up, as it is surely a major bummer for a lot of women who use NFP, but I just want to put out there that the relationship of a woman’s sex drive to her cycle really varies, if there is one at all.

      • Attackfish

        There’s all kinds of crap going around like that, like the bull that when we’re on hormonal birth control we send out unattractiveness pheromones, or that birth control is making us like girlier guys, or that we vote with our girly hormones, or whatever the newest “Women are mysterious and unreasonable!” line being pedaled this time. I didn’t realize this was one of them, I’m sorry. It always worked for me. In fact, it’s just about the only thing regular or predictable about my cycle. I start getting horny, and a day or two later, I have mittelschmerz, so at least for me, NFP would be untenable for that reason.

    • Steve

      There was also a study (which received the igNobel prize in economics) that showed that strippers make more money when they ovulate

      • smrnda

        Please link to this study if you can find it.

      • Monimonika

        Jezebel covers the gist of what’s wrong with that study:
        http://jezebel.com/5899815/how-does-ovulation-affect-a-strippers-income-it-doesnt

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Thank you for the link, Monimonika. I get tired of muttering small-sample-size-not-enough-data-results-not-replicated-blah-blah-blah all the time and this piece makes my life easier. :-P

  • jose

    Why so many complications when you can just use the pill and condoms anyway?

  • Jen

    “I should note, of course, that it doesn’t work at all for women with irregular periods – it by definition can’t work for them. ”

    This is actually untrue. As someone who practices NFP, and knows many women who practice NFP, we ALL have irregular cycles. Mine can be anywhere from 27-42 days! Additionally, just as there are multiple types of contraception, because one style doesn’t work for every woman, there are alternate methods of NFP. The method you described is Sympto-thermal. I never used that method because I hated the idea of having to stick to a certain time to measure my temperature. Other methods include:

    Mucus-Only Based Methods: Billings and Creighton are examples of this. They rely only on checking your cervical mucus only to identify ovulation. I used this for awhile, but it wasn’t the right fit for me.

    Sympto-Hormonal Methods: The Marquette Method is an example of this, which I currently use. It involves using the ClearBlue Fertility Monitor in conjunction with tracking cervical mucus. You have a 6 hour window to test your urine in the morning on fertile days and you get a lovely little “P” on the monitor when you’ve ovulated. I love the certitude of seeing my cervical mucus signs line up with what I’m seeing on the monitor. It’s been a year and a half since my daughter was born, we’ve had no close calls with this method, and no anxiety about whether I was misinterpreting the signs.

    Neither one of these methods require cervical checks.

    There are also many apps coming out now that you can use for charting that make it easier to keep a record and interpret as well. I definitely agree with you that it takes more dedication and is not a sparkly rainbow, but neither is taking a class 1 carcinogen to control your fertility.

    • Emmers

      “Neither is taking a class 1 carcinogen to control your fertility.”

      You’re the second person I’ve seen use that exact phrasing, which I find interesting. I have to wonder, though — looking at the list in question on Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_IARC_Group_1_carcinogens ), it makes me curious why people use this phrasing when talking about birth control, but not about, for example, “Ethanol in alcoholic beverages.” Is there a modern Temperance/Prohibition movement, coinciding with all the concern over Class 1 carcinogens being present in birth control pills, that I’m somehow unaware of?

      • Liberated Liberal

        Nope, they only care about these properties when it comes to things they are already opposed to. I am quite well aware that Catholics have NO qualms about drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, using shampoos, perfumes, detergents, sausages, etc., etc., all things can be quite harmful to the body.

        Talking points circulate like wild fire, and I guarantee that you will hear this a million more times if you enter into discussions about birth control. It is like the Fox News channel. Everybody gets a list of talking points for a certain subject and they just repeat the words over and over…

      • Carolyn the Red

        Don’t forget UV radiation is a class one carcinogen! Taking a walk in the sun _is_ shown to increase incidence in cancer, so avoid it no matter the benefits. And certainly, since ethanol is on the list of class one carcinogens, communion wine should now be non-alcoholic. Or, you know, we could look at magnitude of risk and dose-response, like sensible people.

      • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

        And just 5g of nutmeg will kill you. WAY more dangerous than the pill, but do we see nutmeg being withdrawn from sale?

    • Niemand

      Estrogen containing birth control pills are considered a “class 1″ (i.e. sufficient evidence to call it carcinogenic.) However, if you look at the very link you provided and click on the little “3″ to get the footnote, you’ll notice this statement: “There is also conclusive evidence that these agents have a protective effect against cancers of the ovary and endometrium.” In other words, estrogen containing pills are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, but lower risk of the higher mortality ovarian cancer.

      • Aurora

        And the fact that birth control pills are correlated with a higher risk of breast cancer does NOT mean that it causes it. As far as I know, the current theory is simply that (this part is fact) pregnancy reduces risk of breast cancer and (theory) since birth control reduces risk of pregnancy, it makes your risk less likely to be lowered. If that’s correct, it would mean that it’s not actually a carcinogenic at all, it simply prevents a condition which lowers cancer risk. That would make it neutral.

        Plus, as you said, it is associated with lower risk of ovarian cancer.

      • Niemand

        My guess-and this is just a guess-is that lack of pregnancy alone doesn’t explain the excess breast cancer cases seen with estrogen containing OCP. If it did, one would expect to see a similar increase when other forms of birth control, including NFP and abstinence, were used. My guess (again, note word) is that the estrogen drives microcancers and allows them to become large enough to escape immune surveillance more quickly. In any case, while breast cancer is certainly a concern, ovarian cancer is far more deadly. There are screening tests for breast cancer. Ovarian, not so much. At least not for average risk women.

        There are many forms of birth control. Combined hormone OCP are not right for every person. Neither is NFP. Every woman (and man) should be given the options and allowed to decide what works best for them without coercion. Even if that answer is “abortion when I get pregnant.”

    • ALWR

      I have friends who have had terrible side effects from hormonal birth control and decided to use NFP/FAM to avoid it. Neither is Catholic. One is a liberal feminist who has been so castigated by people for this choice that she feels guilty.

      It absolutely angers me that women who advocate birth control and freedom of choice feel the need to denigrate those who make this choice. If we truly advocate reproductive freedom and choice, we must respect all choices women make.

      • http://Patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I agree, as I said in my post. I have never actually met a feminist who thinks NFP is wrong of that a woman shouldn’t be able to use it as a method of BC if its what is best for them, though. I HAVE in contrast met people who think its the only acceptable means of BC and say its right for everyone. That is what I was responding to in my post.

  • BabyRaptor

    Hey, people touting NFP: Why should I have to subject myself to all this complicated, annoying BS when I can just take birth control simply to placate your beliefs? Could one of you explain that for me?

    Not that it matters in my personal case, as I’m WAY too irregular for this to be effective. But my question stands.

    • neadods

      THIS! I’m coming to the conclusion that many religions have “do it the hard way” as an unspoken foundation of the faith. The Amish are the most obvious example, but in this case, NFP attempts to recreate the use of birth control while being a great deal harder than actually using birth control. Many of the lifestyle choices Libby Anne talks about in evangelical/patriarchal/complimentarian life involve throwing a huge burden on people that the rest of society is farming out so that nobody is crushed under the pressure to do it all – cook (including bread from scratch without mixers) *and* sew *and* clean (with homemade cleaners) *and* homeschool *and* teach religion and, and, and…

      It’s all in the name of keeping unnatural chemicals/influences/ideas away, but how much of it is REALLY to keep the people involved so busy keeping up with the basics that they don’t have the time or energy to question the church policy, much less rebel against it?

      • jadehawk

        ” I’m coming to the conclusion that many religions have “do it the hard way” as an unspoken foundation of the faith. ”

        don’t know about other religions, but it’s definitely true for Catholicism, which is deeply suspicious of all “carnal pleasures”, to the point where they’ve elevated the opposite to a virtue (in one case,l iterally: “temperance” is a cardinal virtue), making it so denying yourself carnal pleasures is the most virtuous, and at least “paying a price” for partaking in carnal pleasures renders what would otherwise be considered overindulgence as acceptable.
        Probably the most stark example of elevating the opposite of carnal pleasure to a virtue is Mother Teresa’s practice of withholding painkillers to her charges and instead telling them to embrace their pain (she’s also an excellent example of hypocrisy, since she didn’t practice what she was preaching).

    • Christine

      Because the percentage of people for whom other methods for birth control are practical is less than 100%. I’ve tried the pill, and my husband agrees with me that we’re going to find any way around it.

    • Nadja

      @Babyraptor- I want to point out, like other responders have already, that the success of NFP is in no way connected to how regular your cycles are. I think you may be confusing NFP with the rythm method? I have a history of cycle lengths between 28-42 days, and have never had a problem determining my fertile and infertile periods. I also want to say that NFP is for everyone. You don’t have to be a person of faith or of any particular belief. One of the most attractive benefits to people of all backgrounds, is that NFP is the most environmentally freindly way to postpone pregnancy. You can feel good about not creating any extra trash with packaging, and also not poisoning our water supply with hormones that hurt ecosystems (who knows how they affect us). Just like recycling, doing something good for the environment takes a little effort. It’s also really good for your body. You won’t have to deal with any of the side effects or risks associated with hormones and impants. Don’t forget that if you’re not having to use synthetic devices, you’re not having to pay for them! NFP is super budget friendly, and you don’t have to remember to get all of those prescription renewals. Lastly, its great for marriage. It requires frequent communication, and a mutual respect between spouses. I personally like the extra romantic efforts my husband makes when he knows the fertile time is about to end. :o)

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        “Lastly, its great for marriage. It requires frequent communication, and a mutual respect between spouses. I personally like the extra romantic efforts my husband makes when he knows the fertile time is about to end. )”

        Okay, great, I’m happy for you two. But what that means is that NFP is good for YOUR marriage. Libby has said that it was NOT good for hers. Your experience does not overrule hers. Saying that NFP is categorically “great for marriage” is just not fair or correct.

        What is so damn hard about doing your own thing and letting other people do theirs, according to what works best for each individual and couple?

      • Niemand

        personally like the extra romantic efforts my husband makes when he knows the fertile time is about to end.

        That’s great for you, but that’s just not my kink.

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

        Kacy has posted links to women who had bad experiences with NFP downthread. It’s not universally great for everyone’s marriage, and is sometimes a significant source of stress. People who use NFP also don’t have a monopoly on respect and communication. If NFP works for you that’s great, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

      • Liberated Liberal

        As Petticoat has said to you, Good For You. However, your experience does not get to decide how other people must live their lives. I’m going to give you a few links from committed Catholics who have tried and failed with NFP, accruing massive amounts of suffering and pain in their bodies and in their marriages along the way. Now, does your experience count? Or does theirs? Why not just conclude that one method DOES NOT WORK FOR EVERYBODY. I really do hope you take the time to read them. Women In Theology is run by female Catholic Theologians. They aren’t trying to take the easy way out of anything.

        http://womenintheology.org/2011/03/29/women-speak-about-natural-family-planning/
        http://womenintheology.org/category/women-speak-about-natural-family-planning/
        (This second link will take to you a page with links to their entire series – 6 or 7 stories).

        http://caelumetterra.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/is-natural-family-planning-really-natural/
        A post by a Catholic. The meat of it is in the comments.

        http://womenintheology.org/2012/02/23/women-speak-about-natural-family-planning-patty-crowleys-speech-to-the-papal-birth-control-commission-1/
        http://womenintheology.org/2012/02/23/women-speak-about-natural-family-planning-patty-crowleys-speech-to-the-papal-birth-control-commission-2/
        http://povcrystal.blogspot.com/2009/06/what-happened-at-vatican-ii.html

        These give an in-depth look at the commission who gathered in order to help the Pope reach his conclusion on BC and NFP. Not quite as clear-cut as you’d like to think.

        The second series I’ll put here refute a lot of the things you are claiming as fact.

        http://ripeningreason.com/you-kids-think-you-invented-sex-part-i-2/
        http://ripeningreason.com/you-kids-think-you-invented-sex-part-ii-2/
        http://ripeningreason.com/you-kids-think-you-invented-sex-part-iii-2/
        http://ripeningreason.com/you-kids-think-you-invented-sex-part-iv/
        http://ripeningreason.com/you-kids-think-you-invented-sex-part-v/

        This one strongly criticizes your view that hormonal BC pills are single-handedly disrupting our eco-system. There are many every-day things that poor more endocrine-disrupting hormones into our water systems than BC Pills users – three of them happen to be dairy farming, plastics and pregnant women. Yes, pregnant women.
        http://ripeningreason.com/you-kids-think-you-invented-sex-part-vi/
        http://ripeningreason.com/you-kids-think-you-invented-sex-part-vii/
        http://ripeningreason.com/you-kids-think-you-invented-sex-part-viii/

        And I’ll end with a link somebody posted in one of Libby Anne’s other threads. What do you propose extremely poor, uneducated women without any resources do? They don’t know NFP, have nobody to call for questions, for help, for education? Not to mention that their extreme poverty, poor health and time needed trying to take care of and feed 10 children on a few dollars a day, would probably render NFP less than useless. This is what happens when a state actually prohibits contraception:

        http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-71165939/

      • http://www.christylambertson.com Christy

        If NFP works for you – cool. I’m all about women picking the method of birth control that works best for them. For me, the pill was the best option – I had NO side effects, it only cost $10 a month with my health insurance, and I only had to pick up a prescription every three months. (Yes – the pill has potential side effects. That doesn’t mean that every woman will experience those side effects. The pill also has documented health benefits as well – which a lot of NFP advocates seem to ignore.) Plus, the packaging is pretty minimal. (I have friends for whom the pill was not a good option for various reasons, and so they went with other options, including condoms, diapraghms, and NFP. Yay for them. Choices are good.)

        We used the Fertility Awareness Method when we were trying to get pregnant, and it was WAY more work than the pill. I’m a smart, highly organized person with a master’s degree, and I never could figure out the whole mucous thing and was never sure when I was ovulating. We ended up just having a lot of sex near the middle of my cycle, hoping we were hitting the window. Eventually, I decided to just buy an ovulation test – which worked the first month we tried it. And yes – we had a LOT more conversation about my cycle and my mucus and such than we did when I just took a pill, but I don’t think that had much of an impact on our communication overall.

        I”m still thinking through my options of what birth control method to use after I give birth – and something like a Fertility Awareness Method/condom combo is one of the options on the table – but abstaining for a week or more every month is a non-starter as far as I’m concerned. Not because I’m afraid my husband won’t be on board with that or doesn’t respect me, but because I’M not okay with that.

      • jadehawk

        ” Lastly, its great for marriage.”

        for your marriage maybe. my relationship is doing fine in terms of communication, and we’re both greatly enjoying the complete lack of “must kill all men”-moods in my life due to lack of a period and the associated cramping.

  • Elisa

    “By definition” it doesn’t work for women with irregular cycles? What definition are you using? NFP involves watching fertility signs in real-time, not watching a calendar. I have successfully used NFP with cycles ranging from 4-10 weeks long.

  • Sarah

    “I should note, of course, that it doesn’t work at all for women with irregular periods – it by definition can’t work for them.”

    Where is your evidence/support for this claim? Nothing about the definition of NFP that I have ever read, in any resource, requires a woman to have regular periods. In fact, everything I have read states the exact opposite. On a personal note, I have irregular periods (unusually long cycles) and NFP has worked just fine for me for over 4 years now. I have both avoided and achieved pregnancy (twice) without any trouble. To make a broad statement such as this, without any evidence, is (to use one of your terms) disingenuous.

    That’s not to say that practicing NFP is easy; it can, at times, be very difficult and challenging. But we are talking about the choice to bring new life into the world, or not: why should that be easy? Shouldn’t it require a bit more thought? Also, and I don’t want to make assumptions, but based on what you said, it seems to me like maybe you weren’t practicing NFP for the entirely right reasons. It’s one thing to want to chart carefully and accurately, and to be cautious about having sex with your husband during certain times in your cycle because you are trying to avoid pregnancy, but to be driven by the kind of “agonizing” fear of pregnancy you spoke of while having sex implies a serious misunderstanding of what NFP encourages us to do: be open to the gift of life, even if we don’t think we’re prepared for it. If that was your experience with NFP, then maybe it wasn’t the right choice for you. It’s not the right choice for everyone. But don’t denigrate the method for others because you were unable to fully embrace its teachings and purpose. It’s not just an isolated method of avoiding pregnancy, it’s a lifestyle: one that must be deeply understood and accepted by both partners in order to be “successful.”

    • neadods

      “But we are talking about the choice to bring new life into the world, or not: why should that be easy? Shouldn’t it require a bit more thought?” and
      “be open to the gift of life, even if we don’t think we’re prepared for it.”

      I thought NFP was about avoiding pregnancy, which is the polar opposite of making the choice to bring new life into the world. In the first quote, you are discussing the concept of deliberately choosing pregnancy; in the second you are perilously close to saying that babies are the punishment for sex, a concept that has been discussed elsewhere in this blog.

      Either way, there’s a lot about my biology that I am not open to considering a gift in the least. I certainly wasn’t prepared to live with bad teeth and horrible vision; there wasn’t a lot of thought involved in choosing to use technology to free myself from the consequences of either. Personally, I class my ovaries at the same level – I shall use technology to keep them from derailing me into a life path that I am certainly not open to.

    • jose

      “But we are talking about the choice to bring new life into the world, or not: why should that be easy?”

      Actually we’re talking about having sex without worrying about kids at all. For fun. So it should be easy, because otherwise it’s less fun.

      “don’t denigrate the method for others because you were unable to fully embrace its teachings and purpose.”

      Please don’t lobby the government to make all forms of contraception except yours illegal, and don’t support organizations that lobby the government with that purpose because they’re unable to let others embrace different teachings.

    • Kodie

      I don’t grow my own oats to make oatmeal, I buy it at the store. You wanna make something of it?

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      “But we are talking about the choice to bring new life into the world, or not: why should that be easy?”

      Because with modern, safe, medical technology, it IS easy?

      “Shouldn’t it require a bit more thought?”

      Only if you think that sex is something that you should have to justify with a lot of extra worry and headaches.

      ” but to be driven by the kind of “agonizing” fear of pregnancy you spoke of while having sex implies a serious misunderstanding of what NFP encourages us to do: be open to the gift of life, even if we don’t think we’re prepared for it. ”

      Some of us think that if we decide that we’re NOT prepared for “the gift of life,” than that decision should be paramount and we should be able to do what it takes to make sure it is honored. If you think you are not prepared to have a child, why make yourself worry about having one when YOU DON’T HAVE TO?

      “It’s not the right choice for everyone.”

      Only the special and extra-super-duper virtuous, eh? You make that attitude pretty clear by saying: “But don’t denigrate the method for others because you were unable to fully embrace its teachings and purpose.” And btw, she didn’t denigrate it for others. She just pointed out some of its drawbacks. She never said that these drawbacks HAD to be dealbreakers for others and she explicitly stated that people should use NFP if it’s what works for them best.

      “It’s not just an isolated method of avoiding pregnancy, it’s a lifestyle”

      Well, most women these days don’t WANT not getting pregnant to be a freaking “lifestyle.” We LIKE having “isolated methods of avoiding pregnancy.” The world’s going to Hell in a handbasket, I guess.

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      Sarah, I don’t think Libby Anne is denigrating NFP, as she recognizes that some people are happy using it. However, I do think that you are denigrating the choice to use other methods of contraception, since you are positioning NFP as the morally superior lifestyle choice. You’re also very dismissive of Libby Anne’s experiences, saying that her fear of pregnancy was due to having the wrong attitude, per your particular beliefs about the one right approach to family planning. Not everyone wants children and not everyone is willing to be “open to life” at any given time. If NFP works well for you, that’s great, but I thoroughly reject the notion that it’s universally superior to other methods. That’s not in my belief system.

    • Liberated Liberal

      What fascinates me is that Catholics currently are trying to cajole people into using NFP by using false claims about the horrors of contraception and the wonders of NFP, hoping to get people who aren’t Catholic and who aren’t invested in Catholic beliefs to do what they do. And THEN they criticize people for not doing it with their Catholic THINKING, as well. So, essentially, what you’re saying is that NFP only works if you are an extremely conservative Catholic?

      If that’s the case, Thank You. You just made everything a lot easier to refute.

      • Katty

        “…currently are trying to cajole people into using NFP by using false claims about the horrors of contraception and the wonders of NFP…” Why do I feel like I’ve heard something like this before? Oh right, it’s eerily similar to the way the anti-abortion movement works. That sentence would be equally valid if just a few words were changed: “… currently are trying to talk people out of having abortions by using false claims about the horrors of abortion and the wonders of “being open to the gift of life”…”

        Somehow I think, in both cases, that if they really had a strong case, they wouldn’t need to make up arguments.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Actually, the anti-abortion movement works because elective abortion is simply the killing of a fetus all for being unwanted. The case against elective abortion is already plenty strong based even exclusively on this one irrefutable fact.

    • BabyRaptor

      For the purpose of the BC/abortion discussion, the reason people are using birth control is to avoid getting pregnant.

      The line of thinking goes like this: For reason X, I don’t want to get pregnant. Not ready, can’t afford it, not sleeping with someone you want kids with, just don’t want kids at all…Whatever.

      “I don’t want a pregnancy, therefore I’m using BC.” is not complicated. Fulfilling that desire shouldn’t be complicated either.

    • jadehawk

      ” to be driven by the kind of “agonizing” fear of pregnancy you spoke of while having sex implies a serious misunderstanding of what NFP encourages us to do: be open to the gift of life, even if we don’t think we’re prepared for it”

      and this, in a nutshell, is why claims by Catholics that contraceptives aren’t necessary because there’s a better method are pure, unadulterated, Grade A crap. The whole point of contraceptives is that like many other women, I’m the exact opposite of open to the possibility of debiliating post-partum depression and the well-documented decrease in mental wellbeing that comes with parenthood.

    • jadehawk

      ” But don’t denigrate the method for others because you were unable to fully embrace its teachings and purpose.”

      this is pure projection. it’s not the non-NFP-using folks who are calling the NFP-using folks immoral and are trying to get their preferred method of BC outlawed and/or difficult to access; it’s the opposite.

  • Noelle

    Yeah, I used this method while trying to get pregnant, hoping to find fertile days. Did not work (probably due to a ton of stress and a messed-up circadian rythm. People who work crazy hours all around the clock will find this method impossible). Progesterone to force a cycle and clomid? Meet my 8 year old. My 6 year old was from timing a cycle first month off the pill. The morning I found out I was pregnant with her, I jokingly told my husband we never had to bother having sex again, 2 being all we planned. He was not amused, and a vasectomy was performed soon after her birth. (I can’t recommend the V enough for the couple who knows they’re done)

    If couples both want to use NFP, I’m all for it. I’ll discuss all the ins and outs of reproductive physiology and timing as well as failure rates. Some people choose this method and still use a barrier back-up or spermicide, and that’s not a bad idea either. It’s when someone insists that everybody has to use it, to the exclusion of all other methods just because it’s the method they chose for themselves that I disagree. I don’t do long division by hand if I have a calculator. I don’t recalculate pi. This makes me neither morally deficient nor superior for using the simpler and more reliable resources at hand.

    • ArachneS

      I also worked a evening/night shift job while I was trying to use this method. It was nearly impossible to get accurate temp readings when sometimes I would be going to bed at 10pm and sometimes I’d be going to bed at 4:30 in the morning. I would try to use the cervical method in conjunction with it but like Libby, I’d be confused at some of the signs sometimes. Not to mention the days when I would spend the day running after my 18 month old, half -tired from working the night before, and then go right to work when the husband came home to my job serving tables, where I certainly didn’t always remember to check mucus throughout the day.
      A PP mentions the ovulation detectors as useful with the cervical method. I was told that NFP is the greatest because it was free(among other reasons), if I was spending that much money on a ovulation detector every month, I might as well just get the BC that doesn’t have me worried that I’m reading signs wrong. Not to mention it isn’t covered by insurance, and not really an option for lower income women.

      • Noelle

        :). I gave up trying to take a temp about 2 days in. Was I supposed to take it when my pager went off at midnight? 1 am? 3 am? Or again at 3:20? Or at 6 am? Or after I finished the 30-hour shift? Or after I awoke in a daze from my post-call 5-6 hour nap? Allergy meds dried up more than my nose, so no idea what to check with mucus. Had this been the only method available to me, I would’ve gone with straight abstinence throughout the first 5 years of marriage. That might’ve led to divorce.

        It took a few tries to find a method with tolerable side effects to use until the vasectomy, and I’m glad I had the full array of choices to work with as well as trained medical professionals to work with me on each one. My last pregnancy was so miserable with 4 months of hyperemesis, there is no way I could bring myself to chance another.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        How about checking cervical size and positioning?

  • Soren

    ” But we are talking about the choice to bring new life into the world, or not: why should that be easy?”

    Well because there exists many types of contraceptives, and many of them are easy. Why shouldn’t it be easy?

    An IUD or a vesactomy is easy – no fuss. Like Libby Anne said, if it works for you – great – but it is not a metod for everyone.

    • Cathy W

      Expanding on this thought a little: Given a choice between “it’s easy to accidentally bring a life into the world” and “it’s easy to accidentally not bring a life into the world”, I’d choose to err on the side of “not bring a life into the world” – because creating a new life is an incredibly serious thing! In my ideal world, every child would be conceived with the deliberate intent of both parents – a better thing for women, a better thing for children, a better thing for families, if all pregnancies were intended. (My ideal world also includes plenty of support for those who have chosen to become parents…)

      Also, someone using birth control isn’t “accidentally not bringing a life into the world” – at a minimum, one of two partners has made a conscious decision to not have a child from this particular act of intercourse. They’ve made the choice – whether it was easy or not to make that choice when it was made. For some, it may be quite easy. For others it may be agonizing. But whether easy or hard, it’s incredibly personal, and the only two people whose opinions should really matter are the ones potentially becoming parents – or not.

      To the Catholics reading this: If you’re happy using NFP, more power to you, especially if you are actually, honestly, open to possible conception from any occasion of intercourse. Don’t let me stop you. I’m not actually, honestly open to possible conception from any occasion of intercourse; I’m happy with my family size. So you go ahead and not use artificial birth control – but don’t try to tell me I can’t.

      • Rosie

        “Given a choice between “it’s easy to accidentally bring a life into the world” and “it’s easy to accidentally not bring a life into the world”, I’d choose to err on the side of “not bring a life into the world” – because creating a new life is an incredibly serious thing! In my ideal world, every child would be conceived with the deliberate intent of both parents – a better thing for women, a better thing for children, a better thing for families, if all pregnancies were intended.” Very well said!

      • Liberated Liberal

        Yes! Perfectly said.

  • Katie

    I have always had irregular periods. Sometimes I don’t even ovulate until day 28! I have proved my doctor wrong time and time again with different issues regarding my cycle and charting. Example, waking temps very low (95 or 96 degrees) and almost no time between ovulating and menstruating. My thyroid numbers were on the low side of normal as well. He said go on the pill, I said lets see about iodine deficiency. A few months later I was back to normal! I’ve also been able to say, to the day, when my kids were going to be born due to my charting. Since I don’t have 28 day cycles, the popular way to find the due date based on last period was always off, up to 2 weeks off. I stood my ground and as long as the baby was okay, we waited until he/she was ready to come out. Always on the day I said.

  • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

    I’ve always had irregular cycles and NFP works great for me (I’ve used it since 2003 to both achieve and avoid pregnancy).

    Currently I’m using the Marquette method, which involves using a fertility monitor to gauge fertility. see http://Marquette.nfp.edu

    • Anat

      Your link doesn’t work (at least for me).

  • Sarah

    BabyRaptor: Please don’t take Libby Anne’s claim that NFP doesn’t work for irregular cycles at face value. She has no evidence to support this. As for why you should practice NFP in lieu of other, simpler methods of birth control:

    1) Oral contraceptives are a Group 1 carcinogen, as categorized by the WHO. Others in this group include asbestos and radium.
    2) Hormonal BC often masks underlying reproductive/fertility issues. Many women do not know they have problems until they get off BC to become pregnant, and then suffer for months or years trying to find solutions.
    3) No form of artificial BC is 100% effective, but it gives the illusion that we can have consequence-free sex any time we want. Then it leaves us confused and frustrated when it fails, because it sold us a lie. Why do you think so many women feel they have no choice but to have an abortion when they have an unplanned pregnancy? Partially because it doesn’t fit with what we’ve been told for our whole lives: take a pill, have sex whenever, avoid pregnancy. Easy, right? Except it doesn’t work that way.

    Neadods: I practice NFP, or as you claim “do it the hard way,” and I still have plenty of time and energy to think about Church law and explore why the Church teaches what it does, because I’m an intelligent, thinking, rational human being. I believe what the Church teaches because I’ve spent years learning about it and choose to agree, not because I don’t have time to rebel. That’s ridiculous.

    • Karen

      I think you should ready Libby Anne’s earlier post “if you do the thing that makes babies.” You and everyone on this thread who agrees with you harp about the horrors of “consequence-free” sex. Why do you think people should suffer consequences for having sex? Should everyone who eats ice cream get heart disease?

      • Stony

        Thank you! Yes, I want to have consequence-free sex! What is wrong with that?? Until you can answer that, please kindly examine your motives. Oh, and let me remind you that I am a married woman who can’t have another pregnancy due to health concerns. So explain to me why I can’t have consequence-free sex with my husband. Oh, it doesn’t apply to me? Only to those slutty slut sluts? No, sorry, it doesn’t apply there, either.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      “2) Hormonal BC often masks underlying reproductive/fertility issues.”

      I would hazard a guess that any ‘masking’ is happening not because of what method you’re using to not become pregnant, but more simply because you’re sexually active while trying to avoid pregnancy, and not getting pregnant will be read as whatever method you’re using working, as Tracey above suggests.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Wrong there, as the signs and symptoms monitored by those using NFP can reveal a number of reproductive and even endocrine system problems, such as hypothyroidism, without the trouble of trying and failing to get pregnant.

    • Carolyn the Red

      Re: the WHO calling contraceptives a dangerous carcinogen comparable to radium:

      While oral contraceptives give a slight increase in the chance of breast cancer, they have a slight protective effect against ovarian and endometrial cancer. This means it’s on some lists as a “known carcinogen”, but this does not give any indication of the dose at which it has _any _ effect on cancer rates, or the magnitude of the danger. Also on this list are alcoholic beverages, wood dust, and UV radiation (ie, the sun).

      And all this ignores the other options for birth control if for whatever reason, the health effects of OCs are not acceptable (history of blood clots, previous breast cancer, whatever else, I’m no doctor). NFP exists too, nobody is denying it. But it isn’t acceptable to all of us as “the only option”.

    • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

      Sarah, the vast majority of people who advocate birth control agree completely that no method is 100% effective. The doctor who prescribed the pill to me when I was 17 certainly didn’t say it would be effective in preventing pregnancy.

      Actually, there’s a story in that prescription – as I said, I was prescribed it when I was 17. Not because I was active sexually, but because I was getting knocked out every month with extreme pain and heavy bleeding. I’d love to know if there were any studies regarding the number of people who take the pill not for BC, but to regulate periods.

      Oh, and the doctor who prescribed the pill to me? A committed, practising Catholic, who believed the pill was probably the best medical discovery for women.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Amelia

        Thats why I first went on the pill too, at 16. And I was sexually abstinent for 10 years on it.
        Then I came off after a couple of years being sexually active and we discovered it was masking moderate endometriosis, which I would have been thankful to keep masking till the day I died if I could have stayed on the pill (sadly contra-indicated). Why should I have had to endure 12 or more additional years of that pain and multiple surgeries?

        I do have friends who have used NFP with success. I also have friends where her period has not returned to the same pattern as before her baby, and they now havent had sex in over 12 months because its too much of a risk and she used mucous as her method of indication.
        Personally, I wouldnt want to have to “do without” for up to 10 days a month! I cant be sure I would always want sex during those 10 days, but I would certainly want to be able to have it.

      • kisekileia

        I also went on the pill as a teenager. I was just shy of 16. I was going on a four-day camping trip with no access to washroom facilities, and I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t have my period during the trip. I also had acne that was totally unresponsive to non-hormonal treatment methods, and menstrual cramps that were not controllable without narcotics (which my doctor didn’t give me until later, even though I needed them). Like Amelia, I didn’t lose my virginity for more than 10 years after I started the pill.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Taking hormones to treat a hormonal imbalance is not against Catholic teaching. Taking hormones primarily to “treat” fertility- which is not a disease- is against Catholic teaching, and in my opinion is rather anti-woman, as the mentality behind artificial contraception is that women are inherently diseased just by being fertile.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        What about using it for both? At what point is the tipping point?

      • tsara

        “the mentality behind artificial contraception is that women are inherently diseased just by being fertile.”
        *boggles*
        I honestly have no idea where you’re getting that.

        You also have a very rigid, binary view of what a woman is, don’t you? Do you recognize genderqueer as a valid identity?

      • Carolina

        She sounds Catholic to me, so I don’t think she does.

      • tsara

        Well, fuck. That’s… I don’t know what that is. I’m glad I only know nominal Catholics in real life? (Although I’m not exactly ‘out’, so there’s still room for being unpleasantly surprised.)

      • Carolina

        I hear you, anything not straight is apparently a “distortion” of your “God given roles”. I know the Catholic church made me feel bad about my demisexuality even though I’m straight.

    • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

      And I LOVE your scare tactic of mentioning asbestos and radium in the same breath as birth control.

    • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

      To anyone who reads this, sees “Class 1 carcinogen” and freaks, all this means is a substance that’s carcinogenic to humans. And not necessarily guaranteed to cause cancer, only that it’s a substance that’s been LINKED to certain forms of cancer. Sarah’s grouping of hormonal birth control with asbestos and radium, two substances known to be highly dangerous, is a nifty scare tactic.

    • Ibis3

      1) Oral contraceptives are a Group 1 carcinogen, as categorized by the WHO. Others in this group include asbestos and radium.

      Also beer and sunshine.

    • BabyRaptor

      1) I smoke, so no worries about carcinogens. Also, if you’re that afraid of the stuff, become a basement dweller. Every step you take outside exposes you to it. In other words, stop using this as a point in your favour. It’s not.

      2) How does not having sex when you’re likely to conceive, thus avoiding getting pregnant, not mask fertility issues?

      3) Okay, you feel that sex outside of marriage is wrong. I can respect that. But I disagree with it. And the fact that I disagree with it doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve to do so safely.

      4) People don’t abort unwanted pregnancies because BC told them it would never happen. People abort unwanted pregnancies because they’re *unwanted.*

      • Twist

        Ah yes, but if there was no birth control other than NFP, *all* pregnancies would be wanted, and all of us women who don’t want children and never plan to have children (because of BC lies, obviously) would magically decide that yes, we are open to the “gift of life”. In addition all of the women who could fall pregnant easily enough but really shouldn’t for health reasons would be magically cured, and all of the women who without their BC would find themselves missing a week + of work every month due to debilitating pain and bleeding would be magically cured. We’d all have a big party with rainbows and unicorns and our millions of wanted babies, and I’d wonder why I ever wanted a silly career when instead I could have as many kids as my body is capable of, as is Every Woman’s Duty (TM). Plus, all those conversations about cervical mucous really bring couples closer together.

        Oh, if only I lived in a world with no birth control!

      • Twist

        I’ll add to that, image the fun and excitement of attempting to make long term life/financial decisions when you’re not actually planning to get pregnant but know that it could happen at any time, because you’re “open to the gift of life”!

        Hmmm, I can afford to buy a house! Better save the money in case I get the gift of life.
        Ooh, I could go climbing in the alps in January! Better not book the flights, in case I have the gift of life by then. Job offer on the other side of the country? Wow, the gift of life would really screw this up, I better not take it just in case. Stupid gift of life.

    • jadehawk

      ” Hormonal BC often masks underlying reproductive/fertility issues. ”

      so does NFP, as a commenter above mentioned, and as a friend of mine found out (she used a form of NFP all her life, and then when she was near menopause found out that because of a chemical her mother was exposed to during pregancy, she likely was infertile anyway); pretty much any attempt at not getting pregnant, including complete abstinence, will mask fertility problems, since often the only way to notice them is to try to get pregnant and fail.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        NFP is actually more likely to uncover medical problems because it doesn’t mask any symptoms- and charting can be used as a diagnostic tool. Failure to get pregnant is not the only way to notice reproductive problems- if you regularly take and chart your basal temperatures and monitor all other pertinent signs and symptoms.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Knowing one’s body is a good thing, I agree. But if the goal is to not get pregnant, using a more reliable method is probably the better idea. Not to mention that NFP is not going to work for someone with hellaciously painful menses; I like being functional all of the time, thanks.

    • jadehawk

      “1) Oral contraceptives are a Group 1 carcinogen, as categorized by the WHO. Others in this group include asbestos and radium.”
      other group 1 carcinogens:
      sunshine
      wine
      quartz/sand
      sawdust

  • Cathy W

    Libby, I hope you do occasionally check for your IUD strings – it’s not zero-thought, just near-zero. Still, it’s way less fuss, muss, and bother than checking your cervix daily, which reminds me, how about NFP for people who are squeamish about checking their own cervix – say, nice Christian girls who’ve been taught that everything “down there” is icky? I suppose “get over it if you don’t want to get pregnant” – but fortunately in the real world, you don’t have to get over it, you can use another birth control method.

    • Robyn

      And some nice girls of any religious (or non-religious) background cannot actually reach their own cervix, like me! Even my gynecologist has a hard time getting at it, and she gets to use a speculum and a swab and an ideal angle and whatnot.

    • SabsDkPrncs

      My Gyno from Germany (I’m overseas), says that as long as I have yearly exams with a speculum, don’t worry about the strings at all. “Those are for me, you no worry.” I still check though, because I’m a worrier.

      • Anat

        Interesting. The doctor who inserted mine said I was supposed to check once a month.

    • Valerie Finnigan

      There is no Christian teaching saying”everything down there is icky.” Indeed, following Christian teaching on family planning and parenting requires sacrificing a certain amount of squeamishness.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Oh yeah, <3 my NuvaRing. I do have to check every now and then to make sure it's still up there, and pull it out and replace it 1/month, but that's about it.

  • Meghan

    Libby Anne wasn’t saying that NFP isn’t a good fit for anyone. She was responding to the claim that it can work for everyone and that other forms of BC/contraception are unnecessary. I agree with her. I had irregular cycles and used NFP. In addition to avoiding sex for about 60% of the time we still had an unplanned pregnancy. Now I have an IUD. I check the strings a couple of times per month and that’s it.

    • Emmers

      THIS. Saying “This is not the best for everyone” is not the same as saying “This is the worst for everyone.”

      Don’t they teach logic in school these days? ;-) (I gots to get my CS Lewis quotes in somehow…)

      • ALWR

        But anyone on this thread who has said that hormonal birth control is not the best choice for everyone is being confronted with sets of links to prove otherwise as well as links to prove that NFP is bad.

        Why can’t everyone’s choices be respected?

        (BTW…I’m Catholic and we use a barrier method of contraception)

      • abra1

        I don’t think that I’ve seen anything that says NFP is *bad*. I do however see a lot of resistance to the assertion that NFP is the as good as the proponents say it is.

        Getting married in the Catholic Church, we were given the whole song and dance with premarital counseling and NFP overview — NFP makes your marriage stronger, your sex life better, and it is more effective, 99%, at allowing you to space your pregnancies than any non-permanent contraception. And then… reality… and it wasn’t all that. And no one admits that it isn’t going to be this mystical and successful experience for everyone. The message, at least implicitly, is that you aren’t trying hard enough or in the right spirit, which was particularly devastating from the depth of postpartum depression as I was trying to come to grips with a very unwelcome 2nd pregnancy (it all worked out for the best — I am happy to have my little guy — but it was a very painful several months).

        So, I am all for people using NFP/FAM if it is what makes sense for them — if you want to go without hormones, can tolerate a higher level of risk, great. It is great at helping you get pregnant when you want. Before my first child (planned), I appreciated getting to know my body better.

        I am against women being pressured into using NFP and being sold on NFP with false advertising, the most immediate being failure rate but also the spiritual aspect/improve your marriage (hey, if it does it for you great, but you are not a failure if it doesn’t).

      • jadehawk

        “But anyone on this thread who has said that hormonal birth control is not the best choice for everyone is being confronted with sets of links to prove otherwise as well as links to prove that NFP is bad.”

        That’s actually not what’s happening. What is actually happening is that when people make false claims, these claims are corrected. So claims about the universality of making relationships better with NFP? false and refuted. claims about NFP not working with irregular cycles? refuted. claims about the supposed comparable toxicity of radon and the pill? refuted. etc.

  • Sarah

    Neadods, I think you may be misunderstanding the purpose and nature of NFP. I am in no way implying that a baby is a punishment for sex; I am, however, speaking to the fact that babies are a natural consequence of sex, regardless of what form of birth control you are using. Nothing short of abstinence, not even NFP, is 100% effective. What NFP teaches us is that by having sex, we must agree to be open to life. NFP, even though it allows us to chart in an attempt to avoid pregnancy, can never limit us completely in being able to become pregnant because it doesn’t change our bodies in the way that artificial birth control does. We are, by default, open to God using our intimacy to create life: there are no barriers there. Please also keep in mind that NFP, specifically, is centered around God and God’s gift of life, meaning sometimes we think we are not prepared for it but accept it anyway, because we trust in God and God’s will for our lives. This by no means translates to a punishment.

    Also worth noting, there are others similar forms of avoiding pregnancy, like the Fertility Awareness Method, which is essentially the same as NFP, but is not rooted in the Church, so you are allowed to use barrier methods of BC during fertile times. NFP is reliant on a certain trust in God and respect for new life, and that’s critical in understanding the “openness” I’m referring to, even when you are trying to avoid pregnancy at a particular time.

    • Kodie

      So you dig treating sex like an elaborate ceremony. I don’t think anyone is trying to take your kink away, it’s just not for everybody.

      • Niemand

        Kodie, am I your sock puppet or what? I said the same thing up the thread a bit:-)

    • ArachneS

      Being cold is a natural consequence of going outside in the winter, and yet we wear coats to protect us from the natural elements.

      Getting a sunburn is a natural consequence of working/playing outdoors in the sun all day in the summer, and yet we wear sunscreen and always advocate for putting it on our children to prevent sun burn.

      We do things to protect ourselves from “natural consequences” all the time. As humans, we have left the stage where nature rules our living arrangements when we began to modify the world to our needs as a civilization.

      • Emmers

        But the sun is a Class 1 carcinogen (no, seriously, look it up), just like hormonal birth control, so protecting ourselves from the Bad Bad Carcinogens is our #1 priority! ;-)

      • Valerie Finnigan

        You are confusing measures intended to prevent injury with measures that are intended to interfere with a normal, healthy condition. Fertility in and of itself is not a disease or injury.

      • tsara

        “Fertility in and of itself is not a disease or injury.”

        Neither is infertility; nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

        (And this is why I despise Catholic moral law and all of the rhetoric about ‘natural’.)

      • Carolina

        I don’t treat my fertilty as a disease or injury. I know how powerful it can be, so I control it. I’m soooo sick of this claim. In my case, I’m taking Accutane, a class X pregnancy drug and was not getting the prescription unless I took BC. Also a lot of my acne was caused by a sensitivity to my own testosterone, BC lowers the levels of the hormone, also help me with my severe cramps that have taken me to the hospital more than once!!!!!

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I won’t die from being hot (assuming I drink enough water, anyways). I run my AC anyways.

      • Olive Markus

        Feeling cold is not a disease or injury. Sun burn is not really a disease or injury, just letting you know you need to temper your time in the sun a bit more. It is also the catalyst of essential hormonal processes in the body.

        Air conditioning, central heating, clothing, sunscreen, showers, homes, windows, kitchen utensils, etc., none of these prevent illness or disease, do they? They give you choices to alter the natural processes of life a bit and make your life more comfortable.

        Pregnancy, left to its own devices, is one of the biggest killers of women and newborns. If you agree to technological invasion to prevent this from happening, you’re saying that childbirth and pregnancy is a disease or illness, are you not? (if you are going to continue with your own logic). If you don’t agree, then you’re saying women should have no choice and just die on these occasions.

        After all, you say we’re not allowed to use artificial means to thwart the natural process of our fertility to prevent pregnancy, since it’s not a disease or illness. So, if you’re going to be consistent, nobody should be allowed to use artificial means to prevent death from pregnancy and childbirth, since these aren’t diseases, either.

    • Rosie

      What Fertility Awareness taught me is that I am absolutely, 100%, no not EVER open to being pregnant or having a child. It also made me feel guilty enough about that lack of openness that I thought for quite a while I probably ought to suicide because I wasn’t worth the air I was breathing as a woman. And all that “awareness” of my cycles just made me feel guiltier, because I was thinking about it all the time. The tubal was expensive and invasive, but it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made. No more worry, no more guilt, and I can have sex with my hubby whenever we feel like it! And I’m in the mood a lot more often now that I don’t have to worry about a possible pregnancy.

    • Anat

      Not everyone believes in ‘God’s gift of life’. I am not open to pregnancy, which is why in addition to making sure my IUD is in place I keep some pregnancy test kits around, so that if a late period isn’t because of my irregular period I’m off to get an abortion. (Never happened so far.)

      I have enough stress in my life and enough stuff impacting my sex life that I don’t want to add timing sex around my very irregular (and becoming more so) fertility.

    • smrnda

      So if I do not believe in god, why on earth is this point relevant to me? God, as depicted by most religions, isn’t a particularly trustworthy character either. No method is 100%, but in doing anything, I have to weigh the difficulty of using a method against the probability of success. If something is harder to do, it only creates more possibilities of failure.

      • Anonymouse

        My experience with NFP, pushed heavily by La Leche League, was that for it to work, the woman needs an obsessive-compulsive personality and be happy to spend excessive amounts of time “working the calendar” in addition to worry when my cycle didn’t match what my signs read. For myself, I preferred a less crazy-making approach to contraception. 20 years now, my method is still working for me.

    • plutosdad

      Sarah,
      When you say NFP leaves you open to pregnancy, NFP promoters are trying to have it both ways:
      1. NFP is the “most effective” means of birth control
      2. NFP leaves you the “most open” to having a child
      Both of these statements cannot be true at the same time.

      If NFP promoters truly believe #1, and also believe sex should not be separated from pregnancy, then logically their moral choice should be condoms or a “less effective” method of birth control. If they truly believe #2, they are admitting #1 is not true at all, but rather is a lie used to try to promote NFP, and are like lawyers trying to hide the truth in the fine print

      • butterfly5906

        Thank you for saying this, I’ve been trying to think of how to phrase this exact question myself!

    • neadods

      “I am in no way implying that a baby is a punishment for sex; I am, however, speaking to the fact that babies are a natural consequence of sex”

      Either way is a rephrase of “if you’re gonna have sex, you’re gonna have babies.” Except, of course, there are a variety of ways for those of us who don’t follow your church’s teachings to uncouple sex from pregnancy and don’t see the slightest problem with doing so.

      “sometimes we think we are not prepared for it but accept it anyway, because we trust in God and God’s will for our lives”

      I repeat what I said before. Your God’s will for my life was teeth that are misaligned and painful. I have made permanent changes to my body with braces and use chemically enhanced “sensitive” toothpaste to decouple the consequences of my biology from my reality. Your God’s will for my life was to be almost legally blind. I didn’t accept the limitations of my eyes; I put on a pair of glasses… glasses that I’ve worn for so long that they, too, have made permanent changes to my body (marks on my nose, grooves behind my ears.) I also use a lot of eyedrops.

      Do you condemn that? If not, why not? Both undo God’s will regarding the natural function of my body. Both have left permanent changes to my anatomy. Both involve a chemical change to my body’s function and environmental consequences (manufacturing, packaging to be thrown out, biologically flushed remains).

      Do you condemn these things? Because you should, in order to uphold the arguments you’ve made about hormonal birth control. The *only* difference between changing the function of my eyes and my teeth and changing the function of my ovaries is that the latter implies that I am Doing the Dirty without “consequences” and That’s Bad.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Your comparison doesn’t fly, however, because orthodontia and corrective lenses are intended to correct problems with the mouth and with vision. Artificial birth control is intended primarily to “correct” something that is not even a medical problem. Fertility and pregnancy in and of themselves are not disorders.

    • Chris Buchholz

      “I am, however, speaking to the fact that babies are a natural consequence of sex”
      And this is the fundamental problem, you are looking at a “purpose” to sex, “teleologically” so to speak, that is what is meant by “natural”. You are thinking “the purpose of sex is procreation” but that is not true. There is no purpose. We procreate sexually. Animals that liked having sex had sex more often, and thus they procreated more. That’s all there is to it.

      This goes all the way back to Aristotle whom Augustine and Aquinas seemed to be in love with, and why Christians are so up on “natural”. He thought everything was not just substance, but had a “nature” that it existed for a purpose. And so everything else was “unnatural” and that word became a pejorative. Which is why people say any other sort of sex is “unnatural”.

      But that is completely wrong. There isn’t a nature, there isn’t a purpose, it just is, that is all. If you want to believe there is some purpose and a divine mind that put it there, go right ahead, but to say other types of sex are “unnatural” is begging the question in a way, since you first haven’t proved there IS a purpose in the first place.

    • Rosa

      how is NFP different than using condoms or other barrier methods? I mean, aside from being less effective? Those also don’t alter your body in any way.

      I don’t get how a method can be effective AND leave you open to chance of pregnancy at the same time.

  • Christine

    Coming from outside of the US, my issues with NFP were more because of the 3 week to 2 month abstinence it would require of me. I know that this is going to be true for any method of birth control, but the as-used effectiveness rate is higher when people understand how it works. It’s just more pronounced with NFP than with the pill. (Condoms are another good case. Does anyone know where I can find country-by-country numbers for the as-used effectiveness for every method?)

    I never found it difficult to know when I had ovulated. I would indeed have random high temperatures before I ovulated, but it was easy to tell them from my ovulation. (Although my midwife disagreed with me on that…)

    Remember – even if you don’t want to use periodic abstinence to avoid having a baby, everyone agrees that STM is useful for trying to get pregnant. I had very unclear charts, and I could easily tell when I had ovulated (telling when I was going to was less feasible than was claimed, but I coul at least tell when it was possible). Ask any of your friends with babies… And if you have hormonal problems (in addition to being in the group of people for whom the pill is a horrible horrible thing, I am in the group of people who need it) it’s amazing – it lets you know, to the day, when your period is going to happen. For the women out there who have never used it: imagine knowing in advance when you will menstruate. You know to take painkillers immediately upon feeling off, you don’t pass out, and you never throw up. Not from cramps, not from the pill.

  • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

    “All the books say that this abstinence makes the times when you can have sex that much better.”

    In my experience, more frequent sex = better sex. The times where we haven’t had intercourse for a while usually end in a rather lackluster fashion (and that’s without the stress you were talking about).

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      I’ll second that.

    • CLDG

      Yep.

    • Liberated Liberal

      I’ve experienced this also.

    • Rosie

      Ditto for me too.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Amelia

      hear hear…
      Its almost like there is extra stress on that first time in a while. Plus it tends to be over rather quickly…

  • http://puddinsilovemylife.blogspot.com/ Tonya Richard

    I have also used a form of NFP for most of my marriage. I also have 8 children LOL Even though we used NFP, I was totally ok with getting pregnant, and during the time we used only NFP I had 5 children in 7 years. After the first five children, we started using NFP with condoms during our fertile times. I am most in the mood for sex when I am ovulating, so abstaining sucked! I was able to space my last three children with the very conscientious use of condoms and NFP. Personally, I don’t like the idea of hormonal birth control or a foreign object in my body, so I can see the appeal of NFP, especially if used in conjunction with a diaphragm or condoms. However, these are my personal preferences, and trying to impose the way I like to do things on other people is ridiculous. Also, while I don’t want any more children, if I did become pregnant I would be ok with that. If I wanted to avoid pregnancy at all costs, I would be using an IUD until my husband got his vasectomy. I think trying to say that everyone can use NFP and avoid pregnancy if they want to is a joke, it is a personal preference and nothing else. It is also the hardest form of “birth control” to use, and saying it is easy is an outright lie. You have to be very dedicated, no ifs ands or buts about it.

    • Emmers

      Thank you for this! Acknowledging that it’s a personal preference, and pointing out that it works great for some people but not for others, is *awesome.*

    • Tricia

      Yep, I’ve had a similar experience with NFP. Two surprise pregnancies later, I realized either it doesn’t work all that well or I’m too stupid or too fertile to use it properly! Whateva. I have hyperemesis this time around and am freakin’ miserable. This will be my third child and as my husband has volunteered to get a vasectomy. . . I am very much looking forward to not being pregnant ever again! Thankfully we like kids and are in a position to provide for them, but still, this is difficult.

      People,think very carefully before settling for NFP!

      • pagansister

        Your experience isn’t the only one I’ve heard of those NFP pregnancies! Too unreliable. My husband had a vasectomy after our 2 planned (not using NFP) children. It is great not having to worry about being pregnant!

  • Kodie

    I think it’s a great thing that it’s possible to track and detect fertility, but the people who like it this way remind me of people who look down on you if you have a TV or don’t bake your own bread. They get more pleasure out of depriving themselves than they do having sex, and judge people as being inferior to them if they just can’t delay gratification so severely. What is it they want? Not to have a baby, so they romanticize the difficult elaborate home-made methods just like they weave their own linens out of flax they first spun. Do these people write letters instead of call, email, or skype? I know a lot of people feel like technology and social networks divide people rather than bring them together and instead of making it a personal choice, turn it into an opportunity to brag how they don’t have a facebook account or a cell phone. Whoop-de-doo, rock star. How do you manage? How can I be like you, and why should I want to be?

    So I think it is indicative of, like purity, a way to feel like there is only one legitimate way. If you intentionally deprive yourself, at least part of it is not simply taking one of the options available to you, but acting like a martyr about it in some twisted romantic way. It’s called “natural” but it’s just averse to technological improvements. You know intercourse can make a baby so you use a LOT of technology to avoid what otherwise naturally would happen eventually. I think in the generation before me, they called that a hang-up.

    • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

      Baking your own bread is good. The key is bread is not that important. When you change the nature of bread you have changed something that matters somewhat but not hugely. When you change the nature of sex it is huge. It is just something very deep and powerful. We think we understand it but we don’t. LibbyAnne’s last paragraph is just sad. She talks about sex like she is ordering pizza. Less hassles is good. The trouble is some hassles are important. There is only one woman in the world with whom I would accept the risk of pregnancy, my wife. When we have sex that is part of what we say to each other. Why take that away? It makes sex more cold, mechanical, and shallow. Hassle free orgasms are overrated.

      • Anonymouse

        If you want to be a martyr because you think it makes you better than other people, that’s fine, but you don’t get to decide how other people want to live their lives.

      • thalwen

        Why is sex only deep and powerful when it can result in pregnancy?

        “There is only one woman in the world with whom I would accept the risk of pregnancy, my wife.”
        I’m glad you’re willing to be pregnant by your wife. Oh, you are willing to give her the risk of pregnancy. How kind and loving.

      • Kodie

        To each their own – in some cases like this or not buying bread at the store or having a facebook account, you are entitled to have your preference. You are not entitled to look down your high-holy nose at everyone who doesn’t think of sex as preciously as you do. Eating and socializing are natural human behavior like sex. Your way is not “the” way.

      • Kodie

        Taking the danger out of nature is another one of the things humans excel at.

      • Emmers

        I’m starting to get the impression that there are, roughly speaking, two types of people:

        (1) Sex is a wonderful and beautiful thing.
        (2) Sex is a wonderful and beautiful thing *only* if it is open to the possibility of children; otherwise, it is cheap and shallow.

        Randy, would you say that #2 is a fair description of your philosophy?

      • Anat

        Look, these days there is no man I’m willing to risk having a baby with, but there is one man I wish to have sex with. It is one of the many fun things we do together. Having sex for fun isn’t cold and mechanical, just like going hiking or discussing poetry for fun aren’t.

      • smrnda

        I think changing the nature of sex makes it better; it’s easier for people to enjoy sex when they can feel confident that big surprises (pregnancy) won’t happen.

        Randy, you seem to take the idea that sex has to be some sort of religious sacrament, always open to the possibility of a gift of life from god. Maybe that’s what makes it special to you, but for many people, the ability to not have to worry about this makes it better for many people. I mean, I like to take the surprises out of everything since I like life to be predictable and manageable.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        “Hassle free orgasms are overrated.”

        Speak for yourself, dude.

      • Stony

        It makes sex more cold, mechanical, and shallow. FOR YOU.
        Hassle free orgasms are overrated. FOR YOU.

        I can’t imagine the above sentences applying to me, at all, so please check your judgment.

      • Liberated Liberal

        Are you implying that any woman who uses contraception is willing to let any man stick his penis inside of her? Because I’m not really sure what you meant there.

        And I’m sorry, but using contraception does NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT make sex cold, meaningless and mechanical. That is a baseless and blatant lie. There are an almost unlimited number of people who can prove you wrong, but you won’t listen, because in your own little mind you are always right.

      • Tamsin

        “Why take that away? It makes sex more cold, mechanical, and shallow. Hassle free orgasms are overrated.”
        Well, I can think of plenty of reasons to “take that away”. For example, if the woman has medical conditions that would make any pregnancy extremely dangerous and quite possibly fatal. And yes, such medical conditions exist, and no, they’re not as rare as you’d like to think.
        Also, if the woman has mental health conditions that would be severely exacerbated by an unplanned pregnancy (pregnancy, after all, can make some women severely depressed and even suicidal).
        Or if the potential parents are in a tenuous financial situation and could not afford to raise a child, or if a pregnancy would see them losing their income and health insurance because the woman was the primary breadwinner, or if they just know that they would be terrible parents and DO NOT WANT CHILDREN, EVER.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        If a woman is the primary breadwinner, that’s reason for the workplace to reform its maternity policies rather than burden women with avoiding parenthood just to remain employed. And if there are financial concerns, NFP costs a lot less than any artificial family planning. My basal thermometer and charts more than paid for themselves. And NFP aps are even cheaper. If a woman has mental health issues, putting her on hormones can make them worse. And the only people who would be terrible parents are likely terrible people to begin with and probably shouldn’t even marry until they choose to not be terrible.

      • LL

        You are being a terrible person by being so rudely and unjustifiably judgmental. What does that say about you?

        Actually, I’ve known women whose mental health problems were dramatically alleviated by hormonal birth control. My sister and a friend. Anti-depressants helped a little, but the combination of both made their lives absolutely joyful. I was pretty surprised by how similar their stories are. They are also free from unwanted pregnancies, acne, and severe menstrual symptoms.

        I can’t believe some of things you’ve said in this paragraph. I hope you’ve talked to Jesus about the hateful things you’ve said here. I’m sure he’d have an opinion about it.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        What hateful things have I said? You falsely accusing me of saying hateful things, if anything, makes you less qualified to judge me.

        Furthermore, there is a huge difference between taking hormones to treat medical problems and taking hormones simply because you don’t want to be fertile. The former is attempted to treat disease- even if it often requires some trial and error. Hormones can improve some people’s health, or they can make things worse. But to act as if taking hormones to treat any real medical problems is similar in any way to taking them just because you don’t want to be fertile is offensive to people with real medical issues as well as to women who reject the idea that normal fertility is something that must be drugged into submission.

      • LL

        People should be allowed to take hormones for whatever reason they like. That you don’t think they are decent people because they do take HBC to avoid pregnancy is what is extremely offensive. It isn’t offensive to those who have medical problems. I don’t know any single person who has medical problems that is offended by people using contraception. Your Catholic bias has made you feel so superior that you believe that people who aren’t exactly like you are less-than, horrible, broken people. And that is wrong. Absolutely wrong of you. You may not like it, but you and your Catholic Church have absolutely zero right to judge people for not doing things your way. We aren’t required to follow your beliefs.

        This belief of yours that I’ve just laid out, that is extremely hateful. The comment you made that people who think they wouldn’t be good parents are terrible people – that is hateful. That is extremely offensive to very, very good people I know who know they wouldn’t be good parents for various reasons, health, financial, mental problems, what have you. You’ve insulted a lot of very dear people in a very wretched way.

        Also, find me the people of the world with medical problems who are offended by BC usage. I’d appreciate it.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        I’m not offended by people taking birth control merely to suppress fertility. I am offended by the societal norm that insists female fertility is in and of itself a disease. I am even more offended as a person who has had to take hormones to treat some real medical problems when people who have no such problems use other people’s illnesses as an excuse to take those drugs for non-medical reasons.

      • Conuly

        LOL, are you absolutely delusional? Saying that only terrible people would be terrible at parenting is hateful in and of itself!

        Valerie, the fact is that YOU are a terrible person. Either you are a troll, or you actually believe what you are spewing. Either way, I beg of you – stop. Just – stop.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Conuly, it’s really simple. If you’re incapable of being a decent person to a child, you’re not a decent person, period. It doesn’t take a whole lot of saintly goodness to be a good parent.

      • tsara

        You know what it does take, though? Being able to prepare food without getting upset. And being aware of how much time is passing. Having the time, energy, and willpower to look after small people with undeveloped brains very nearly 24/7. Oh, look. None of those things are things I have or can do, and that doesn’t make me a terrible person even though I’d be a terrible parent.

      • Conuly

        You can be a decent person to children in general without being a good parent. And you can be nice to children while being an awful person overall. You can even be a stellar parent while otherwise being a monster!

        Parenting doesn’t require “saintly goodness”, but it does require patience, physical resources such as money, emotional strength, and, you know, the ability to care for kids and enjoy it. Some people just don’t enjoy children – and if they’re decent people, they avoid putting themselves in a position where they have to be surrounded by children for long periods of time.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        People who don’t have the patience to be around children without neglecting or abusing them are terrible people. Period.

      • Conuly

        LOL, you’re an idiot. Or a troll. Or an idiot troll, could go either way.

        Regardless, I’m not particularly interested in watching you diss parents by claiming that raising children is different from every other skill on the planet.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        You’re the one who seems incapable of actually reading and debating the points without resorting to name-calling.

        I am a parent. I think I know what I’m talking about. I notice you haven’t addressed the point that people who abuse or neglect children are terrible people.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Are you still here? Repeating an argument without any, you know, evidence backing it up isn’t terribly meaningful. Conuly has done a good job explaining why you’re wrong; you just keep repeating the same line over and over again. Have you got an actual argument?

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Name-calling is not “doing a good job” of anything.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        What name, precisely, have I called you?

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Reread your own posts.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        On this thread? All I’ve said is that you shouldn’t repeat the same argument over and over again without addressing your opponent’s arguments at all. And, also, that decent people can still make terrible parents. Perhaps you could link to such a post? I can definitely call people names sometimes, but usually it’s in a post that’s also making arguments.

      • jejune

        I re-read all of her posts.

        She hasn’t insulted you once.

        But then again, it is necessary for you to play the poor beseiged martyr.

      • Olive Markus

        So, you consider that everything other than outright neglect or abuse is good parenting??

        You, as somebody who thinks sex is only appropriate if it follows some elaborate ritual at the right moment with the right intentions and the perfect thoughts with the perfect person while believing that God is smiling at the act is at the same time going to believe that any parenting is good parenting as long as somebody isn’t starving or beating the shit out of the children?

      • Conuly

        See my last comment to her. Which WILL be the last comment I make to her – I don’t have discussions with people who are unwilling to, well, discuss things.

        http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/rational-discussion-flowchart/

      • Olive Markus

        Agreed.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Who said anything about “elaborate rituals”? I sure didn’t, and my wedding wasn’t particularly elaborate.

        I’m just saying if you’re a thoroughly decent person, you’re going to be a decent parent. Obviously, if you’re only decent to some people but not others, you’re not, as a whole, a decent person. If you’re a good person, you’re going to be good to your kids as well as to anyone else.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Some people I know are quite decent people. They just don’t like children. They don’t want to be around them. If a child is obviously ill or injured, they’ll take care of hir until someone else comes along, but they don’t want to. They don’t want to listen to toddlers babble. They don’t want to play silly games 30 times in a row. They can’t stand screaming children and just walk away from them, knowing that the child’s parents are responsible for the child. They’d make terrible parents. Because of that, they make sure they won’t become parents. That, to my mind, makes them decent, good, responsible people.

      • Olive Markus

        You are a judgmental, horrible person by saying these things. Thank you for invalidating all wonderful people with severe physical and mental disabilities and all people in sickening poverty. Boy, you think you are so fucking superior, but you are so incredibly rude.

      • Olive Markus

        Any decent person can be decent to a child. But that doesn’t mean they would be a good parent.

        There are health problems, mental problems, familial problems, abusive spouses, etc., that could make one a bad parent even if they don’t mean to be.

        That you wave away everyone’s problems for the sake of being judgmental and making yourself feel superior is very telling. But keep on keepin’ on.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Name a health problem or a mental health problem that in and of itself makes people bad parents. I’m afraid you cannot without revealing some judgemental prejudice against the disabled and mentally ill. Even the ill, disabled, and mentally ill can be good parents- it all depends on how they manage their conditions and seek help when needed.

        I’ve only know of a few extreme cases when mothers with severe schizophrenia had to put children up for adoption or into foster care- and they did so willingly for the sake of their children’s safety. Someone who makes a sacrifice like that out of love for their children, is IMO, is a good parent.

        A good parent is not someone who raises children so much as someone who has to make sometimes hard decisions for the children’s own good.

        Killing a child is never in the child’s best interests, though.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Really? I’ve met several people who would rather not have been born. Their lives were pretty miserable, too- they had a valid point. It’s not that they wanted to suicide, mind you. It’s that they thought utter nonexistence (abortion before sentience) would have been preferable to their lives. This was especially true in cases where their mothers clearly resented them and they knew they had ruined their mothers’ lives by their very existence. Clearly, abortion would have been in these people’s best interest.

        As for the rest of it- it’s not the mental illness, it’s the person with the mental illness. If that person feels unfit to be a parent, ze might be right and one should listen to hir. Pregnancy often requires a person to go off hir meds, which is not healthy. Adoption is not a good option when it entails making the mother crazy (literally). Now, if the person chooses to do this? She can, of course, though it’d be best if she were carefully monitored by mental health professionals while off her medication. But forcing it upon her? Horrific and cruel.

      • Olive Markus

        Right. Assuming they are privileged enough to get all of the help they require. Not everybody is so lucky. My dear friend is severely bipolar and while she works so hard to manage her condition, so far, medications only work for small periods of time. She goes through periods of incredible rage, suicidal feelings, extreme depression and then excessive mania. She WANTS kids so badly but knows that it would be so easy to do something terrible during certain moments. She is one.

        Go fuck yourself.

      • jejune

        Tell that to your pro-life pastors who starve their kids today because they didn’t get good enough grades.

      • fiona64

        And the only people who would be terrible parents are likely terrible
        people to begin with and probably shouldn’t even marry until they choose
        to not be terrible.

        By which you imply that all married couples want (or should want) to have children … which is pretty nonsensical.

      • Judy L.

        Randy, You’re more than welcome to your alternative sexual lifestyle, but you’re making the classic mistake of extrapolating from your own preferences and beliefs to what other people’s preferences and beliefs should be. You assert the belief that ‘the nature of sex’ is that of a sacred spiritual bond between a heterosexual couple that’s made more meaningful by the fact that they’re risking pregnancy. That may be the way you experience sex, but to think that everyone else does or should experience sex the same way you do is incredibly arrogant, judgemental, and dismissive. And to judge other people’s sex as inferior to yours (cold, mechanical, and shallow, like ordering a pizza) is just pure douchebaggery. I hope that you and your wife live a long time together, and that you’ll not fault her for making sex colder and shallower when she reaches menopause and risking pregnancy is no longer ‘part of what you say to each other’ when you have sex.

      • Alan

        If that’s what you think of hassle free sex you are doing it wrong

      • http://puddinsilovemylife.blogspot.com/ Tonya Richard

        Well Randy, coming from a belief system like yours that I have now rejected, let me say, ” Hassle free orgasms are the bomb!” ; ) It is gonna get really good when my husband has his vasectomy. I think the narrow and obnoxious thinking of the extreme Catholics/crazy Christian fundamentalists is what I am happiest about rejecting. I am happier than I have ever been, and my husband and I have a much healthier relationship. And it isn’t because I am out “sinning” now. My life is pretty much the same, minus constantly being pregnant. I just don’t have to live under that suffocating delusion anymore, and it is wonderful! I love every one of my 8 children, and honestly probably would have had each one of them whether I believed the way I did or not. I wanted a big family. However, I suffered a lot of guilt when I realized I was done after my eighth child and tons of guilt for using condoms to space my last three children. I really struggled with feeling selfish, which is a ridiculous crock of shit, I mean I have 8 freaking kids! I really cannot imagine feeling forced to live this lifestyle and not wanting a large family. What a horrible thing for the parents and the children. Children should always know they were truly wanted. Randy, feel free to live however you want to, but please don’t try to force it on other people. You are no better than anyone else, and your sex life is not more special either.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Children should know the difference between being wanted and being loved. My daughter knows she was unplanned. She also knows she was welcomed anyway and that I fought (literally, even!) for her life.

      • jadehawk

        “Why take that away? ”
        because some people aren’t open to pregnancy even with their partners? because not everyone gets turned on by the risk of pregnancy the way you do?

        It makes sex more cold, mechanical, and shallow.”
        yor kink is not my kink

        “Hassle free orgasms are overrated.”
        HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
        incidentally, i can have 100% risk-of-pregnancy-free orgasms several times a day, and often do. they tend to not have anything to do with my relationship though. also, nothing

      • jadehawk

        ” also, nothing”

        hmm… wonder where I was going with that sentence fragment. :-p

      • JenV

        Randy: BLOOD CLOTS. I got serious DVTs after having both of my children. So, no thank you, I will not be having any more children. Using an IUD does not cheapen sex, make sex more cold, mechanical, or shallow for chrissake. It simply makes me 99% sure that I will not be subject to a life-threatening condition postpartum, TYVM. My youngest is 3.5 months old, so I am still dealing with Coumadin, INRs and fear of pulmonary embolism. Thanks, dude, for trying to tell me that I am cheapening sex by using a form of contraception to ensure that I am around to rear my children.

  • And when it does not work?

    I used the pill, iud and even cap through my 20′s and 30′s. Never failed once. Used nfp to chart for conception at 39. Success. Used it again as contraception at 40. Uh oh… FAIL. Happily married, so no problem. HAPPY to be pregnant. Went for the ultrasound and found it was a molar pregnancy. Google it. Threat to my life. Yes I had it removed safely the next day.

    But here is an unproved suspicion I have… I know my pregnancy was from sex 5 days before ovulation. So that sperm was pretty worn out by the time it hit the egg. Do failed nfp pregnancies lead to an increased proportion of doomed pregnancies and disabled children? I suspect they do because failed nfp means that either the sperm or the egg was days away from its prime by the time of conception?

    • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

      You are exactly correct. The very method by which FAM works is through the fact that non-optimal times its still possible to get pregnant, but the woman is more likely to spontaneously abort the such pregnancies because they are often unfit due to hormones being non ideal.

      • Liberated Liberal

        That is an extremely good observation. I hope more information comes out about that someday. Or, if there’s more information you know about, I’d love to look into it.

        My mom had an ectopic pregnancy during her short adventure into NFP. It nearly killed her. Now I really have to wonder. She is Catholic, but has never been against contraception. She was simply talked into it by her Catholic friends. It ended after that, even though removal of her ovary and tube (with her other tube being somewhat scarred) left her extremely unlikely to conceive again.

  • smrnda

    My take on NFP is that it’s damned complicated, I don’t think the metrics are easily to obtain or interpret and appear to require a regularity of schedule that isn’t going to be possible for many women. The other problem is that, since it’s grounded in the teachings of the Catholic Church, it requires ‘openness’ to the possibility of a pregnancy, meaning ‘if it doesn’t work, don’t complain since god wanted you to get pregnant.’ Because of that last bit alone I can’t take any stories of its success seriously, since there’s a catch-22 for when it fails.

    I liked ArachneS’ point about how humans avoid natural consequences all the time, and I agree, we’re better off for it and I think it’s one of the most remarkable things about humans is that when we don’t like the consequences of something, we find a way around it.

    And Kodie, I think you’ve hit it right on a belief that somehow, ‘natural’ is better drives a lot of this thinking, though I can’t exactly think of a reason why. Natural sometimes just means primitive and inefficient.

    I think the problem is that the reason people use NFP is that they have been taught that other methods are bad, and then a rationalization has to be constructed after the fact. If anybody believes in and wants to follow Catholic doctrine, though I think it’s all a bunch of ridiculous nonsense, I’m not going to try to persuade anybody to change what they are doing since that’s their business. My exposure to religions have made me think that they’re all so focused on regulating sex since controlling sex is a way to control people, but people can choose NFP the same way I will respect a person’s choice to use ‘holistic medicine.’

    Another problem is that sex is not always consensual and planned. It isn’t like a rapist cares that today is one of your ‘fertile days’ when you plan to abstain from sex. The other thing is, lots of dual-income couples have limited opportunities to have sex because they are very busy. If you rule out a bunch of days, you might be stuck with what, sex a few days a month at most? I’m sure some people would be okay with that, but would everybody? I know that Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular are both adept and finding ways to make suffering into a profound religious experience, but for people who don’t believe in the religious ideas there’s really no point to abstain.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    Thank you for posting about NFP, Libby Anne! This is a subject I’m deeply passionate about due to my own negative experience with the Catholic Church’s teachings.

    When I was using NFP my whole sex life became one of fear, and unplanned pregnancy was merely the beginning of these fears. First, because the Catholic Church says contraception is “intrinsically evil,” that means that using contraception is a mortal sin, when other qualifications are met (knowledge of the sin, intent to act on the sin, etc.) I was quite knowledgeable of the teaching and met all the qualifications. I was afraid of doing something that merited Hell, and I didn’t want to have to confess contraception (or anything pertaining to my sex life) to a priest because that felt embarrassing and awkward.

    There were other theological complications wrapped up in this issue, such as the teaching that all sexual acts must include the male orgasming inside a woman’s vagina. This is the primary Catholic sex “rule,” and it meant that other sexual acts that didn’t carry a risk of pregnancy were out of the question. There was also this notion of “paying the marriage” debt, which is the Catholic version of needing to submit to your husband. Not all Catholics hold to this, but I was especially rigorous and scrupulous in my beliefs, so I always wondered if I was committing a sin by denying my husband’s advances due to what was on the chart.

    Combine this with having grown up in a prudish household that simply didn’t talk about sex. I felt dirty checking my cervical mucus and weirded out by all the experiments I had to do with it in order to measure my fertility: Stretch it out between my fingers; Put it in a glass of water to see if it floats or sinks; etc. I did all this, and I ended up pregnant.

    You’ve written about the conservative and pro-life idea that women shouldn’t have sex unless they want a baby, so I know your readers are familiar with this idea. I grew up thinking this, so when I had an unplanned pregnancy, I felt ashamed on the inside. At the same time, I was married and had done everything “right,” so I didn’t want anyone to know that I was secretly unhappy about becoming a mom. I put on the happy face, but died a little every time someone congratulated me on the pregnancy.

    I felt like a failure, but I soldiered on, determined to be a good Catholic mom and a good mom in general. I breastfed my baby because “breast is best,” and the NFP books encouraged breastfeeding for its lactational amenorrhea effect. I didn’t menstruate for year, and therefore had no base point for which to measure my cycles. I became pregnant after just one cycle because breastfeeding made it difficult to practice NFP.

    This felt like another failure, especially because we were already financially unstable. I became completely afraid of sex after that, and my husband and I completely abstained for a year. This wasn’t exactly good for our marriage, but it was better than continuing to fearfully practice NFP. During that time, I really dug in and studied the sexual teachings of the church which led me to question other aspects of Catholic theology. I let go of NFP, sought therapy, and slowly became mentally stable again. (The whole NFP experience left me fearful, angry, and depressed.) I questioned some more and came out an atheist. The questioning started with NFP, so in that way I’m thankful for the experience, but it did serious harm to my mental health and my marriage. Because of this, I wonder if it has harmed my kids as well. Healing takes time, but I’m much happier on the other side.

    I think stories about the dark side of NFP need to be shared, and maybe you can post these on Twitter. I recommend the series “Women Speak About Natural Family Planing” on Women in Theology (WIT):

    http://womenintheology.org/category/women-speak-about-natural-family-planning/

    And the comments on “Is Natural Family Planning Really Natural” on Caeulm et Terra:

    http://caelumetterra.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/is-natural-family-planning-really-natural/

    These are both Catholic sites, and the women who share their stories are doing so from a Catholic perspective. When I was questioning NFP, I found these forums helpful in telling my own story. It’s hard to question NFP in Catholic circles because your morality is questioned, as is your loyalty to the Catholic Church, but these forums were very open to honest discussion.

    • ArachneS

      Wow. Kacy. You’re post could have been mine. The persistence of trying to be faithful and use NFP. The unfamiliarity of my body after years of growing up in a family that avoided talking about sex or reproductive organs completely. The desperation that finally led to my own research on both the ideology of the church on birth control, real medical facts of contraception and the theology of the Catholic church. The stress of the first pregnancy that I felt terrible about, and all the guilt because people’s congratulations didn’t make me feel better. The problems with trying to get back into the method while breastfeeding, but not having anything to follow. The fear I felt when I had a 7 week cycle after the first period after breastfeeding. All this on top of the constant feeling that I was supposed to feel different because the church told me this was what we were supposed to do.
      However we didn’t exactly have a year of abstaining. I ended up working a night job before my first was a year old(because of financial necessity) and between my husband’s day job and my night job and our child, the opportunities of even having a sex life became narrowed down to a few times per month. At that time we were so paranoid that the few times we did get to do it, we would use the pull out “method” just in case. All that and we did end up pregnant, just when I was considering an offer to move up into management at my restaurant job(and therefore nixed the management position). I can also attest to the difficulty in getting anywhere in discussing this in catholic circles. It is made out as though if you are not proclaiming the benefits of NFP, you are not being a faithful catholic(…perhaps why so many have shown up to say its great for everyone?).

      The fact that I was driven to research from all of this, which led to questioning NFP, questioning the church’s motives, questioning the church’s doctrines, was undeniably what gave me the freedom to find the answers that led me out of the catholic church.

      And I want to clarify, contraception was not the reason I left, it was the reason I had questions. Which led to other questions. Which had never occurred to me to challenge my religion with. When I started questioning I was not trying to get out, I was trying to reaffirm the trust I had put in catholic authority for so many years. I was trying to find ways to justify the catholic church’s teaching. I loved being a catholic, and I was reluctant to let it go.

    • Liberated Liberal

      I had the same links to share :D.

      Thanks for coming out with your experience. Were you one of the commenters from August on the second site?

      • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

        That’s me. I’m also “K” on WIT. I was sharing my story anonymously while I was still a Catholic, but since leaving the RCC I’ve become more open about the hurt NFP caused me. I try to speak out against it whenever the topic comes up b/c there are so many NFP cheerleaders and those who are quick to condemn those of us who tried and failed with NFP.

      • Liberated Liberal

        Kacy! I’m glad you feel comfortable coming out about your experience. The common thread whenever I read through these sites that you’ve participated in is that those for whom NFP has not worked will not speak about it in their Catholic circles. Therefore, everybody simple things everybody is an NFP wonder story. I noticed that many were saddened by your journey out of the Church. I was Catholic, too. Life is good on the other side :).

      • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

        Thanks for the encouragement. You’re the first person who has expressed happiness about my leaving the Catholic Church. It’s mostly been…lonely. Freeing, but lonely.

    • ScottInOH

      These are both amazing posts, Kacy and ArachneS. Thank you for putting yourselves out there.

    • Valerie Finnigan

      Who on earth told you about any “marriage debt”? I’m Catholic. My husband and I were married in the Church and went through all the necessary classes and pre-marital counseling, and not once have I ever heard of any such thing as a “marriage debt.” When discussing the sacraments and especially vocations in my twelve years of Catholic school, I never heard of any “marriage debt.” Rather, that a husband and wife have an equal duty to each other was regarded as a given.

      • victoria

        She’s correct that it’s part of Catholic theology, although I think it’s a somewhat out-of-vogue term: “Conjugal relations are rightly called the ‘marriage debt’…it is a mortal sin to deprive one’s spouse of these relationships.”

        Which doesn’t, of course, mean that all abstinence is illicit: “It is possible for the couple to agree, by mutual consent, to abstain for a short period of time, for example for penance, during Lent. However, it must be by mutual consent, and on the understanding that either spouse can withdraw it at any time.” I had read somewhere that long-term abstinence in marriage (of the type Kacy discusses) requires a dispensation from the bishop, but unfortunately I can’t remember where.

        I think Kacy is correct here on the theology of refusing a spouse’s advances (I am an ex-Catholic, since that seems relevant). There is nothing wrong with a couple mutually agreeing to abstain through the fertile period or any other time, but either spouse has the freedom to withdraw that agreement to abstain at any time and the other spouse does have an affirmative moral obligation to have sex. (Which does not excuse rape, of course. If one spouse refuses to have sex, they are committing a sin but that doesn’t give the other spouse the right to force the issue.)

        The earliest story in that Women in Theology series Kacy linked to involved exactly that: a woman whose husband refused to abstain during her fertile period.

  • http://tinygrainofrice.wordpress.com Kristy

    Hahahaha, NO.

    I have a lot of talents. Strong organizational skills are not among them. I can’t even use the Pill, because
    I’m so bad at remembering to take it every day. (Let alone at the same time each day, yikes!) Also less-than-ok with checking out my cervix and mucus every morning. Squeamish? Guilty as charged.

    I gave birth a few months back. My pregnacy was very much wanted, and about as easy as a pregnancy can be – - no health complications, fast labor, very mild morning sickness, etc. Even so, it was the most physically and emotionally demanding thing I’ve ever done. I adore my daughter, but I’m VERY ambivalent about having a second child – and if I do decide to, it won’t be for a few years.

    So what do I do? Use a method that I know I won’t be good at (and will make me deeply uncomfortable on a daily basis), knowing that a likely outcome of my probable failure is having a child I do not want and am not prepared for? Do something permanent that we may regret later if we do decide to have more children eventually? Resign myself to never having sex with my husband again – or at least not for a few years?

    Or do I talk to my doctor about other options?

    Look, I know there may be health risks with artificial bc. But I’m a big girl, I can do my own risk assessment, and to me, the risks of other methods are worse. (I have friends whose parents were obviously not prepared to havethem nor able, financially or emotionally, to take care of them. I know what it does to a kid. Yeah, I’d ratherr risk cancer than take a chance of doing that to a child.)

    If NFP works for you, that is fantastic and I am happy for you. That’s not sarcasm; I truly am. But it’s not the best choice for me and my family, so please, when you’re touting the benefits of your method, don’t demonize those who choose other methods. It’s a big world, there’s room for all of us.

  • Red

    Wow, thanks for writing this post.

    I fall into the category of women who get “blamed” for “not trying hard enough” to make the natural methods work. My hubby and I tried a very reliable method of NFP for 7 months. In 7 months, we had sex a total of 4 times.

    Why, you ask? Because my body signs were highly bizarre. You are right; not every woman has clear-cut signs (although many do, and I’m happy for them!) We were frequently getting what my (highly trained) NFP instructor would identify as “fertile” mucus. We’d see it a few days after my period, then it would stop, then the “real” ovulation build-up would begin, and then we’d see it again a few days after ovulation was over. Each time, we didn’t know what was the “real” ovulation (because the first sign could’ve been early ovulation, and the last sign could’ve been what was called a double-peak, when your body postpones ovulation and does it much later in the cycle instead). Our instructor, and even a well-respected DOCTOR who had practiced NFP for nearly a decade, were all telling me “I”m so sorry, but based on your charts, I can’t tell you that you can safely ignore any of these signs if you want to avoid pregnancy.” Put that together with an extremely short cycle (which even the medication didn’t help lengthen after months of taking it), and we got cycles where we maybe had 1-2 available days. And that’s on a good month.

    I knew people who absolutely swore by this method we were using, and I was genuinely happy for them that they were enjoying it so much. In fact, I do believe that women should be given more info about NFP, since it seems to work so well for some women. It should be a valid choice.

    But to say that anyone who has problems with it simply isn’t trying hard enough, well….I’d direct you to my NFP trainer and my doctor, both of whom agreed that I was in a serious bind.

    Now I have the implant. I can’t recommend that highly enough! (and it has the added benefit that, unlike the IUD, it can’t fall out)

  • Caroline

    I agree with you on everything. I think the moral implications of this is that even though you’re abstaining for awhile, it’s still BIRTH CONTROL. If you are a Catholic, and you use this method as birth control, you’re still having sex and trying not to have babies. I think this speaks for the view of a most Catholics that sex should not necessarily be controlled. ALMOST. THERE.

  • Lisa

    I used to be the biggest advocate for FAM/NFP…I’ve always been pro-choice and pro-BC, but I’m a huge anatomy/physiology geek and loved the idea of “taking charge of my fertility” (that really is a great book BTW) and knowing what’s going on in my body on a daily basis. I practice NFP for a little over two years–I read the books, took class with my ex-husband through a local Catholic church, talked one on one with a NP at Planned Parenthood about charting, diligently tracked my cycle and cervical fluid/position daily via cell phone app (my day to day schedule was too irregular to to Basal Body Temp–it wasn’t possible for me to wake up at the same time every day, so I never did that part)…and it worked well for me for two years, until this past January when I caught a bad flu, and I think the stress of the illness delayed ovulation for me, anyway, I ended up getting pregnant and having an abortion. I also went back on the pill immediately after…Honestly, the reason why I stopped practicing NFP was basically because I never want to have another abortion (I’m glad I made the choice I did, don’t get me wrong, but abortion is by no means pleasant or anything I’m looking to repeat).

    • Lizzy

      Add me to the list for NFP accidental pregnancy and abortion. I ended up discovering NFP via the Pre-Cana that we had to do so that my husband’s mother wouldn’t be saddened by our un-Catholic marriage. While NFP as a religious practice may involve remaining open to children, I am not. I’m also an atheist so I don’t care what an imaginary person wants. At this point I can say that I never want to get pregnant again. I’m on the pill and I’m thinking about the implant early next year. To hell with abstaining or using condoms or worrying. I want easy consequence free sex. It’s the 21st century, we have the technology to do that.

  • Niemand

    There’s an innate logical problem with the arguments being made for NFP: People are claiming that NFP is superior because 1. Every act of intercourse is “open to life” but also claiming that it is highly effective at avoiding conception.

    Which is it? It can’t possibly be both a very effective method of birth control and morally superior because it is “open to life” because “open to life” implies that it is expected to fail. And since everyone has acknowledged that any form of birth control can fail, why are they not all-except, perhaps, abstinence-”open to life”?

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      Yes, exactly. I’ve been wondering that too.

    • plch

      Perfectly on point!

    • Judy L.

      People, and I think especially religious people, are capable of the most fantastical feats of cognitive dissonance.

    • Rosa

      Exactly!

      Either it’s open to conception, or it works as contraception. Not both!

      And if “artificial” birth control is so risky and ineffective, isn’t it “open to conception” as well?

      This is as dumb as the boys from the Catholic high school who liked to have sex but wouldn’t use condoms because birth control was a sin.

    • Sarah

      “People are claiming that NFP is superior because 1. Every act of intercourse is “open to life” but also claiming that it is highly effective at avoiding conception.”

      Apparently the thinking is that if god wanted to, it could make you ovulate twice in a month when using NFP despite high progesterone levels post ovulation. But it clearly couldn’t make you ovulate on the pill because it has high levels of progesterone which make ovulation less likely. See?

      Just watch a few awards shows (thanks for the award, god!) and disaster footage (thanks for only destroying my house and killing only half of my family, god!) back to back and you’ll get the hang of the thought process involved.

  • http://elliha.blogspot.com Elin

    I like keeping track of my body and I would probably be able to use that information to avoid pregancy but I do not want to. I want to have sex when I have the highest sex drive and not abstain when it is at its peak. It is as simple as that and this is the reason we use condoms. I don’t like hormone based contraceptives so I have barrier (male or female) and a copper coil to choose from then and condoms are the easiest choice as me and my husband sees it. I would consider a copper coil in a couple of years but we are planning another child quite soon and I don’t want to get one and then take it out soon. My partner does not trust diaphragms so that option so also out for us. NFP is not for us.

  • http://www.texannewyorker.com jwall915

    I didn’t read through all the comments, so forgive me if this is repetitive. The first time I ever heard of NFP was at a talk at a pretty conservative evangelical college, and it was described as abstaining from sex during her fertile period. Since this was in no way or form a Catholic college, this was somewhat revolutionary. I thought the talk was extremely weak though. Her criticism of the pill is that it’s an abortifacient (groan) and her criticisms of barrier methods were even more ludicrous. But, I could appreciate that some people really want a natural method for avoiding pregnancy, and it would be nice to know your body so well. However… what got me is that you must abstain from sex during the fertile time – no sexual contact at all. That one didn’t sit well with me.
    A few years later I read a book on Fertility Awareness Method, FAM, which taught you how to chart and learn when your fertile period was, but it left it completely up to each couple what they did or didn’t do during said time frame. You could abstain completely, you could use other forms of sexual intimacy, or you could use a barrier method of birth control.
    When I read that, I suddenly realized the dark side of NFP. It seems like it’s trying to control people’s sex lives. I mean, why does an evangelical church care if a couple engages in oral sex, or uses a condom? But, then I realized why. The talk I heard about NFP, and I’ve never heard anything contradicting this, is that NFP is based on the whole idea of children being a blessing from God, and married couples should always be open to having a baby, and that sex is mainly for procreation. What really bugged me about the whole thing is that it felt like she was saying that your marriage had to revolve around having children. That you can’t just shelve the idea for a period of months or years and just have recreational sex whatever time of the month you want. It’s putting having babies on a pedestal and revolving your life around a kid that doesn’t even exist yet. And that was the part that didn’t sit well with me, and the part that’s never sat well with me. I practiced a version of FAM for awhile and it worked very nicely for us. We used a barrier method during the fertile period, because I really did not want to have to avoid sex during the time I want it the most. But I never like the idea of telling someone what to do and what not to do.

  • Grace

    Well, for starters, if we’re going for typical use, then check out Creighton. As a practitioner-in-training, when talking about Creighton, I *never* leave out the typical use. In fact, I take Creighton with its 99.5 perfect use and 96.4 typical use (studied over 1780 couples over the period of 17,100 months by the way) to avoid and compare it to the pill who has a perfect use of 99.7 and a typical use of 91% as of a 2011 study in a medical journal (Contraception, if you’re interested).

    Also, studies done giving natural methods a 25% failure rate usually combine all the different types together, even the loathsome Rhythm Method. Also something to consider: NFP is *not* contraception. It can be used (unlike contraception) at any given cycle to achieve pregnancy. When people are conducting studies, because this is so foreign to contraception, they never ask about the intention of use. Contraception assumes avoiding. With NFP that is not the case. So the people conducting the studies will see *any* pregnancy as a failure, even if it was the intention of the couple to achieve in that particular cycle. Hence, the numbers go up. A university in Utah is currently working on a study that studies men and women’s intention of use with natural family planning methods as this decision is so critical. Having a baby while on NFP is not necessarily a failure, as one of the predominant functions we provide is to help women achieve, with Creighton – especially the ones who are struggling with achieving.

    Then, because I’ve personally seen irregular and regular women chart successfully with Creighton with no added trouble, I’d recommend this type of NFP for you because not all NFP is created equal. Some methods work better for some than they do for others. With Creighton, we typically get all the “hard” cases – like with continuous mucus or unusual bleeding or long cycles, you name it. We even mention the unusualness in our intro and show example charts! (You also never have to internally check your cervix or take a temperature. I personally see that as a huge plus.) Creighton definitely feels more streamlined and simplistic, yet effective. Plus it has standardized charting system and that makes charting SO much easier in my opinion.

    Yeah, there’s about 6-9 days depending on the woman where abstinence is key to avoid, but that really does take a paradigm shift to see it as an opportunity to grow as a couple beyond just the ability to have genital contact. If approached in this manner, it fosters an even greater respect and communication and expands the scope of the sexual life of the couple.

    • smrnda

      But most people who care about contraception are only interested in avoiding pregnancy, so would this mean that NFP isn’t even a method of contraception?

      I’m sure you think this enhances communication, but seriously, most couples have more interesting things to talk about than going over biometrics compiled day after day. Do you imagine that couples using other forms of contraception are just mindless sex addicts?

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        It seems like these people really DO think that. I think this: ” but that really does take a paradigm shift to see it as an opportunity to grow as a couple beyond just the ability to have genital contact,” kind of says it all. There’s this idea that EITHER you’re doing lots of lovey-dovey, growing-spiritually-as-a-couple, communication stuff OR you’re just having cold, impersonal “genital contact.” The idea that having the option to have sex is going to necessarily inhibit couples from being intimate in other ways is fundamentally sex-negative, imo. Conservative Catholics go on and on about the unitive awesomeness of marital sex, but how awesome can you really think it is when, when you come right down to it, you see it as a distraction from other types of bonding?

      • smrnda

        A bit of a nasty thing to say I know, but I could add that most “Christian couples” I run into don’t exactly have relationships that indicate depth and maturity, it’s more “let’s try our best to emulate gender stereotypes! Ladies, remember to say “wow, really” a lot when your man is talking!”

        My honest opinion is that the hostility is a result of people feeling threatened by people who break their rules and end up happy anyway.

      • Kodie

        My honest opinion is that the hostility is a result of people feeling threatened by people who break their rules and end up happy anyway.

        That reminds me of kids. You know when teenagers don’t believe any old-er people were ever in love, or think they invented sex? But what you say is true. Whatever devout religious people say about their love and their sex is more authentic or pure than any outsider can imagine, but however, dismiss entirely the idea that outsiders have or can have anything close to what they have, and they bring it down to qualities of patriarchy and purity that are what makes it more awesome than anyone else’s.

        Plus, I think a lot of it is not even true – people who have to keep advertising how perfectly in love they are often are the ones having serious problems. That tends to happen when the expectations are built so high, you don’t want anyone to find out it’s rather ordinary or kind of difficult – or normal. Idealism is a really difficult goal and people can be really disappointed when it’s not perfect, even if it’s really pretty good. I am not going so far as to suggest it’s all phony baloney or downright misery under the veneer, but a certain amount of it has to be. Of course, a certain mindset doesn’t air its dirty laundry in public and has to be concerned about the public image overall, not to overlook the types of people who are likely to rationalize a malicious or cruel god as loving may have the same rationalizations within their family order.

        The same qualities of love and sex and marriage that non-Christians can have, good, mutual, healthy ones, as well as codependent, abusive, selfish bad matches, are the same ones they’re having, but they are taught young what qualities to look for in a mate, pend up all their sexual urges, marry young, have children, and maybe learn to be happy with what they ended up with and maybe kid themselves that they are, or maybe they really luck out and never need to look back. They are entitled to the choices that they make for whatever reason, but the way they pass judgment is just like teenagers without any experience to measure against.

    • Niemand

      So the people conducting the studies will see *any* pregnancy as a failure

      Becoming pregnant while not intending to is a failure of contraception. If you intend to become pregnant, you are not using NFP for contraception. You’re either making excuses for failures and trying to make your numbers look better or conflating two different uses of fertility tracking.

      • ButchKitties

        A common criticism of Catholic studies on NFP failure rates is that they assumed any pregnancies that occurred while using NFP were wanted pregnancies, so they weren’t included when calculating the failure rates.

    • Red

      Creighton was what I was on. I knew many, many women who were very happy with it, and I support anyone who wants to use it. However, keep in mind that even with Creighton, some women (like me…see my story above, around comment 85 I think) will still have fertility signs that are so confusing as to knock out almost all of your available days. Creighton does indeed have methods for dealing with the “hard cases,” but some, like mine, still cannot be solved with it.

      I didn’t really see much of a change in how my husband and I approached sex and closeness. Many women, when they are on hormonal bc, go through periods of abstinence if they forget a pill or are on antibiotics. This happens much more frequently than you’d think. It’s safe to say that we all have to find ways to connect other than genital contact.

      In fact, coming into Creighton after being on hormonal bc for 4 years, I was really surprised that the material assumed couples who used bc had not developed other means of marital intimacy. That assumption certainly doesn’t match what I experienced as a hormonal bc user, or what any of my married friends experienced either.

      • Red

        Er, to be a little more clear….all the things the Creighton material was telling us–about how you grow as a couple through the times of abstinence–were things that we had already learned in our marriage even after being on hormonal pills. We had already developed many ways to be emotionally intimate without relying on physical intimacy. In fact, many times when you’re too tired or not in the mood, you have to rely on other things–even when sex is a completely valid option.

        We didn’t find that regular periodic abstinence either helped or hurt our intimacy. But the uncertainty of knowing when I was “really” ovulating put so much stress on the marriage that we eventually gave the system up even though we didn’t want to.

    • Doe

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8057183?dopt=AbstractPlus

      I don’t know if this is the exact study you’re referring to, but it says several times in the abstract that if couples have sex during the woman’s fertile phase, that doesn’t count as a failure of contraception because it’s assumed that they wanted to get pregnant. That is not an accurate representation of typical use. Condom studies aren’t allowed to throw out pregnancies where the couple didn’t use a condom for every instance of sex; in fact, the largest contributor to the typical use failure rate for condoms is not using them every time.

      • Niemand

        It’s also interesting to note that in this highly motivated population, there was a 20+% drop out rate within one year. If even very motivated people who were given good instruction and more encouragement than the average person will ever get (a known side effect of being a participant in a clinical trial is better care) can’t take it for a year one time in five, how often is it going to work for the average person? Not even counting the people who were assumed to be having sex at a fertile period because they wanted a child-when they might simply have been in the mood and decided to risk it and therefore should be counted as contraception failures.

  • abra1

    Part of the reason why the failure rate for NFP is so disputed is that the pro-NFP studies excluded a large block of the women who got pregnant during the 12mo because it wasn’t entirely clear whether it was a failure of implementation or a shift to “openness” to conceive. Of course, if you are Catholic and not celibate, you are always supposed to be open to conception (it muddies the waters way too much for someone, like me, who really did want to prevent pregnancy not just avoid it as long as we were in the mood to — did those people drop out of the study because they decided it was time to start a family or did they decide it was time to start a family because they got pregnant).

    This is both a strength and weakness of NFP — you can shift from planning to trying on a moment’s notice, no need for a doctor’s appointment, waiting for hormones to clear the system, etc.

    I tried NFP for ~4 years… and finally threw in the towel when I had my 2nd unplanned pregnancy on it despite being so cautious that it was hurting my marriage. It worked great prior to my first (planned) child — but postpartum, particularly dealing with significant postpartum depression, it did not work well at all — between nursing, late night feedings, and the havoc the stress hormones were playing with my previously reliable signs, I ended up conceiving my 2nd child the first time we’d touched in months… I thought I was going to lose my mind. We jumped back on the wagon after he was born and I struggled less with the ppd thanks to drugs and therapy but I still ended up pregnant about 1yr later. I never thought I could have been so happy to miscarry (within 48hrs of determining I was pregnant) and immediately made an appointment to get an IUD.

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      I think the fact that many people who use NFP are open to pregnancies for religious reasons makes “intent” an imprecise concept. Even if a pregnancy wasn’t strictly planned, a woman might still say it was intended, or at least she wouldn’t necessarily count it as a method failure.

  • Patterrssonn

    I’m amazed that Randy thinks he’s an expert on orgasms.

    • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

      Actually everyone else seems to think so. I seem to have struck a nerve. People know there is more to sex than just achieving a physical climax but they are afraid to live with the implications. Not thinking at all about procreation removes one dimension from it. How does that effect everything else? We assume we know. My point was that we don’t. Does that make me an expert? I guess in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.

      • smrnda

        I think people know enough to know what they want. To you, removing the possibility of pregnancy would make the sexual act lose something. For others, removing this possibility (at least as well as possible) makes the act better.

        The thing with me is I’m okay with people having different preferences. If you’ve struck a nerve, it’s that you’ve appeared to advance the notion that ‘my contraception free relationship is just better on so many levels than all your poor deluded souls who think you’re happy when I know you’re not!” I mean, seriously, you seem to be making some blanket statement about the nature of sexual relationships as if everybody is the same.

      • Emmers

        You’ve struck a nerve because you’re telling everyone that your way of life is superior without any evidence to support it. Grats, you win an Internet, I guess? Continue in your nerve-striking, good sir; I’m sure many minds and lives will be changed because of it.

      • Rosa

        Pregnancy for me was like having the flu for 7.5 months followed by a terrifying and life-threatening acute illness and surgery.

        Taking away that fear (by my partner getting a vasectomy) made our sex life SO MUCH BETTER, it’s almost impossible to describe.

      • victoria

        I’m with you, Rosa. I didn’t have the acute illness and surgery at the end, but pregnancy for me was 30 pounds of weight loss (and I was in the normal BMI range when I got pregnant, and I’m not super-tall!), esophageal bleeding and at least one broken rib from vomiting so much, five hospitalizations, and two months where I couldn’t take a shower because if I stood for that long I would faint. Then after delivery four years of near-weekly migraines (a complication that apparently runs in my family).

        There’s no guarantee those problems would happen again on a subsequent pregnancy, of course, but hyperemesis recurs more often than not. Often it gets worse on subsequent pregnancies. And if it did, it wouldn’t just mean another child — it would mean almost a year of not being able to take care of the kid I already have.

        We too chose vasectomy and we too found that it was the best thing we could’ve done for marital intimacy, because both of us were really frightened of the consequences of me getting pregnant. (Why not use NFP? Well, it wouldn’t have prevented the first pregnancy, for starters.)

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Randy, I hate to break it to ya, but the nerve you struck is the hilarity nerve. You come on this thread acting like you have the Secrets to Life and one of them is that orgasms are sooooo much better when they come with a hassle? How can I not burst out laughing at that idea? Although, I guess you are right that I am somewhat ignorant on the topic. I don’t have much experience with non-hassle-free orgasms since, for me, as for many women (perhaps even your wife…), feeling hassled and anxious and stressed out and having an orgasm do NOT mix! So color me ignorant about the virtues of hassle-full orgasms. LOL!

        And “Not thinking at all about procreation removes one dimension from it. How does that effect everything else? We assume we know. My point was that we don’t.” Dude, WHAT are you talking about? I know exactly how not thinking about procreation–which I don’t currently wish to engage in–affects sex. It allows me to enjoy sexual intimacy and pleasure without worrying about something that I greatly fear, an unplanned pregnancy! It allows me to relax and enjoy the act for what it is and have some of those hassle free orgasms that you think are so overrated, but which I’m guessing a lot of conservative Catholic women would welcome if they hadn’t been shamed and bullied by a pack of celibate men and their husbands into thinking that sex for the sake of itself is E-Ville and their own pleasure is secondary.

        Look, dude, if revelling in the potency of your Mighty, Mighty Seed and its ability to impregnate your wife adds an extra dimension to sex for you, that’s great. I hope for her sake, that your wife feels the same way. But don’t assume that everyone experiences sex that way and, if you’re going to do, don’t expect it not to draw equal amounts of indignation and eye-rolling snorts.

      • Niemand

        So you’re saying that couples where the woman is post-menopausal are just having cheap, meaningless sex? All those poor, poor couples who think that their relationship is meaningful just because they’ve lived their lives together, helped each other through crises and shared each other’s triumphs, and have a lifetime of mutual experiences to draw on. According to Randy, they might as well have spent their lives having a series of one night stands…

      • jadehawk

        “People know there is more to sex than just achieving a physical climax but they are afraid to live with the implications. ”

        lol. as mentioned above, since I can have physical climaxes several times a day without ever engaging in what’s traditionally referred to as “sex”, it’s pretty obvious that the reason I have sex with my partner isn’t for the orgasms exclusively.
        However, neither of us gets off on the possibility of pregnancy, and so that’s not part of the “implications” for us. other things are.

        shorter me: stop projecting your kinks on other people

      • jadehawk

        oh, and since I’m on the topic of kinks: even other people who do get off on connecting a “hassle” with their orgasms aren’t into potential pregnancies. other masochists prefer other forms of “hassle”, such as being spanked for achieving orgasms when they’re not “allowed to”. so, you can’t even project your kink onto other masochists!

  • Doe

    I have plenty of sympathy for the people who get crap for using NFP, like someone mentioned in the comments earlier. Not everyone can do hormonal bc and some people really enjoy becoming attuned to their bodies or like the dynamic that periodic abstinence creates. I think it’s polarizing because lots of people using NFP believe that it is best for everyone, not just themselves. I don’t feel that my relationship communication is any worse because we can have sex when we want hassle-free. I don’t think that the sex we have is any less special or meaningful or whatever because we don’t treat every instance of sex like a sacrament. Sex, for us, is something we do for connection and for fun and because we’re bored and because we feel especially close that day and because we haven’t seen each other for a week and whatever the hell reason we want to. At this time in our lives NFP doesn’t fit with our sexual philosophy, so I use something else for bc. Don’t tell me that makes my relationship any less amazing.

    • Red

      Having done NFP and artificial means, and knowing others who have done both, I second your comment. Different couples’ emotional lives will be enhanced by different methods, depending on their beliefs and their wishes about children and health at any given point in their marriage.

      I, too, think it’s sad that NFP (even the more reliable models) get a bad rep.

    • Valerie Finnigan

      Similarly, people are going to have different opinions on what constitutes a hassle. I gravitated toward NFP because I did not want the hassle of side-effects. Because I am now infertile, NFP does not play as big a role in my relationship with my husband, but that doesn’t make our relationship any more or less meaningful than it was when we were using NFP as anything other than a way to keep track of what’s going on.

  • pagansister

    NFP in my opinion just plain takes the chance of spontaneity out of a relationship. Your special other comes home ready to engage in a little loving—and you have to say.”sorry honey, not tonight—wrong time of the month. as we don’t want to get pregnant this time.” Too much work to have to think about constantly. No, think I’d stick with ABC.

    • JenV

      Or, quite the opposite if you’ve been trying to conceive for any amount of time. With my last baby, we tried for 13 months (with one miscarriage in the mix). Near the end, because of frustration, we were simply having sex during my fertile time (we used NFP for conception, BTW), and it was such a freaking chore – what with the temping, the mucus watching, the OPKs, the intercourse timing, the whole shebang. It was such a chore, that now, with postpartum hormones in the mix, I still feel that if I never had sex again it would be too soon. But that’s another story for another time I suppose.

  • Michael Busch

    That chart from the NFP advocacy group is simply wrong. The different methods of NFP have different typical- and perfect-use failure rates, and as Libby Anne says the typical-use rate is what matters. So that number is a lie (the best typical-use failure rate for fertility awareness / NFP is ~2%/year – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_birth_control_methods ).

    The chart is also a _lie_. They round NFP perfect-use to the nearest percentage point and say it is “99% effective”. But then they also round the perfect-use rates for the pill, IUDs, and implants to 99%. The perfect-use failure rate for the pill is actually 0.3%/year – so it should be 99.7% on their scale (the typical-use rate is higher). Likewise, the failure rates for IUDs and implants are 0.2%/year and 0.05%/year – so 99.8% and 99.95% respectively (with no difference between typical- and perfect-use).

    The lie continues with presently the data as “percent effectiveness”. It makes 99% seem the same as 99.95%, when that is a _huge_ difference – a factor of twenty in the number of unplanned pregnancies (this trick is right out of the book “How To Lie With Statistics”). The proper way to present the data is in terms of typical-use failure rates, in which case the chart looks like the Examiner graphic:

    METHOD FAILURE RATE (%/YEAR)
    Implants 0.05%
    Monthly injection 0.2%
    Mirena IUD 0.2%
    Pill 8%
    Condoms 15%
    NFP 2% – 25%

    This shows the orders-of-magnitude difference in the methods.

    • Valerie Finnigan

      I think it’s a bit inaccurate to cite pregnancy as a typical use “failure” of NFP. Since sex when conception is possible is a deliberate choice by NFP practicing couples, if they become pregnant, it’s apparent that the couples at the time, knowing the chances of pregnancy, did not deem pregnancy avoidance a high priority.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Oh, and would you then say the same of the pill’s typical use failure rate? And the condom’s?

      • Valerie Finnigan

        No, for a couple of reasons. People can use NFP to conceive as well as to avoid conception when it’s possible. They are also typically more aware of when they can conceive than the typical user of artificial contraception- especially hormonal birth control, which alters a woman’s cyclical signs and symptoms. People who skip pills or forget condoms may only suspect they might get pregnant, but a couple that knows the woman is ovulating or within a few days of it knows for certain that pregnancy is a possibility if they choose to have sex at that moment.

      • Olive Markus

        Are you actually claiming that every single time NFP use results in an unintended pregnancy it was because a couple intentionally ignored signs of fertility and had sex anyway?

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Yep, pretty much. They may not believe they’re “that fertile,” or they might write off obvious signs of fertility as something else, or they might get caught up in the moment and just decide to throw caution to the wind and accept what baby may come…

      • LL

        I’ve heard stories of women whose signs were not (to them, anyway) obvious signs of fertility and so they accidentally conceived. There was nothing intentional about it. I totally understand claims that they conceived because they misread signs or made mistakes charting, but to say that all of these acts were intentional when the couple knew themselves to be fertile is extremely irrational.

      • Rosa

        there’s also the likelihood that the times you least want to conceive (such as when you have a new infant, or are experiencing a stressful relationship or other life period) are the times when you’re least able to make rational decisions in the heat of the moment and/or most likely to have different or confusing fertility signs.

        I know an awful lot of Catholic couples who used NFP to get pregnant on purpose once, then “used” it to get pregnant on accident very soon after because having a new baby and a postpartum body both make charting/tracking very difficult.

        They all joined the 98% of Catholics who use birth control, afterward. Many vasectomies.

      • LL

        Yup! I can’t tell you how many women I’ve read/heard women FREAKING OUT because they became pregnant within the first few months of giving birth to their first, while they were certainly still breast feeding and were certain they were infertile. Incredibly intelligent, incredibly motivated and incredibly Catholic women

        But the Catholic Church says they intended the pregnancy all along, so there ya go.

        Now, if only I could figure out who was down voting all of our posts. Hmmm….

      • LL

        Sorry for the sloppy writing!

      • NeaDods

        Wow. What a wonderful system! Even when it egregiously fails, it’s a sign that it’s working just as planned! /sarcasm

      • LL

        Actually, several women in these comments talk about how they didn’t read their signs correctly. I can dredge up stories of many others, and it wasn’t until after an unintended pregnancy (or several) they realized what was happening. Sometimes they never could figure out their signs. Are you going to dare call every one of them liars?

      • Valerie Finnigan

        One thing I learned in NFP classes- if you want to avoid getting pregnant, when in doubt, abstain.

        What I think these studies fail to account for are the varying degrees of intention. There are women who don’t want to become pregnant. There are women who do want to become pregnant. Then there are a lot of women in the middle who run the gamut from those who don’t intend to become pregnant but wouldn’t mind if they did, to those who are neutral on the matter, to those who would like to get pregnant but aren’t sure if they’d like to wait a bit or start trying right away. Whether or not a woman intends to become pregnant does not always have a simple yes-or-no answer. But if a couple knowingly has sex when a woman is fertile, or if they have sex when they’re confused by the signs and symptoms, they assume all risks and responsibilities.

      • LL

        So it’s the usual Catholic garbage that any pregnancy was actually wanted to begin with, even if it wasn’t. Therefore, SUCCESS. I understand your “logic” much better now.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        I understand your anti-Catholic bigotry a lot better now. You didn’t even bother to read my post apparently. Or you believe that women fall so neatly into only one of two possible categories- wanting to get pregnant or not wanting to get pregnant. That strikes me as rather sexist, too.

      • LL

        It was you who said that any woman who got pregnant unintentionally while using NFP was intentionally having sex at fertile times, despite knowing they were fertile. I said that there are women who also misread signs, or whose signs are very difficult to read, so they assume they’re seeing something different than what they are. I was the one sticking up for the women who make mistakes rather than intentionally throw caution to the wind and then get pregnant.

        I’m perfectly understanding of women falling everywhere on the full spectrum of wanting or not wanting children and everything in between. More understanding than you are, actually, because I don’t believe any couple should feel pressured to have children, even if they decide they never want one. Or, if a couple wants 100 of them, that’s their choice. I’m talking about FULLY UNINTENDED pregnancies. Women who didn’t want to be pregnant at all and truly believed that they were doing everything correct in order to prevent that pregnancy, but ended up with a pregnancy anyway. You can’t just say, “Well, I know women who kind of sort of wanted children anyway, so therefore, I’m going to believe that every woman who ended up pregnant absolutely had sex knowing they were fertile, and just let things fall where they may…”

        How did you read sexism from my comment?

        To clarify, in response to the question above about whether you believed that all times an unintended pregnancy resulted, it was because the couple intentionally had sex while they knew they were fertile, and you said “Yes.”

        You were completely disregarding the fact that many couples misread signs believing that they are infertile and it is the right time to have sex. It was these people that you erased from the picture that I was standing up for. i didn’t say a word about those who only sort of wanted kids so only sort of cared about following their charts properly. That wasn’t the discussion.

        I truly don’t understand your thinking.

        It is standard Catholic protocol to claim any unintended pregnancy as a success, and therefore wanted, pregnancy, is it not? Even if the couple is devastated and thought they were doing everything they could to prevent it?

      • Anat

        There is a difference between knowing one is uncertain about the signs and going ahead anyway and believing one is reading the signs correctly as indicating ‘infertile’ and only discovering after the fact that one was mistaken.

      • victoria

        That’s why high-quality NFP/FAM studies include some method of confirming whether pregnancies were intentional, such as asking couples to record their intention to conceive or not at the beginning of the cycle. (I can provide links to studies that use these sorts of controls, if you’d like.)

        Such studies show that a small number of couples do get pregnant despite following the rules of their method (method failures), and a larger number of couples who do not intend to get pregnant make mistakes in interpreting their charts, misunderstand the rules of the method, or have sex at times when there may have been some risk of pregnancy while hoping not to get pregnant (user errors).

        Method and user errors are both included in typical use statistics, just like typical use effectiveness rates for condoms include times when condoms were used properly and broke (method failures) and times when couples didn’t use the condom properly or started having sex, realized they didn’t have a condom, and decided to have sex anyhow (user errors).

      • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

        If you happen to see this reply, I’d love links to the high-quality studies you refer to. Thanks!

      • victoria

        Sure! Here are some links, but because most journals aren’t open access I’ll include the relevant part of the methods sections, which’ll make this a pretty long comment.

        * Frank-Hermann et al. 2007 — “At the end of each menstrual cycle, the woman was asked if she was planning to become pregnant the following cycle. This was documented in the completed cycle chart. If she forgot to answer this question, and if a pregnancy occurred in the next cycle, it was always classified as an unintended pregnancy. If charts did not reach the study centre in time, the last indicated family planning intention held at the study centre was used to classify a pregnancy as intended or unintended.”

        * Bitto et al. 1997 (open access) — This is not a study of NFP efficacy but a study examining whether pregnancy outcomes differed in intended and unintended NFP pregnancies. They determined intention by asking the subjects whether their pregnancies were intended or unintended, having that information validated by the NFP instructor, and then having the chart examined by an expert to see if the behavior was consistent with the intention reported by the instructor.

        * <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010782412008992"Fehring et al. 2012 — “Participants were asked to record their intention of either achieving or avoiding pregnancy, on a scale of 1-10 before each menstrual cycle of charting.”

        (I am aware of at least one other, but PubMed is not behaving for me today. If you’d like, I can check again tomorrow but all the studies I’ve found with a control for intention use very similar methods.)

        In addition to the Cochrane review of fertility awareness methods, Lamprecht & Trussell 1997 is a good overview of what to look for methodologically in an NFP study.

      • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

        Thank you! I have access to an academic library, so I’m going to grab all of these and settle in for some reading.

  • CLDG

    Not Catholic, but I’m using Creighton right now for fertility (eventually, hopefully) and meanwhile to collect info for doc to figure out what is going on with my irregular bleeding and other issues. So far it’s been immensely helpful with creating a treatment plan. I may internally eyeroll at “SPICE”, but the system is very useful for what I need right now. I never had to use it to avoid getting pregnant, and I’d probably be a lot less happy if I did, since my sex drive is highly related to ovulation. (And knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t choose it if I needed BC.)

    One thing I get a little soapboxy about, though, is that I think the information about how cycles operate, what cervical mucus is and does, etc, etc, should all be part of standard sex ed for teenagers, at least girls for sure. Of people I know who know this stuff, it’s either conservative Christians/Catholics who learn it as the only approved bc method, or it’s women who have had to chart to try get pregnant after going off whatever bc they had been using. (Since I’m in my late 30s, that group is large in my circles.) Prior to that, I and most women I knew were completely clueless about these aspects of our biology, what it means for health, etc.

    I most emphatically believe no one should be obligated to use this as the only morally correct option, but if desired or needed, it can provide great information.

    • Red

      I second everything you just said, madam! :)

    • Emmers

      Cosigned!

    • Christine

      It would have been nice as a teenager. So very nice. Forget every other aspect of it, I just would have loved knowing when I was getting my period. (Granted, I don’t trust anything but temperature, but that’s the easiest thing to learn).

    • Rosie

      I agree that it’s good information to have. And then each individual woman can decide if or how she wants to use the information. At the very least, it would probably keep young women from thinking there’s something wrong with their body when it’s just doing what it does, and let those who do have problems know that “this is not normal”. I was in my mid-30s before I learned that menstruation always follows ovulation by 14 days, and I think that’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of my education.

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      We did learn it (changes in vaginal mucus, temperature, …) and they even gave us a folder with tons of info in school sex-ed along with free samples of tampons and sanitary napkins. The problem is I’m completely sure most people lost the folder in less than a year and it took less time to forget what we’ve been told… More repetition would have been nice I think.

    • http://omorka.blogspot.com/ Omorka

      This, exactly. In my opinion, FAM isn’t a birth-control method – it’s stuff all girls need to know about how their bodies work, and that it’s not taught in standard health classes is educational malpractice.

      Also, for me this thread has been a lesson in “context is everything.” I first learned about FAM sitting on a folding chair with a circle of barely-clad women in the middle of a field at a Pagan festival, from an aging second-wave feminist with close-cropped greying hair, and it was presented as something deeply powerful and woman-centered – taking back our knowledge of What Is Going On Down There from the largely-male commercial medical establishment that only parcels it out to women who have tried and failed to conceive. So I’ve been charting fluids and cervical position for fifteen years, and it’s never seemed particularly much of a hassle for me, even though the lengths of my cycles have varied from 26 to 54 days in that time. It takes maybe five minutes every morning. (Then again, I seem to have a very loud reproductive system – most months, I have both very clear cervical signs and a pronounced temperature jump, although I didn’t know the latter until I got a charting app for my phone and decided to go ahead and get a BBT thermometer.) The reactions of women who primarily know it as something pressed onto them by a patriarchal religious establishment always throw me for a loop, not because I think they’re in any way wrong but because that’s so not where FAM comes from, for me.

      On the third hand, I do FAM, not NFP – I’m not monogamous, so I use condoms faithfully with all my partners, and mostly use FAM to avoid scheduling hot dates on my most fertile days. (And switching to non-reproductive sex if my predictions are off, which fortunately none of my current partners mind. And I have a Plan B in the medicine cabinet as a backup in case of condom failure.) I suspect I’d be a lot more obsessive about it, and possibly feel less positive about it, if I were primarily relying on it as main contraception rather than part of a more comprehensive plan.

  • Patterrssonn

    Randy you haven’t struck a nerve, just a pose.

    • CLDG

      snort!

  • Hilary

    This was interesting. Pretty academic for me, since I don’t think my lovely Penny is getting me knocked up no matter what time of month it is. But in solidarity with all my straight sisters out there, I stand with you: each woman, and each man loving a woman, should choose what works for them. Period. They can’t choose or force what another person/couple should do, and no one should force them.

    But the notion that a (theortically) celebate man should tell a woman what to do in her marriage is about as bizarre as eating a cracker and calling it the body of God. If you want to, fine, just know your limits concerning other people. And that, really, is what this all comes down to: the limits of religious control, and personal automony.

    Hilary

  • Nurse Bee

    Like I mentioned in an earlier thread, I used FAM (the protestant cousin of NFP–I would NEVER have used NFP) and ended up unexpectedly pregnant. I attribute it to having a toddler who still woke up at night making my temperatures irregular and not being sure…anyway, I have three kids and my husband got a vasectomy while I was still pregnant with #3.

    I used to recommend FAM it to family and friends, but not anymore.

    As a note: I have no moral problems with BC, but I didn’t much care for the effects the pill had on me, hence using FAM.

  • Danielle

    Great post. I did FAM with barrier methods for a year and a half and then have been charting to conceive and still using it to avoid for a couple cycles between each of my multiple miscarriages for the last year. Its great to learn more accurately what is going on with your body, but I would not advocate it as a contraceptive method for everyone. At this point, I can’t wait to finally get a pregnancy to stick and then do something more permanent for birth control. It is possible to do the charting with irregular PCOS cycles, but its a pain in the ass. I would absolutely not be able to do NFP the abstinence way. I find its only bearable because of barrier methods. I have learned a lot from all the charting and I recommend it for that purpose, but I don’t think its a public policy solution for preventing unplanned pregnancy.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Amelia

      We were in a similar boat – I started tracking (FAM) when I came off the OCP so we could use extra protection while also seeing how my body responded to being off HBC after 15 years.
      I learnt a lot about my body, but turns out that where I thought my OV was, perhaps wasn’t, as I shouldn’t have been able to get pregnant with that short a luteal phase, yet I did – first try. Oops.

      I would recommend it to women who want to learn about their bodies, and get a better idea of WHEN or IF they are ovulating. Beyond that, we used it to confirm for ourselves that there were a few days straight after my period where we could have unprotected sex with no concerns. Yay!

  • True Democrat

    Hi, I’m sure you know about Jennifer Fulweiler’s post on the National Catholic Register. I’ve been having an exchange with another person’s worshipful agreement with Jennifer’s post. This issue came up:
    .
    From you link at http://www.catholic.com/tracts/birth-control:
    .
    The Church has always maintained the historic Christian teaching that deliberate acts of contraception are always gravely sinful, which means that it is mortally sinful if done with full knowledge and deliberate consent (CCC 1857). This teaching cannot be changed and has been taught by the Church infallibly.
    .
    I find this particularly interesting in light of the Catholic Church’s strong support for “Natural Family Planning” and the correct alternative to contraception. How is willful abstinence when the woman is fertile NOT a method of contraception? —
    Overall, J**—the Catholic Church is against methods that prevent or avoid the conception of a child. Counting the days in the month and checking your temperature so you know when the woman is ovulating if a valid method when you want the enhance the chances of conception, but I suspect that is not the reason you and your husband practice NFL.
    .
    I have yet to get a response to my question or J—’s reaction. I don’t expect to. You are absolutely right–the Church’s protests against contraception are to control women, not to prevent the “death of an unborn child.” NFL controls sexual behavior, but it is just as “evil” as any other form of contraception. I dare them to tell me how it could be otherwise.

  • Brian Killian

    From the Catholic perspective, the difference between NFP and contraception goes beyond which method is easier to do. All things being equal, NFP is the most difficult method of birth control to use, and if it were simply a matter of comparing the difficulty levels between methods, it would be stupid to choose NFP.

    But all things aren’t equal. And all sex is not equal. Sex can be beautiful or ugly. It can be violence or kindness. It can be a way to use another person or a manifestation of loving another person. It can be wicked or good, degrading or holy. It can lie anywhere on the moral scale from a criminal act of violence to an expression of the unity of life and love of a husband and wife.

    And so it’s not a matter of indifference how one goes about having sex. The Catholic preference for NFP has to do with protecting the human dimension of sex, and to keep sex from degrading oneself and other people. As to birth control and NFP vs. contraception it’s sort of like asking the question: “how far can we go in avoiding the consequences of sex while still being able to objectively say we are ‘making love’?” And the Church draws a line in the sand where NFP is on one side and contraception is on the other.

    The difference is that NFP allows one to respect the nature of sex even while avoiding it’s natural consequences, while contraception strikes at the heart of what sex is.

    So what?

    According to the Catholic story– truth matters. If you care about meaning, if you care about the significance of actions, if you care about sex being more than just orgasms, then yes–using contraptions, chemicals, and injections to undermine the very dynamism of sex matters.

    However, if your motivations regarding sex have little to do with significance, meaning, love, moral quality or anything above and beyond the mere experiencing of orgasms, then it’s true that contraception will not matter in the least. In that case, you would be a fool indeed to use NFP.

    That’s the difference. It’s not about control, it’s not about something being artificial, it’s not about doing things the hard way just for the sake of doing something hard, it’s about living the truth in love about sex and everything else in life.

    It seems to me this makes the Catholic story more complex and realistic than any story that Atheism tells about sex, in so far as the Catholic story recognizes that all sex is not equal and that there is a dark side to sex as well as a positive side, and that it is not easy to separate what is objectively good about sex from the
    *kind* of thing that sex is–that it is an act connected with life.

    • Steve

      And what would a bunch of allegedly celibate old virgins know about sex? Catholic bishops talking about sex and relationships and telling others how to live is beyond pathetic.

      • Mimi

        That’s adorable assuming the bishops are virgins. Although maybe you’re right – they probably believe that if the person in question is under twelve, it doesn’t count.

    • smrnda

      So you’re telling me that, apparently, none of the married couple that I know who have made a mutual choice to use contraception love each other? To them, sex is about love and bonding – there’s no reason that it can’t be about those things just because it isn’t procreative.

      You display the typical Catholic arrogance that everybody who isn’t living the way the church says they ought to is some horribly deluded, selfish person who is just incapable of love. Ever realize that people set their own terms for what makes them feel loved? Many couples choose to use contraception out of love and respect for what each party in the relationship wants. “Wanting to have kids right now” or “not wanting to have kids right now” is just a preference someone might have, the same way that some couples might prefer a play to a football game.

      Are you trying to tell me that a couple cannot love each other unless they are open to having children? Please explain this to me without resorting to jargon. I’d like to hear how this is true. I mean, if a married couple that I know uses contraception seems to be deeply in love, are you telling me that regardless of how loved each party feels, that it’s somehow counterfeit? Please explain from what vantage point you’re able to tell people that their own feelings about their relationship don’t count.

    • victoria

      Atheism doesn’t really “tell a story” about sex. You can believe there are no gods and be a practicing Buddhist who follows the mantra to never use sex as a weapon (and all that implies), or you can be up in the air about whether there is some sort of deity but still like the Catholic approach and use it in your own life, or you can be an Epicurean and believe that the telos of sex is pleasure or sensation. Or you could belong to a tribe like the Piraha and have no concept of abstract reasoning in your language or culture, so the idea of religion, or of sexuality having a deeper “meaning,” would be irrelevant. Just would not compute. None of those beliefs make you less atheist because atheism prescribes absolutely nothing about your beliefs; it only implies that you lack an affirmative belief in a god or gods.

      I’m an ex-Catholic, and was a very observant one, and so I understand the moral assumptions you’re making here. I no longer share them but I “get” where you’re coming from. All I can say is that after my first pregnancy but before I lost my faith sex wasn’t a source of joy in our marriage because we were so worried about the consequences. Not because we weren’t “open to life” (we were considering adopting kids) but because we knew another pregnancy like the first one would have been disastrous to my health and would have left us in an untenable position with respect to taking care of the child we already had.

    • Kodie

      That’s the difference. It’s not about control, it’s not about something being artificial, it’s not about doing things the hard way just for the sake of doing something hard, it’s about living the truth in love about sex and everything else in life.

      The truth in love about sex? Taking your temperature and charting your cervical mucus does not add any truth that you can’t get on the pill or condom or IUD. It’s a fixation you people have and you are entitled to frame your sexual relations that way, but I think you’re kidding yourselves that this method has any more authenticity toward sex than any other way to avoid conceiving.

      Seriously though, I think this had come up in previous threads where birth control is suggested to decrease the rate of abortions, and a bunch of NFP fans get on the soapbox and says if we don’t want children we have to do it your way. Lies about sex being only about orgasms – that you wrote – you seem to assume you have an insight into the sex lives of a lot of people, comparing contraception methods that use some other method is somehow different than the artifice of intricate personal planning using a calendar and a thermometer is just not true. You are performing a mechanistic ritual that may also have great meaning for you.

      It also makes you have less sex, so you romanticize how much less sex you have by claiming it is the superior and most loving method for two people to avoid having children. Nobody is trying to diss your method for you, but why is it so important for you to judge other people? There are people for whom it is a viable method and they don’t make a big fuss about how other people do it. And then there are people who act like it’s some greater achievement and more powerful love you share, and more truthful boinky boinky. People who deprive themselves and do it by the dates on the calendar instead of when they are feeling a strong connection are “real” right? People who deprive themselves have to use some leverage to feel superior about it and tell everyone else how to have sex. It’s a sick delusion of religious people. You have to believe you’re better by drawing yourself a diagram where those people having sex way more than you do aren’t as loving or satisfied as you are. That’s the attitude I mind – the perverse presumptions made about everyone else’s sex lives.

      If I said your obsession with your sex calendar makes you a wooden and unsatisfying lover, probably, you wouldn’t think that was appropriate, would you?

    • Niemand

      So basically you’re saying that for Catholic men sex is only good if it has the chance of killing their sexual partner, whether she is willing to take the risk or not. That doesn’t sound in any way “loving” to me. It sounds abusive. It makes sex about domination and fear, not about love, enjoyment, and bonding. In short, it makes it rape.

      Fortunately, in the real world, many-probably most-Catholic men aren’t willing to make sex rape. They talk things through with their partners and decide together what they’re going to do about birth control. And, if necessary, defer to the person who is taking the risk in making the decision.

    • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

      “But all things aren’t equal. And all sex is not equal. Sex can be beautiful or ugly. It can be violence or kindness. It can be a way to use another person or a manifestation of loving another person. It can be wicked or good, degrading or holy. It can lie anywhere on the moral scale from a criminal act of violence to an expression of the unity of life and love of a husband and wife.”

      I’ll grant that sex can be violent or loving, consensual or non-consensual. But it is false equivocation to compare sex with contraception to something akin to rape, an act that is about violence more than sex. Making such a comparison is a great way to lose moral credibility in this discussion.

      “The difference is that NFP allows one to respect the nature of sex even while avoiding it’s natural consequences, while contraception strikes at the heart of what sex is”

      And this “nature of sex” idea goes back to Aristotelian notions that don’t make sense in the light of modern science. In my experience, Catholics misuse the word “natural” in this discussion, going back and forth between “crunchy granola” natural and something like natural law.

      Now before you tell me that I “just don’t understand Catholic teachings,” please read these posts:

      http://exconvert.blogspot.com/2012/07/to-divide-or-not-to-divide-unitive-and.html

      http://exconvert.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-natural-misunderstanding.html

      “It seems to me this makes the Catholic story more complex and realistic than any story that Atheism tells about sex, ”

      The thing is, atheism tells us nothing about sex. Atheism is simply the lack of believe in any personal gods. It is not dogmatic like Catholicism, needing an elaborate moral narrative regarding this, that, or the other thing. Atheists can have different standards regarding sex or place different levels of meaning to sex and procreation. We can choose the method of birth control that works best for our lives and families. This is much healthier than attempting to impose a grand sex narrative on others and harming real lives in the process.

      http://exconvert.blogspot.com/p/anti-contraception-hurts-women.html

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      “The difference is that NFP allows one to respect the nature of sex even while avoiding it’s natural consequences, while contraception strikes at the heart of what sex is.”

      Please explain how NFP allows you to “respect the nature of sex even while avoiding its natural consequences” in a way that contraception does not. They’re BOTH about “avoiding the natural consequences” so why exactly is NFP supposedly more inherently respectful of the “nature” of sex? The only answer anyone can ever seem to come up with is basically some mealy-mouthed version of “Because it makes you fret about it all the time and it might not work.”

      “It seems to me this makes the Catholic story more complex and realistic than any story that Atheism tells about sex”

      True story: There are other people out there besides Catholics and atheists (and btw, there is no “atheist story about sex.” Atheism isn’t about sex, it’s about not believing in God or gods, full stop.). Many of them follow religions that permit birth control. For example, even Orthodox Judaism permits many forms of contraception for married couples, and most Protestants do. It’s amazing how often conservative Catholics have to be reminded that their religion isn’t the only one in the world.

      “in so far as the Catholic story recognizes that all sex is not equal and that there is a dark side to sex as well as a positive side”

      HAHAHAHAHA, that is rich! Yeah, your Church has done such a fabulous job recognizing the “dark side to sex” among your child-raping clergy! If “recognizing” means “ignoring and passing predatory priests around from parish to parish like hot potatoes.”

    • jadehawk

      ““how far can we go in avoiding the consequences of sex while still being able to objectively say we are ‘making love’?”

      since infertile couples and gay couples are capable of making love, the answer is “all the way”. simple answer.

      and it should be noted that, despite what certain conservatives seem to apparently believe, chance of pregnancy is not in any way correlated with how pleasant, loving, etc. the penetrative act was.

    • jadehawk

      “any story that Atheism tells about sex”

      atheism doesn’t tell any stories about sex; atheism is a lack of belief in supernatural beings generically referred to as “gods”

    • jadehawk

      ” it is not easy to separate what is objectively good about sex from the *kind* of thing that sex is–that it is an act connected with life.”

      sex is “objectively good” when it’s consensual; sex is “objectively bad” when consent is compromised. chance of pregnancy on the other hand is not correlated with the goodness of sex at all.

    • Mogg

      Gotta love the way an organisation I do not belong to can presume the right to tell me what my own sex life means…

  • http://daringplan.com colin

    For what it’s worth, I have just released a new iPhone app designed to make charting your cycle simple and beautiful. Take a look, http://daringplan.com, and give it a try for free. I’d be happy to answer any questions about it at info@daringplan.com.

  • Valerie Finnigan

    From a feminist perspective, reliance on artificial contraception breeds ignorance about how each woman’s body works. Reliance on artificial contraception depends on the mentality that there is something “wrong” or “diseased” with women’s bodies, and that normal, healthy fertility must be artificially suppressed. Controlled, Dominated. NFP is the only form of family planning that encourages us to know our bodies. It’s the only form of family planning that promotes the radical idea that women are okay just as we are, and we don’t need to plug up or drug ourselves to plan our families. It’s the only form of family planning that teaches cooperation with the cycle, rather than suppression of it. It’s the only form of family planning that teaches what all can affect a woman’s cycle and how. It’s the only form of family planning that, especially in stark contrast to the Pill, teaches that it’s generally okay to not have a cycle that isn’t exactly 28 days.

    • Beutelratti

      Well, for me it’s more like being even more dependent on your cycle. I don’t want to think about my cycle every day. I want to live my day just being me. I’m okay with every woman knowing her body and knowing her cylce. I don’t want to think about my cycle immediately when I get up though and I definitely don’t want to think about my cycle while having sex. Declaring that articificial birth control is to be avoided just because it’s unnatural is dishonest at best. I know that NFP is out there, I don’t want it. I’m perfectly okay with suppressing my cycle. I’m perfectly okay with having less menstrual cramps. I’m perfectly okay with having to use less and smaller tampons and I’m perfectly okay with knowing that I’m really, really 99% safe. Is that really so hard to grasp?
      You use your method, I use mine. That should really be it.

    • Mogg

      Wow. What a pile of garbage. Period pain, being continuously pregnant or breastfeeding, and a high chance of dying due to complications of pregnancy or childbirth are all perfectly natural, but I’m happy we can do away with them. I fail to see how teaching people to use contraceptives promotes ignorance of the body – in my experience, most people learn how things work best when they understand why they are effective, which in the case of contraceptives inherently means learning about the body and fertility.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        Period pain is a sign of something medically wrong. Complications from pregnancy are due to things going wrong medically. Because they are examples of things going wrong medically, they cannot be compared with normal, healthy fertility.

      • Rosa

        Well then, a whole bunch of us don’t have “normal, healthy fertility” and our fertility SHOULD be treated as a medical problem, not a natural state. Anyone who’s had period pain is excluded from the class of women you think should be encouraged to NFP!

      • Valerie Finnigan

        That’s not true, at all. I’ve also had period pain along with severe menhorragia, and NFP proved to be a useful diagnostic tool, as I could and did bring to my doctor documentation of my signs and symptoms, removing all guesswork.

      • Beutelratti

        I’ve yet to meet a woman that does not have period pain to some degree.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        So are you saying that all women are diseased just for having cycles?

      • Mogg

        complications of pregnancy and childbirth are, historically, probably the biggest killer of adult women, and is still a major cause of morbidity. Just because it’s natural doesn’t make it best. I still think your contention that use of contraceptives promotes ignorance of the natural function of the body and is also “less feminist” is ridiculous. I’m 100% for thorough and detailed education of both womenand men on how both the male and female reproductive systems work, and fail tonsee how choosing a complicated, time-consuming method dependent on having a co-operative partner, willingness on both sides to abstain when they might otherwise not have to, willingness to have what to me appear to be repeated, ongoing and intrusive discussions with an outside party about how I organise my sex life, and a body which works close to “normally” is any more virtuous than any other of the variety of choices available. I was taught signss of ovulation and variability of the menstrual cycle in high school a good couple of decades before I met my now partner, but after I started both menstruating and having such severe period pain as to render me non-functional for two days a month, plus another three days of only semi-functionality. NFP was sure as heck not an option, let alone the “most feminist” option for those many years.

      • Valerie Finnigan

        I haven’t found NFP to be difficult or time consuming. Talking with my instructor when I was starting out was nowhere near as intrusive or embarrassing as talking with most sex ed teachers or even OB-Gyn’s. As for the need for a cooperative partner, that’s one of the advantages of NFP, not one of its drawbacks. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to want a partner who wants the pleasures of sex but won’t cooperate when handling the responsibilities. NFP, particularly the sympto-thermal method, also works with irregular periods because it monitors all signs and symptoms, and also because of that, it can be used as a diagnostic tool if there are any problems with the reproductive system.

      • Mogg

        No ethical doctor, sex education teacher, or ob-gyn is ever going to tell someone how to manage their own sex life in the way an NFP educator must necessarily do. And NFP may work for your particular situation, but yeah, not everyone is in a relationship with a co-operative partner, whether or not they like it, and getting out of such a relationship is not necessarily all that easy. It also fails to account for those who like and have sex outside of the standard monogamous couple-who-live-together setting – amazing though it may seem, there are women who have casual sex, who have multiple partners, who have partners with whom they don’t live and see only sometimes (which may or may not coincide with non-fertile times in her cycle) and so on. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those situations, but NFP is unlikely to work for women in them. Heck, even if I were in a standard, monogomous relationship with a man who was willing to work with me to use NFP at the time, it might not have worked very well when I was doing rotating shift work and emergency on-call, because interruptions to sleep can muck up your temperatures.

        You still haven’t answered my question, though. You claimed that NFP was the “most feminist” form of birth control. What on earth does that mean?

      • Valerie Finnigan

        There is always some type of fertility awareness method that can work with a variety of circumstances. The book “The Art of Natural Family Planning” even shows how shift workers can still practice NFP one way or another. I don’t see how an ethical sex educator or OB-Gyn would just write a prescription or recommend some device without discussing NFP- if they’re educated at all about it. The problem is that too many doctors are not educated on the subject. I had to explain to one OB-Gyn how the signs and symptoms recorded on my chart indicated I was pregnant with my son, because he had no clue. I don’t expect anyone to be able to ethically explain something they should have but did not learn about in school or in life.

        NFP is the most feminist of family planning methods because it involves respecting women’s bodies and cycles rather than treating them like they’re diseased just for being fertile an average few days of the month. It involves cooperation with nature, not the suppression of it. It reinforces a woman’s right to say yes or no. It has no negative side-effects and can be used to diagnose conditions that artificial birth control might mask. It also costs less, and it calls for men and women to take equal responsibility for their sex lives.

      • fiona64

        Complications of pregnancy are frequent … because pregnancy is not a state of wellness. The US is #50 in maternal mortality … which means that 49 other countries are better at keeping pregnant women alive than we are. Don’t try to pretend that pregnancy is all chocolate ice cream and fairy farts; some of us have first-hand experience to the contrary.

    • LL

      Natural Family Planning doesn’t fit into the lives of many women. It also doesn’t work for some women’s bodies. If you don’t have access to basics, like soap and water, inserting fingers in the vagina can cause devastating infections. Education for women in third world countries can be difficult, and what if there is nobody who can help them? Many women in more patriarchal cultures don’t have men who will respect their cycle, and saying no isn’t an option. That happens in our society right now more often then you’d like to admit. But fuck them, right? As a feminist, you believe women must do exactly as you say or be brood mares, regardless of what the women themselves actually want or know what is best for themselves. Feminist, my ass. You have no idea what the word means. You are seriously taking for granted your extremely privileged, technology-driven position in a western society that has your back when things go wrong. Most of the women of the world do not.

      One can be very educated about their own body while using other means to prevent pregnancy. It is a choice that suits a woman’s body, personality, goals and lifestyle. I believe better education about our bodies should be compulsory, but using only that data to attempt avoiding pregnancy should never be mandatory. Never.

      I AM fine exactly the way I am, by the way, and the way I am knows my cycles, charts my data, and still uses contraception… because I want to.

    • fiona64

      Boy, did you buy into this hook, line and sinker. NFP has a known 25 percent failure rate with typical use. Most women’s bodies are not on perfect 28-day cycles, you know …

  • fiona64

    I’ve always thought that NFP was far more effective as a way to *get* pregnant than as a way to avoid it.

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