If you've used Natural Family Planning [NFP] or a fertility awareness method for any length of time, you've probably heard this joke:
Q. What do you call people who use NFP?
[Yucka yucka yucka.]
You may have heard that natural methods of family planning have a very high rate of effectiveness at avoiding pregnancy, as high as 99% effective, depending on the rules followed. To achieve this high rate of effectiveness, natural methods of family planning rely on abstinence from sexual intercourse and genital contact without penetration -- yes, contact pregnancies are a thing. So if that's the case, how come "NFP families" tend to be so darn big??!! (Cue family photo here.)
(Yes; they're all ours.)
Let's get real. How come NFP families tend to be so darn big?
1. Taking chances. NFP requires abstinence. As I said before, "To achieve this high rate of effectiveness, natural methods of family planning rely on abstinence from sexual intercourse and genital contact." How many people do you know who are super good at abstinence from say, junk food? White lies? Gossip? And those aren't even particularly good things. Sex is a good thing. Sex with one's spouse is a very good and wonderful, and yes, pleasurable thing. Let's be real...sometimes the idea of maybe-possibly-who-knows? we could have another baby -- and babies are also very good and wonderful -- doesn't seem like such a Bad Idea. So the couple takes a chance...and along comes little Jenny or Timmy. I won't embarrass my kids by naming names, but let's just say I have personal experience with reason #1. If you are serious about not getting pregnant, you cannot, I repeat, CANNOT, take chances.
2. Being inexperienced or "relaxed". If you don't really understand how NFP works... like maybe you learned from the internet for example...you might not really understand how to observe, record, and interpret your signs of fertility. The evil twin sister of this idea is when you really do know how to do all of the above, but you just get kind of in a mindset that things are usually like "x" so you don't really need to do all the things and poof! just like that, something changes and a couple weeks later you're looking down at two pink lines...ask how I know lol. Natural methods are very unforgiving of missed observations and wishful thinking. You gotta do the method consistently to expect it to work.
3. Changing your minds. One of the benefits of natural methods of family planning is even if yesterday you were darn sure you never wanted another baby, you can change your mind the very next day and there's nothing to worry about or wait for. Go ahead and try! Newsflash: families using NFP don't need to announce their pregnancy intentions to anybody, so even if you assume or they told you that they're using NFP to avoid pregnancy, maybe they changed their minds and that is why they're having another baby! Don't assume the method "failed" -- it actually may have been used to achieve a wanted pregnancy! Thank the method for indicating you were fertile so you were able to have a baby that you wanted!
4. Method failure. While rare, it is possible that the couple used the natural method correctly, didn't take chances, and still got pregnant. If you are having sex, or even just "fooling around" without penetration, pregnancy is possible. This is true of any methods (natural or not), as long as the woman's ovaries and the man's testicles are intact. Even patients who have had a tubal ligation or vasectomy become pregnant from time to time. Life sometimes finds a way, even when the "chance" of pregnancy is extremely low! As with any family planning method, natural methods used correctly may fail to prevent pregnancy. If your sexual organs are intact, complete abstinence is the only way to be 100% certain you will not become pregnant.
Share your NFP stories! I would love to hear from you!
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