FAQs about NFP

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a general name for family planning methods based on a woman’s menstrual cycle. NFP methods are based on day-to-day observations of the naturally occurring signs of the fertile and infertile phases of the menstrual cycle. It takes into account the uniqueness of each woman. A man is fertile throughout his life, while a woman is fertile for only a few days each cycle during the childbearing years. A woman experiences clear, observable signs that show when she is fertile and infertile. Couples can also use NFP to achieve pregnancy because it identifies the time of ovulation.

Any married couple can use NFP. A woman need not have regular cycles. The key to successful NFP use is cooperation and communication between husband and wife.

NFP can be very effective, depending on how strongly motivated the couple is and whether they follow the method. Couples who carefully follow the method to avoid pregnancy can achieve a success rate of 97-98%.

Marriage is an intimate, lifelong partnership in which husbands and wives give and receive love unselfishly. The sexual relationship expresses their married love and shows what it means to become “one body” (Genesis 2:24) and “one flesh” (Mark 10:8, Matthew 19:6). The sexual union is meant to express the full meaning of a couple’s love – its power to bind them together is the unitive aspect of marriage, and its openness to new life is the procreative aspect.

The Church believes that God has established an inseparable bond between the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage. The couple has promised to give themselves to each other, and this mutual self-giving includes the gift of their fertility. This means that each sexual encounter in a marriage needs to be open to the possibility of conceiving a child. “Thus, artificial contraception is contrary to God’s will for marriage because it separates the act of conception from sexual union” (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 409).

A couple need not desire to conceive a child in every sexual encounter, but they should never suppress the life-giving power that is part of what they pledged in their marriage vows.

No. Serious circumstances “financial, physical, psychological, or those involving responsibilities to other family members” may affect the number and spacing of children. The Church understands this, while encouraging couples to take a generous view of children.

A married couple can engage in sex during the naturally infertile times in a woman’s cycle, or after childbearing years, without violating Church teaching. This is the principle behind natural family planning (NFP).

  • Shared responsibility by husband and wife
  • Virtually cost-free
  • No harmful side effects
  • Can be used throughout the childbearing years
  • Can be used in special circumstances such as post-partum, breastfeeding, and premenopause

The best way to learn NFP is through consultation with a qualified instructor – one who is certified from an NFP teacher training program. Contact our diocesan NFP coordinator to find out more.

To learn NFP in a correspondence course or online, see this NFP provider list.

— Source: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and ForYourMarriage.org


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