Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why We Don't Use Contraception (Guest Post)

This week features our first guest post, from the lovely Caitlin at Catholic Cookie Jar.  Caitlin is in her 20s and has been married for a year and a half.  This post tells about how Caitlin and her husband switched from contraception to natural family planning, and gives the top twelve reasons why she's glad they did.


Why We Don't Use Contraception: Natural Family Planning (NFP)

Yes, you read that title right! My husband and I do not use contraception. I have been debating writing about such a personal topic on my blog for months, but God has finally opened my heart to writing about this.

Many people know that the Catholic Church teaches against the use of contraception in marriage. Sadly, few Catholics follow this teaching. The church advocates Natural Family Planning (NFP) as the only acceptable method of family planning, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what it actually is. It is not the rhythm method, as many people think, but a scientific, evidence-based method of observing signs from a woman's body and recording them on a chart to determine when she is fertile or infertile, and using those times to either achieve or postpone pregnancy.

I want to share our experience of switching from contraception to NFP both because it has brought abundant joy to our marriage and because it was through hearing and reading about other couples’ stories that we prayerfully decided to make the switch. I'll be honest and say that I feel really vulnerable writing about this on the internet for anyone to read, but if this encourages even one woman to decide to use NFP, it will be so worth it.

Surprisingly, Thomas and I never learned about NFP at our Catholic high school. The first time we learned about it was at our marriage preparation retreat. They didn't teach us how to use the method, but we heard a couple speak about their experience and how beneficial it was for their marriage. Their love for each other was so evident we could just feel it in the room, and their excitement about NFP was contagious. I have to say, we were both interested and intrigued.

But. They were young. And they already had five children. They said all their children were planned through using NFP and that they wanted a large family, but I felt like they were just saying that to convince everyone to use it. I brushed it off as ineffective and outdated.

I didn't know anyone using NFP who could offer me guidance, and I made so many excuses to not use NFP in our marriage. I figured everyone I knew was using contraception, so it wasn't that big of a deal if I used it too. I was scared, and I was especially worried about having a baby in grad school. I talked to my family physician, who brushed off my inquiry about NFP, gave me a trial pack of birth control three months before our wedding, told me to come back when I needed more, and sent me off on my merry way. I finally settled on the fact that I would have to use the pill until I got done with graduate school, and then I would use NFP after graduating. I felt guilty about it, but I also (selfishly) felt like I had to do what I needed to do for myself to get me through school.

God did not give up on us, and he kept tugging on my heart. I can't say there was one big moment that made us decide to use NFP, but rather an increasing awareness of its effectiveness and the benefits for women and marriage. I also felt increasingly uncomfortable taking medication with so many side effects and health risks when I was perfectly healthy. I started reading Catholic blogs and found out about many women who use NFP. Women like Katie, who is married and in medical school, and who I greatly admire for the way she promotes NFP. Women like our NFP instructor, who we met through our Bible Study at church, another young, married woman who also had no children. I started to think that maybe NFP is a healthy and effective method if you need to wait to have children.

We met with the instructor at our church just to learn about it and get some introductory information. Thomas and I were both absolutely blown away. We learned more information about our bodies, reproduction, and a woman's cycle than we ever did from sexual health lessons in school. Just from that one class. After that, I started reading every single bit of information I could find on NFP and on the church's teaching about birth control and sexuality.

Thanks be to God we stopped using contraception almost a year ago, and have been using NFP since then. Making that decision has been the single best thing that has happened in our relationship. Because we have found this to be so positive, I want to share with you some information and benefits. I am going to do my best to give health, secular, and environmental reasons, as well as religious and moral reasons for why we stopped using contraception.

1. Natural Family Planning IS effective if you are trying to postpone pregnancy. It is not the rhythm method. Like I said above, it is a scientific method that uses the signs of a woman's body to determine when she is fertile. We use the Creighton Model, which has a use effectiveness (not method effectiveness) of 96.8% in your first year of use, and it only continues to become more effective as you become more confident and aware of the signs from your body. Compare that to other types which have a use effectiveness between 91-99%. Condoms? Only 82% effective.

2. There are NO side effects to NFP! Hallelujah! Have you looked at the list of side effects and possible health complications on the information sheet from the pill box? Many women have experienced a lot of those side effects from taking the pill. Thankfully, NFP is completely natural, so I don't have to worry about any of those awful side effects.

3. There are no health risks involved with NFP! Did you know that birth control pills are rated by the CDC as a type 1 carcinogen
(along with tobacco, asbestos, and arsenic)? Women have an increased risk of breast cancer until up to ten years after discontinuing the use of birth control pills. Also, after using the pill for ten years, a woman's risk of cervical cancer is doubled. And we were just learning in one of my classes about how oral contraceptives increase a woman's risk of stroke. You've also all heard the commercials that list death as a possible side effect. That is all scary. Very scary.

Furthermore, unlike men, who are fertile 24/7, women are only able to get pregnant about five days out of their cycle. Why should we women be subjected to medicine that comes with a slew of side effects and health risks, to the point of potentially dying, when our fertility is limited?

Being free from all that? An extremely good feeling!

4. NFP is completely natural, and it takes advantage of a woman's normal body functions, whereas birth control pills, IUDs, the patch, etc. act to stop the normal functioning of the body. With NFP there are no hormones, no devices inserted into your body, and no tricking your body into thinking it's pregnant. Again, why should we use something that messes with our bodies when they are healthy and functioning normally?

5. I feel empowered through using NFP because it is a comprehensive way of monitoring my reproductive health every day. I know SO much more about my body from using NFP. Just from charting my cycles, I know that I potentially have issues with my levels of progesterone which could increase my risk of having a miscarriage when I become pregnant. Having that knowledge is so powerful, and will impact my ability to seek help before or when that happens.

6. NFP gives solutions to women’s reproductive health issues. Unfortunately, many women are prescribed birth control pills to regulate their cycles or deal with other reproductive health issues. While it might eliminate their symptoms, all it is doing is masking the problem, not fixing the underlying cause of the problem. There is a health science called NaPro Technology that looks at a woman's cycles from her NFP charts, and doctors can give solutions to the problems she is facing, rather than just give her medicine that covers up the symptoms. Along with that, if a women develops an issue, say for example ovarian cysts, while she is on birth control, her issues will be covered up and she may not find out about the cysts until there is a significant amount of damage.

7. NFP is environmentally friendly, unlike the pill, which has been causing a lot of issues with the water supply and fish.

8. NFP is either FREE or inexpensive depending on what method you choose to use. With our method, we had an upfront cost, and it was $30 per session with our NFP instructor. We've had about five meetings with her so far, but now that we know the method there is really no need to meet with her, but we area always able to email her with questions. However, if you can’t afford to pay for it, your instructor will work it out with you.

9. NFP can be used to achieve pregnancy, as well as postpone pregnancy. If you decide one month you want to try to get pregnant, you can tell from your chart when you are ovulating and aim for that time to try to conceive. If you decide one month you want to postpone pregnancy and your circumstances change the next month and you want to try to have a baby, you can easily start trying without having to wait for hormonal effects to wear off!

10. Contraception has the ability to abort an unborn child. The pill typically works by tricking your body into thinking it is pregnant. However, if you happen to conceive while on the pill, the pill can act as an abortifacient through thinning the lining of the uterus so that the fertilized egg can't implant. IUD devices also act as abortifacients because they make the lining of the uterus inhospitable to implantation, so that when the egg and sperm join, they cannot implant. Don't believe me? Read the information sheet from Paraguard ("Possible mechanisms...include interference with sperm transport or fertilization, and prevention of implantation.") or the information from Mirena ("There is no single explanation for how Mirena works. Mi
rena may...make the lining of your uterus thin"). Essentially every single type of birth control has the ability to abort your conceived child. If you believe that life begins at conception, you may have a huge issue with this because the life of the conceived child is ended when the fertilized egg cannot implant in the uterus. For me personally, it is so deeply upsetting to think that we could have killed an innocent child through using the pill.

11. I absolutely believe in the church's teaching that unification and procreation should not be separated in the marital act. The church does not say that every act of intercourse should be aimed at trying to get pregnant, but every act should be ordered to procreation (as in barrier free) and open to life.

Furthermore, the church really wants all married couples to have the most fulfilling relationship possible, one that mirrors God's immense love for us. Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). We can see the qualities of Christ's love in this excerpt from Christopher West's Book "Theology of the Body for Beginners:"

"But if "bodily love" is meant to express "the language of 'agape'" (TOB 92:7), we must properly understand this language. Christ's love seems distinguishable by four particular qualities. First, Christ gives his body freely ("No one takes my life from me, I lay it down of my own accord," John 10:18). Second, he gives his body totally - without reservation, condition, or selfish calculation ("He loved them to the last," John 13:1). Third, he gives his body faithfully ("I am with you always," Matthew 28:20). And fourth, he gives his body fruitfully ("I came that they may have life," John 10:10). If men and women are to avoid the pitfalls of counterfeit love, and live their vocation to its full, their union must express the same free, total, faithful, fruitful love that Christ's body expresses" (page 89).

The two of us have become so much more open to life because we talk about our intentions for a family, pray about God's will for us, and try to discern if our reasons are severe enough to wait to have a child (the Catholic Church teaches you should only postpone pregnancy if you have severe reasons, whether financial, physical, psychological, etc.). Using NFP has opened the door to constant communication about God’s will for us and our family because we are both involved in using NFP – I observe during the day, Thomas writes the information in our chart at night, and we both interpret the results together, so we literally talk about it every single day. Our instructor asks us to rate how we would respond if we were pregnant every time we meet with her, and it’s been funny to see how our answers have gradually changed from not very accepting to very accepting. We have come to see children as a precious gift from God that will only change our life circumstances, rather than a burden that will ruin our life circumstances.

The Humane Vitae says, "to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator." Using birth control causes us to think that the start of life is completely up to us, but in reality, God is the one who is to determine when a life should begin. He designed our bodies the way they are for a reason, and only He is the author of life.

12. I thought we had a wonderful marriage before we started using NFP, but Thomas and I both agree that our relationship has been a million times better after making the switch. I completely agree with this statement from the Humane Vitae: "Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection." Yes, yes, and YES. I really believe that contraception leads to the objectification of your partner (both ways). The more I study the church's teaching on sexuality, and the longer we use NFP, the more I find truth in that statement. I now understand why Pope John Paul II said that the opposite of love is not hate, but use.

We both feel like we are in a more authentic, true, self-giving, loving relationship than we ever have been in the past. I feel so loved, respected, and cherished wholly as a woman by my husband. We have learned how to respect each other more deeply, and the sacrifice of abstinence involved in NFP has have caused us to improve many other aspects of our relationship. We make a constant effort to show our love in more ways than physical. We strive to put the other person first in all that we do because we understand more fully that love is sacrifice.

In Summary:

Through living out the lifestyle of Natural Family Planning, I am able to fully see the beauty in the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality (although I'm sure it will solidify even more once we have children). I have heard many women say that the church oppresses women, or that they love the church, but they disagree with the church's beliefs about women's issues. Through using NFP and studying the church's stance on contraception, I have found the complete opposite. I have found that the church deeply, deeply cares about, and wants the best for, women, their health, and their families. The church respects and appreciates the body of a woman the way it was made by God, upholding her dignity and the essence of femininity.

Also, I just want to say that I have become so much closer to God through using NFP. There was a complete surrender to God and His will for my life and our marriage that came with switching to NFP, which has caused me to place my full trust in Him. I truly feel how much He is ALWAYS there for us, surrounding us, and looking out for our best interest as a married couple. We have seen His grace pour down on us in every aspect of our marriage after switching to NFP, and I feel His love more and more every day. NFP has been such a blessing, and we are so grateful that our eyes have been opened to the truth.

Friends, I hope this information was helpful! Please, please, please let me know if you want to talk more about NFP. I'd be more than happy to meet up with you for coffee or dinner, talk on the phone, let you borrow books, etc. Consider this post an invitation! I’d love to share some of the more personal details with you, answer any questions, and share the challenges. I am in no way trying to condemn anyone who does use contraception. I have been there, so I promise there is no judgment from me! I just want you to know that if you're not happy with birth control, or even feel the slightest bit uneasy about taking it, there is a healthier, natural option that is effective in postponing or achieving pregnancy.

Reprinted with permission from Catholic Cookie Jar.  To visit Caitlin's blog, click on


  1. "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." Ephesians 5:22-24

    Listening to your scripture I would say that none of this is your, or any other woman's, decision anyway. You really should write this to the husbands out there who your Bible says are as God to you.

  2. Gene, let me respond to you with a quote from the same passage of St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians: "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. ... Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her ... Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it." Eph. 5:21, 25, 28-29. Church teaching makes it clear that use of responsible family planning is up to the prayerful decision of the couple (not the man alone).

  3. What a beautiful post! Thank you for your honesty and willingness to follow Christ and His beautiful will for you. Creighton is a life changer!

    1. Christy, welcome to the blog! So glad that Creighton is working well for you.

  4. High five!! What a very real and honest testament of NFP. Thank you so much for having the courage and tug in your heart to share your story. I hope to have the same courage soon too! God bless you!

  5. Great post. Now get this info out to all the young woman out there so they will eventually stop poisoning their bodies and minds with contraception. No one really stops to think it through, and most just go with the present general flow of contraception that's been assimilated into their lives. No negative effects. How healthy and green! I admit to going with the flow in the past, but was always uneasy about it all-around on body, mind, spirit and negative feelings towards husband for wanting to go against my primordial nature.

    1. Better for the body and better for the soul. :)