Thursday, November 20, 2014

No Better Aphrodisiac: Why NFP?

Kevin and Allison Gingras speak honestly about why they switched from artificial birth control to Natural Family Planning (NFP) after discovering, among other things, how artificial birth control can lower a woman's libido. They also cover topics like the effect of peri-menopause, the benefits to using over-the-counter ovulation kits, and how regular times of abstinence can improve intimacy.

Kevin and Allison started out as high school sweethearts who went to both junior and senior prom together, and now they've been married for 25 years. They are proud parents of Ian (age 18), Adam (age 15), and Faith (age 8). Faith, who is deaf, was an extra special gift coming to them all the way from China when she was almost 4 years old. Kevin and Allison began using Natural Family Planning over 20 years ago, after reading about a local class in their church bulletin. Allison blogs at Reconciled to You and is a Catholic radio and tv personality as well as an app developer. You can read Faith's adoption story here and find out how God touched Kevin and Allison's heart to adopt even while they were using NFP to prevent pregnancy.

1. Why do you use NFP?

Our use of NFP coincided with our reversion to the Catholic faith over 20 years ago. We were at a point in our lives where we wanted to open our hearts to children, after living very self-centeredly for the first several years of our married life! I had discovered the horrific things I had subjected my body to by using birth control pills including their abortifacient effect and the increased risk for certain cancers (no one ever bothered explaining that, and I foolishly never read the lengthy pamphlet tucked inside the package each month). We saw a class being offered in our parish bulletin and signed up to learn more. I particularly loved that this method was not just my responsibility, that we’d be achieving and avoiding pregnancy together – yet of course, always open to God’s will.

2. Which method of NFP works best for you?

We were able to rely only on basal body temperature for 17 years, until Allison began peri-menopause. We have now added the Clear Blue Easy ovulation detector along with temperature charting. To be very honest, this new phase of fertility has been incredibly challenging especially in light of how easy it was for us before this change of life.

3. What are the biggest pros and cons of using NFP, in your experience?


Allison: The natural breaks of intimacy that come in conjunction with a woman’s fertility cycle has been one of the most powerful marriage strengtheners. When you are able to say not tonight I’m “not safe” without hurting your husband’s feelings, that is a beautiful blessing. At one point in my life, I was in a Bible study with 40 women, and was one of the only women practicing NFP. One night we had an open honest discussion about sex in marriage – more than half of the women complained about always having to be "on" or "available" to their husbands. They spoke of intercourse with their spouses as a task – one most were not interested in - instead of the bonding, procreative gift from God it truly is. I recognized instantly the negative effect that birth control or sterilization can have on a marriage (nearly all of the women reporting an unhealthy intimacy also confided they were either on some form of birth control or one of spouses had received sterilization surgery).

Another huge benefit, which I never considered when we began our NFP adventure, is being able to accurately estimate the day of conception. This became very helpful when our first child was born 2 months premature – he was such a monster the doctors doubted my actual due date. I told them, if I had time to go home, I would bring them my chart!  After he was born they did the Apgar tests, and lo and behold we were spot on with the gestational age of our little man (who was dubbed as the big man on campus because he was 5 lbs already at only 32 weeks!)


Allison: Really I had NONE until peri-menopause. While I want with my WHOLE heart to trust God’s plan for us, the idea of being mid-40s with a new baby is terrifying. I remember sitting in the class as a mid-20something-year-old joking that I’d be the woman with the mid-life baby as we covered that in the class. Now that I’ve arrived in mid-life, it is NOT as funny as I thought, nor am I as willing to be that woman as I was 20+ years earlier. So the con is definitely the extended abstinence couples can face with irregular cycles resulting from peri-menopause.

4. What NFP resources does your diocese have?

The Diocese of Fall River web site lists two NFP teaching couples in the Massachusetts area. But we have not been able to find anyone (except online) to teach a peri-menopause informational update class. That's what we really need.

5. What NFP resources have been most useful to you? 

We received all our NFP resources from Couple to Couple League.

6. How do you think your marriage would be different if you used artificial contraception instead of NFP?

Allison: We know what it was like, because we used them for many years. We had needless arguments and hurt feelings when one of us just wasn’t up for intimacy. I also struggled with a very low libido, a side effect of birth control – this also led to a period in our marriage when my husband really wondered if I loved him or if I was even maybe having an affair because of my lack of interest in being intimate. It was only in hindsight did we recognize that all of these issues, which truly threatened our marriage, were directly related to our use of artificial contraception.

Our marriage with those “natural breaks” that comes from following my cycles provided the healthy balance we needed. It also forced us to learn other ways to express our love and affection apart from having intercourse.  Added bonus, there is -- dare I say -- an excitement that builds with anticipating your safe time together that continues to fan our passion for each other. The grace from being open to life and God’s will are no better aphrodisiacs if you ask me!

The Gingras Kids: Ian, Faith, and Adam
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  1. Thanks for sharing your experience and for advocating NFP. My husband and I also practice NFP. There was one thing about your post that caused me pause. You refer to the fertile part of your cycle as "not safe." The whole societal concept of "safe sex" or protected sex bothers me (apart from the reality for some of STDs). For example, men are fertile all the time and we don't think of them as being unsafe. Our fertile times are just that, the time when we have opportunity to co-create with God and our husbands. I understand many families are not able to be open to life all of the time, but I have a hard time equating the times when are bodies can bear new life as being unsafe. If something is not safe isn't it dangerous. We aren't dangerous to our husbands if we have sex with them when we're fertile. Being fertile when you're trying to postpone or avoid a new blessing requires responsibility. It might be more accurate to reply, "sorry honey not tonight, it would be irresponsible."


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  2. Thank you Catherine for your reflection on our story. We were taught with the terminology "safe" and "not safe" from our CCLI trainers (maybe it was unique to them but it was what we learned), in 20 years I just never thought about it - since until today it was only spoken between my husband and myself. However, I will say, pregnancy for me can be dangerous, as I have had a serious ectopic pregnancy that nearly took my life, so maybe that accounts for our term choice. In the end you just got to love the English language - and the wisdom (ha ha) of creating one word with multiple connotations and meanings. Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  3. Thank you for your candid discussion about the difference of levels of desire so common in marriage, and how contraception facilitates conflict vs. how NFP can facilitate growth into sexual maturity and sacrifice.

    Your witness is so powerful, and thank you so much for sharing it.

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