Natural Family Planning FAQs

Welcome to the Diocese of Lansing NFP Frequently Asked Questions Page.  These are common questions that we get from people who are exploring the use of NFP.  If you do not find the answer that you are looking for, then please contact Jenny Ingles.

What is NFP?

"Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the general title for the scientific, natural and moral methods of family planning that can help married couples either achieve or postpone pregnancies.

NFP methods are based on the observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman's menstrual cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy.

Since the methods of NFP respect the love-giving (unitive) and life-giving (procreative) nature of the conjugal act, they support God's design for married love!" - United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

I have irregular cycles or another medical condition that requires the birth control pill to manage. Can I still use NFP?

Yes! You absolutely can use NFP with irregular cycles, dry cycles, long and short cycles, anovulatory and oligoovulatory cycles and other reproductive medical issues.  If you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, then please visit our PCOS page for information on NFP programs that will work for you.  If you have other cycle issues or any reproductive medical conditions, then please visit our Creighton Model FertilityCare System page for more information. 

Why does my Parish/Diocese require NFP as part of Marriage Prep?

In his Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI, greatly details how contraception, through it's abortifactive (causes abortion) nature and by it's blocking of the unitive act of marriage, is immoral and destructive to marriage.  

That statement then begs the question, how is contraception immoral and destructive to marriage?  The primary misconception about contraception is that it frees the couple from the possibility of pregnancy and thus enables them to enjoy sexual encounters without fear. This way of thinking inherently states that pregnancy (or fertility) is something to be feared. It says to the spouse that "part of you (or me) is dangerous and if we love each other, then we need to protect ourselves from that danger."  This idea is clearly established when, through the use of female contraceptives (i.e. the pill), the woman's fertility is shut off, thus removing the "danger" of pregnancy. Likewise, the act of using a male condom "protects" the wife from the "danger" of conception.  This attitude toward fertility is contrary to true love because it says to the other "I want you, but not all of you." 

Where contraception is contrary to true love because it rejects part of the person (his/her fertility), Natural Family Planning is concordant with true love. It says to the beloved, "I love all of you.  Let me show you how." The use of NFP builds stronger, healthier marriages and promotes dialog between spouses by helping couples understand their God-given gift of fertility. Your Parish/Diocese is requiring this educational course as part of Marriage Prep so that you can plan the size of your family without the use of contraceptives. 

Wait!?! In order to avoid a pregnancy, we have to abstain from sex?  We're about to get married and now we can't have sex whenever we want?

One of the great blessings of marriage is the full giving of ones-self to his or her spouse.  It is up to the  couple to decide if it is a good time to welcome a new life that would come from their union.  If the couple decides that it would not be a good time to have a baby, then they would collectively decide to abstain from sex and genital activity during the 5-11 days of fertility.  So, in short, yes you would abstain from sex during those days of fertility if you are not ready to have a child.

On a practical note; however, there are many times in married life where sex and genital activity are not possible or practical.  Here are some instances in which spouses commonly choose to abstain from sex and genital activity:

  • One spouse is traveling out of town without the other
  • One or both spouses are sick with the flu or other such illness
  • Pregnancy complications that require the wife to be on "pelvic rest"
  • The first 6 weeks after the birth of a child
  • After surgery
  • Disability
  • Company visiting from out of town or the couple visiting friends/relatives 

​Short periods of abstinence benefit the couple by allowing them to express their love for each other in non-sexual ways.  These periods also serve to prepare the couple for times in their lives when extended or permanent abstinence may be required.

My Grandmother/Great-Aunt/Older Relative used NFP and had several unplanned pregnancies. Why would I want to do that?

The methods of Natural Family Planning that were used just two generations ago were based on a woman having a 28 day cycle and/or ovulating at the same time in each cycle.  This method was referred to as the "Rhythm" Method.  While this method worked very well for some women, in many situations it didn't. It is now recognized that most women do not have 28 day cycles nor do they ovulate at the same time in each cycle. It has also been discovered that many women have fluctuating cycle lengths and that stress can delay ovulation. Both of these factors make the Rhythm method less effective.  

Scientific discoveries that have emerged in response to Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae have enabled couples to pin-point their specific days of fertility by using their bio-markers.  This has made modern methods of NFP 99% effective. 

I have a serious medical problem.  If I get pregnant, then I could die.  Isn't NFP too risky for me?

There are no methods of contraception, sterilization or NFP (other than permanent abstinence) that are 100% effective for avoiding pregnancy.  NFP methods are as effective, or in many cases more effective, than contraception.  If a couple truly needs to avoid a pregnancy for health purposes, then the Creighton Model FertilityCare System offers an NFP blood draw that can show ovulation has occurred and that the couple is no longer fertile for the remainder of the cycle.  If this is of interest to you, then speak with your Creighton Practitioner about it.

I was searching the Internet about which method of birth control is the most effective and I read that the "use effectiveness" of NFP is really low.  What is "use effectiveness" and how come NFP is so low?

This is a great question!  There are two terms that scientists and researchers use to categorize the effectiveness of a method for regulating birth.  The first is the term "Theoretical Use Effectiveness" or "Perfect Use Effectiveness".  This term refers to, if a person used a method EXACTLY as it should be used, then how effective would it be at preventing a pregnancy.  The second term is "Use Effectiveness" or "Actual Use".  This term refers to studies of how people actually use various methods.  For example, the birth control pill has a Theoretical Use Effectiveness of 99.7%.  This means that if the pill is used EXACTLY how it should be, then it prevents pregnancy 99.7% of the time.  The reality is that women forget to take the pill, take it a different times each day and use antibiotics and expectorant medications.  All of these things decrease the effectiveness of the pill to 92%.  This means that, in the real world, the pill only prevents pregnancy 92% of the time.  

The second part of your question is, why is the NFP use effectiveness so low? The reason for this is that the data being analyzed includes the "Rhythm" method of natural family planning which, as mentioned above, is not very effective and not widely used anymore.  The combined Theoretical Use Effectiveness for the three most popular methods of NFP (Sympto-Thermal, Creighton and Billings) is 99% while the combined Use Effectiveness of the three is a little over 96%.  This is more effective than many contraceptive methods including the popular pill, patch, ring and condom.

A friend told me that she used NFP instead of IVF.  How is that possible?

The Creighton Model FertilityCare System of NFP was expanded into a field called NaProTECHNOLOGY.  This technology uses the biomarkers of a women's cycle to help specially trained doctors pin-point the underlying causes of the infertility.  Infertility treatments using NaPro are successful 40 to 80% of the time; which is more effective than IVF.  For more information about this, click here

There are other methods of NFP out there.  How come you only talk about Sympto-Thermal (Couple to Couple League), Creighton and Billings?

A. We believe it is the right of every person to fully know and understand their fertility.  Furthermore, each couple has the right to decide, with God, how to use their fertility for each other and any future children. Because we believe in this so strongly, we want each couple to have access to the very best fertility education. There are many different models and "Aps" emerging that are based on the old "Rhythm" (AKA Calendar and Rhythm Calendar) method of NFP which, as stated above, is not very effective. We feel that it is a disservice to our couples to promote methods that could result in unplanned pregnancies.  

In addition to these methods, there are other Sympto-Thermal and Ovulation methods available. Theoretically speaking, these methods should be just as effective as the Couple to Couple, Creighton and Billings Methods. However, we currently don't offer programs in these methods because we either do not have instructors in our area or the methods do not have scientific research of their own to prove their effectiveness.  

If you have questions about a specific method that you are interested in, then please contact Jenny Ingles by email or phone. We would be more than happy to assist you in finding a method teacher or more information about the method.

Isn't NFP just another form of contraception?

No!  NFP is not contraception, it is an exercise of responsible parenthood.

Pope Paul VI addresses "Responsible Parenthood" in Humanae Vitae by stating that "[in] regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time."  

I am single/a religious sister, why would I need NFP?

Over the years of developing methods of Natural Family Planning, dedicated doctors and researchers have discovered that NFP can help women in many ways other than planning pregnancy.  Through the use of NFP, a woman can monitor her health and help reverse or alleviate PMS, acne, painful periods, endometriosis and other cycle related problems.  NFP can also help in early cancer detection for certain types of cancer.  For more information, visit our NFP for Health page.

Which NFP Method should I choose?

We are not here to tell couples which methods of NFP will work for them, but rather to help couples prayerfully decide what their individual needs are and which method caters to those needs.  We have developed an overview of each method that we support.  The overview lists the pros and cons of each method and provides links to Method Instructors/Method Classes in the area and Online.