Women Speak on NFP Series Wrap-Up: What I Learned and My NFP Plans

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Over the summer 17 women shared about their experiences using various methods of Natural Family Planning. I was so pleased from the feedback I received about the series and how it has been informing, encouraging, and helping women. I’d like to share some reflections about what I learned from the wonderful contributors and how it’s affecting my life. 

Because we’ve never been trained in NFP (we’ve just been practicing Ecological Breastfeeding and what we like to call “Awesome Family Planning (AFP)” since our conversion), there was so much I wanted to learn about Natural Family Planning and the contributors to the series did not disappoint! I learned so much about the various methods and options available, the reasons behind choosing NFP, and the beautiful stories of women’s experiences.

Here’s a few things I’ve been reflecting on over the course of the series:

The term NFP is confusing. Natural Family Planning can mean more than one thing. It can be an umbrella term for a lifestyle that doesn’t use artificial contraception, it can refer to postponing pregnancy through charting for fertility signs, it can mean awareness of your cycle in order to conceive. I really think it would all be less confusing if NFPers could just say, “We don’t contracept.” And that could be followed up with “we’re using Creighton method to postpone pregnancy” or “we are charting using Sympto-Thermal Method and are hoping to conceive.”

I always feel weird saying “we don’t use NFP” because what I mean is that we don’t chart and don’t try to postpone pregnancy (until now, more on that later). But it could sound like “we don’t use NFP, we use contraception.” Does that make sense? So, I wish there was a distinction between “using NFP” meaning not using contraception and “using NFP” meaning using the scientifically-based methods available to detect fertility signs in order to try to postpone pregnancy or try to achieve pregnancy. Personally, I’m a big fan of the term “Fertility Awareness Method” instead of “Natural Family Planning.” Maybe I’m the only one that finds this confusing! Thoughts?

NFP is a lifestyle. When you buy in to a mindset that is open to life and views sex with a procreative purpose as well as a unitive purpose, it’s more than just not contracepting. It’s a completely different way to view the world, your body, your fertility, children, and marriage.

NFP is a beautiful gift for so many families. Reading the stories of contributors like Michele and Kelley who are postponing pregnancy for serious health issues (issues which would only be exacerbated by the negative health effects of artificial contraception) really gave me insight into why many couples need to avoid pregnancy. There could be so many reasons. This series also reminded me of the important truth that I need to always be careful not to judge another family by their number of children. Ever. Ever, ever, ever. Karen Edmisten has a beautiful and moving post about the cross of miscarriage and how treating larger Catholic families as poster children for what a faithful Catholic family should look like and judging smaller families because they have fewer children is terribly painful to couples struggling through miscarriage or infertility. I don’t know the reasons other couples might have for avoiding pregnancy. It could be health, finances, infertility, you name it. It’s none of my business and it’s between them and God. What I need to concern myself with is my marriage and our openness to life. Which brings me to….

I’m learning NFP.

For the first time ever (since converting), we are trying out NFP in order to postpone pregnancy. We’re taking a break from what we’ve been doing (not bothering to learn any NFP method and just havin’ babies close together). Honestly, I love living my life that way and have found such freedom in not even attempting to “plan” our family. I love not giving whether I might be fertile or not a second thought. I love not having to abstain or make the weighty decision every month about whether or not we’re ready for another baby. I love leaving all of that in God’s hands. The past three years of “AFP” have been amazing and I can’t wait until we’re not postponing pregnancy. But during this season, we think it’s the right choice to postpone.

My third pregnancy (Gwen) was tough. I felt like I couldn’t take care of my other two kids. I spent weeks in bed with morning sickness that made me more miserable than I have ever been physically. I am doing everything I can health wise to prevent such severe morning sickness in the future, but I need a few months to really focus on my health and focus on caring for the three little ones I’ve been blessed with. Ideally, I’d like to make it to Gwen’s first birthday before getting pregnant again. Would it be a huge disaster if I was pregnant this blessed minute? No. My husband is amazing and would pick up the slack. We have family in town that would help us through it. So, it’s not something I’m anxious about. But I think learning a method of NFP at this point would be wise. If I were one of those women whose fertility doesn’t return until 12+ months post partum, I probably wouldn’t bother learning NFP. But since Gwen is 3 months old and my fertility is already back, I’m going to give it a shot.

I’m trying out the Marquette method for post-partum/breastfeeding. My reasoning is that most of the other techniques sound difficult to learn during this post partum period (other couples have done it successfully, so I know it’s not impossible!). But because the Clear Blue fertility monitor takes some of the guesswork out, it seems like the easiest method for us right now. I also think of times in the future (such as if I ever have a cesarean birth) when it might be more important for us to space out my pregnancies, so it seems a wise decision to learn a method now.

I would be really interested to hear about other women’s experiences with NFP post partum (especially if you used Marquette).  And I want to thank all of the amazing contributors who were willing to share their stories!

I will probably revisit the series in a few months because I’ve had so many women offer to contribute and I’ll be sharing a list of resource links in the near future.

Have you enjoyed the Women Speak on NFP series? What did you learn that you didn’t know before?

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Comments

  1. says

    I don’t like the use of “Fertility Awareness Method” because most people use it to refer to charting and using condoms during the “fertile” time. Which is not the same as not using contraception. And isn’t as effective either (since condoms have a high fail rate compared to other contraceptive and NFP methods and you’re using them at the time that if they do fail, you actually have a chance to become pregnant).

    I’m also drawn to the Marquette method, but just can’t justify the price of the monitor when other methods are free.

  2. says

    My husband and I used NFP during college and we’re using it right now until I can get my first one a little more weaned. My cycles came back after three months as well (early cycles after pregnancy run in my family), so it was definitely something we wanted to be sure we were doing!

    We use a monitor called Lady-comp from a German company. It’s quite pricey, but a lot of insurances/FLEX accounts will pay for it. Essentially, you take your temperature every morning (or at least until the end of your fertile period), and the monitor the thermometer is attached to does your charting for you.

    We’re going to be learning about paper-and-pen charting soon, but while I was in college and anxious about pregnancy, it was a relief to know that I didn’t have to worry as much. (I did actually get pregnant my last semester, and it turned out not be a big deal at all, so I guess I shouldn’t have worried quite as much. ;) )

  3. Erica says

    Thank you so much for this series. Although I was raised Catholic, until recently I never understood why using birth control was not a good idea. Many Catholics around me used it, so I assumed it was ok. As I learn more, I feel very sad about the years that I did use birth control. I love your blog. It is so refreshing and positive and helps me start my day thinking about my faith. Now my husband and I are trying the Billings method. Our first child is nine months old and we are hoping to postpone another pregnancy until he is two so that I can breastfeed full term and we can afford daycare or living on one income. However, if we get pregnant before then we would be more than happy. Thank you for writing every day!

  4. says

    I so, so agree about the confusion around the term “using NFP”! I was actually considering posting about this on my own blog. I find that even when I explain what I mean by the term, a few people have had trouble accepting/understanding that NFP can mean simply “fertility” awareness, as opposed to “actively trying to postpone pregnancy.”

    We have used the sympto-thermal method, but honestly, I’ve only had the opportunity to chart one or two full cycles since getting married two years ago. ;) So I guess we’ve used our own version of “AFP” too!

  5. says

    Marmee is gratified to know that you highly value accuracy and precision in terminology, as you strive for clarity in language in your blog! This series was very illuminating and essential reading for young married couples.

  6. says

    I have really loved this series and it helped me out tremendously! I always struggled with postpartum NFP. I started having so many babies so close and I didn’t have time to take thew weight off and my health really suffered. So, I am excited for the link you shared too, for next time!

    Honestly, this series saved NFP for me. It made me feel like it was possible when I was so scared to even put faith in it again. For us it was a matter of health and finances. I would totally be Michele Duggar if we could, so I hope these things all settle out soon, as I want another baby someday!

    God bless and thank you for this great series!

  7. says

    First off, this was a great wrap-up post!

    The term “NFP” is confusing and I’ve found that when I tell people that’s what we use, the general assumption is that we will get pregnant. I always make sure to add, “when we’re ready”, because we have successfully avoided pregnancy and successfully gotten pregnant.

    We use the Fertility Awareness Method from “Taking Charge of Your Fertility”, and it is a lot of work. I have to make sure to keep track of fertility signs and chart every day, and every night is a question of whether it’s “safe”. We don’t go the condom route (we go the “alternative fun” route), so our avoiding has been a mixture of abstaining and just avoiding intercourse during the fertile time. I would love to try the fertility monitor but it’s just not an option, financially, and so we stick with this free (albeit involved) method.

    Had I not learned FAM, though, I would never have learned the difference between breakthrough bleeding and a true period (one following ovulation), or been able to tell when something is wrong (I can tell, now, when I have a UTI, because I know the difference between yeast and cervical fluid!).

    That said, you are right in saying it is a lifestyle. It’s what we’ve practiced since we got married and it’s just the way we do things. Our marriage hasn’t suffered for it, but it’s been enriched and gives us confidence because I am so healthy. We are excited for the day when we can practice “AFP”, because with how fertile I am it will give us a bunch of kids quick. :)

    That was a long comment with a lot of “yucky” terms…sorry! :)

  8. luisaagnes says

    WOW!! I love how deep you are Haley! I think that it is wise to think of having a child as a specific calling for each one. They are each a human person called with a divine purpose and we have the blessed task of ushering them to see good, love it, and choose it. I know I am preaching to the choir here, but this ushering process is entirely specific to the charism of each child, and this can take time to unfold and understand.

    Sometimes I see my young mama friends act as though they believe that closing their eyes to their fertility is a virtue, and that the aim is maximising the number of children they can bring into the world. Or put another way, they believe that any restraint in having a child is closing their hearts to God. This mindset sometimes has the sad consequence of making the child feel a little lost to their parents.

    I also think that having a large family is actually quite rare (in addition to reasons of contraception) because it is physically difficult! Not very many women get pregnant right away every time. As you say, infertility and miscarriage affect the majority of people. Even if you are not “infertile”, you can have periods of infertility. I was just amazed when I learned somewhere (can’t remember where), that the average birth rate in 19th C France was three babies per woman? That is some insight into naturally occurring fertility rates. Granted, there were a lot of other mitigating circumstances, but still an interesting fact.

  9. Alicia says

    We’re in a similar position–3 kids 5-and-under, wanting to postpone another difficult pregnancy just a little longer. We’ve been using the Billings method for about 6 months now, including a transition out of breastfeeding my now-16-month-old. I’ve been astounded at how simple and accurate it has been for me, from the very beginning, even though I have long cycles and my cycle lengths have varied by 3-4 days each “month.”

    Incidentally, I have you to thank for that. I was aware of NFP and had tried the Sympto-thermal method a couple years ago (on our own, with no instruction) with confusing results. We are Reformed, not Catholic, and had only just begun attending a church where birth control was not the accepted norm–and, since that is not typically one of the first get-acquainted questions, we didn’t know we weren’t alone in our decision not to practice the cultural norm. I didn’t realize there WERE other methods of NFP until your series, and I am most grateful for the breadth of knowledge found here!

  10. Bernadette says

    Thanks for this series, and this post in particular!

    I do especially appreciate the points about “Awesome Family Planning” and not-using-NFP as meaning not doing any family planning. This is the stage we are at, as we would love to have several littles in a row and have no reason to abstain. I do acknowledge the value of understanding your own body and cycles, and I think we too would try Marquette if we ever needed to (for the ease and convenience), but at this season, it’s not something we feel the need to add to our lives.

    However, there are *certain* Catholic people who make me feel bad about it, as if practicing NFP (as opposed to not-using-artificial-contraception) was a command of the Church! And it’s good for us to be reminded that that is not the case.

  11. says

    My symptothermal method (that I learned via Fertility Awareness) has been a great help in the last couple months since my miscarriage. It’s so much easier to put my mind at ease when I can see every functioning close to normal – even though a few things are still getting there. On the days when I feel I’ll be infertile forever I can look at my chart and see pre-ovulatory dips, post-ovulatory rises, and all sorts of recordings that help put my mind at ease.

    I think you’re wise to space out your next one a little longer – I’ve been there with the rough pregnancy and it really does take awhile for your body to get back to normal. It took me almost 9 months to actually desire/crave food again after all my morning sickness. And the thing is this is only what’s necessary right now – in the future you might be able to get back to AFP.

  12. says

    Ha! Looks like I’ll be learning the Marquette method alongside you! I learned STM before we were married and used it to space our 1st and 2nd babies. I credit the spacing with helping me a achieve a successful VBAC with our second because I like to take a long term view of our fertility and my health.

    I learned the Billings method after our first to help us through the postpartum period and then returned to STM as soon as my cycles returned, but I’m looking to harness the power of technology to make things a little more clearer with this post partum return of fertility. I’m also thinking ahead to menopause when the Marquette method might be a little more helpful when my cycles are less regular.

  13. Lois says

    I’ll be interested to hear more of what you learn re: postpartum NFP/FAM. We’re going to have to figure that out too come Jan…

    or maybe not! We were just talking today about how it might be nice to just have our kids close together. :) So maybe we’ll try out AFP! NOT tracking during the last several months has been wonderful. Also, I’ve wondered really how likely it would be to get pregnant quickly, as we succesfully practiced FAM for 4 yrs, and then didn’t get pregnant for several months after stopping avoiding it…I guess either we’re poster children for FAM, or we’re not super fertile! Maybe both. But “average child spacing” does seem to be in the 1.5-2 yrs range for people I know who don’t do anything either way and have average fertility. Anyway, we may try to just follow the ecological breastfeeding principles and AFP and see what happens. ;)

    One question: are you really sure your fertility has returned? I haven’t read through it in a while, but I thought Weschler’s section on postpartum talks about how you may periods or period-like bleeding in the postpartum period, but still not be regularly ovulating. Like the anovulatory cycles you can have otherwise, but they’re a lot more common in that postpartum period…I don’t know; like I said, I should review…at least to be aware, or if it turns out we have a hard birth/postpartum and need to FAM avoid for physical/mental health for a while.

  14. says

    I actually really like the term Fertility Awareness. Yes, it’s sort of associated with condom use in TCOYF but I find it a MUCH more accurate term than NFP. It’s simply a tool to know how your unique body works and what you do with the information is up to you. For some that means that there may be very little “family planning” involved. Consider how great it is for young unmarried women to learn…women who aren’t using it for family planning but just to be healthy! Thanks for this series, Haley. I think it was hugely helpful to a lot of women.

  15. Margaret says

    We learned STM before marriage, used it to successfully postpone baby #1 while in college, and tried to use it again after his birth while breastfeeding and it was a disaster. Couldn’t figure anything out, teachers weren’t helpful, etc. Used Marquette after baby #2, also while breastfeeding, and I love everything about it (except the cost). The online forums are excellent, loved the peace of mind that I wasn’t ovulating prior to my first postpartum period, no iffy signs or weird temps due to waking up all night long with a baby. Can’t recommend it enough for postpartum use.

  16. Cara says

    I know there are many methods of NFP and I honestly believe different ones will work for different women. For me, the combination of noticeable fertile cervical mucous with mittelschmerz (ovulation pain) is very reliable. I know some women who swear by morning temperature readings, but I’ve never had a reliable pattern. One friend just checks her cervical position daily and it works for her. As you learn your body the cues that work for you will be more recognizable. Good luck, Haley!

  17. Cara says

    I know there are many methods of NFP and I honestly believe different ones will work for different women. For me, the combination of noticeable fertile cervical mucous with mittelschmerz (ovulation pain) is very reliable. I know some women who swear by morning temperature readings, but I’ve never had a reliable pattern. One friend just checks her cervical position daily and it works for her. As you learn your body the cues that work for you will be more recognizable. Good luck, Haley!

  18. Emily says

    I used the Marquette method during my first year of marriage. (We lucked out and got the monitor/test strips for free as a result of participating in the university’s research study.) I really liked just relying on one indicator rather than stressing over multiple signs on a daily basis. I also enjoyed being able to ask questions to the nurses at any time. The Clear Blue seems to start out pretty conservatively during the first few cycles, but it balances out from there. Hope it works well for you and your family!

  19. Rebecca says

    My third child is 9-months-old and luckily for me fertility has not returned thus far. I had been using FAM (sans barrier method) since getting off the Pill two years ago after what I like to think of as a “contraception/getting on board with Church teaching- conversion”. Needless to say, my hubby is not so thrilled about the idea of having more children and that is the main reason we need to postpone (for now). At any rate, I am hoping that I will be able to use the FAM to postpone pregnancy until a later date, even though I have never taken any classes and have basically just learned on my own.

    One thing I hate about the term “NFP” is that it seems to be so negatively received. I mentioned to my doctor I was using it and his reply was, “You Catholics! NFP never works, anyway.” I think if you tell people you are “monitoring your fertility” they are much more willing to enter a discussion about what exactly that entails. You don’t get the automatic knee-jerk negative reaction.

    Thanks, Haley! I enjoy your blog!

    • says

      My doctor’s office was also less than thrilled to hear that we intended to use NFP. I was told “there is no way to know if you ovulate before your first period” (not true of course). So frustrating! You gotta love how they can say how cute your baby is and then in the same breath act like the world would come to an end if you had more children. Thinking I may go the midwife/ home birth route next time around as our unplanned home birth (4 hour labor– husband had to deliver the baby) ended up being such a positive experience.

  20. Kate says

    We’re also postponing pregnancy for now –a 16 month gap between my two boys, each weighing in at over 4kgs at (natural)birth has left my little body tired and not in great health! I have been warned I would miscarry if I conceived now and would be left weaker. I am charting, and tracking mucous, cervical position and temperature (temperature not so much as I am not regular on taking it as my baby is still in our bed and breastfeeding). I use a bit of a combination of rules: first 6 day safe rule, 4 dry day rule and Billings. I have found post partum cycles are long and confusing — especially since I have never charted. I found the CCL books helpful, especially the post partum one — I managed to convince our parish priest to import a set of books so I can learn and maybe teach others. Here in South Africa there are no NFP teachers (the health care providers I have told that I don’t contracept have actually laughed at me) and no Lady Comps or Clear Blue Easy gadgets — we have to import them at high costs which the majority of our local parish would not.be able to afford!

    Loved this series!
    God bless.

  21. says

    I’ve been using Marquette method since I was postpartum with my first. I love it! My fertility signs have always been very hard to read and the monitor takes the guess work out of it. Totally worth the extra money! I do have to say though that my daughter was conceived during a cycle where the monitor failed to detect a high, so that was a surprise. We were trying anyway so we weren’t following the avoid protocol, but we were very surprised to learn I was expecting when the machine told me that I hadn’t ovulated:)

  22. says

    I totally agree that “NFP” is a confusing term! I would say that we use the Fertility Awareness Method. We do contracept (barrier methods) for the time being- mostly because we’re open to the idea of conceiving soon, but timing-wise, giving birth in the summer would be hard on us as a family. Bible Camp and all. I’m still learning (big time- this is only cycle 5!), but I’m already pretty amazed at how my body just … knows. And that all the signs are there, and always were there, but I just wasn’t recognizing my own patterns.

    I think that saying I use NFP would be wrong- my husband and I contracept (occasionally)- and so we don’t use NFP. NFP is, in my opinion, FAM in it’s purest sense- and I’m sure it’s so hard!

    I’ve done a couple of posts about how FAM is working for us and what I’ve learned on my blog- check it out!

    • James says

      I like the phrase about NFP being “FAM in its purest sense”.

      I think that’s a good way of thinking about it not only physically, but relationally and spiritually as well. Even though it is a secular book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility recommends that couples abstain instead of using barriers during the fertile time and with good reason.

      Still, as you mention, it IS a lot harder to use NFP than FAM. However couples use the method, they should be supported. In the past, some promoters took an “all or nothing” view and drove people away with some very judgmental attitudes. Which is a shame because so many women and couples can benefit from this information, however they choose to use it.

  23. says

    We learned CCL Sympto-thermal about 6 months before we got married (back in 2006) just so I could get the hang of it before we really needed it and used it successful for a year to postpone after we got married.

    So far every first chance we take to deviate from following “postponing rules” strictly has resulted in a sweet baby!

    I didn’t think temping was all too convenient with an irregular sleep cycle so we moved onto Billings, but never **really** practiced it strictly until now after baby 3! Really though, I still rely on my own interpretations of my cycle rather than set rules (which is pretty straight up Billings anyway).

    It works for us (at least so far). So I guess technically we are under the Billings umbrella now but we include cervix checks which aren’t recommended and are more CCL approved, and I use some of the CCL’s basic rules which aren’t Billing’s approved, and I’m pretty sure I’d never get the hang of Creighton seeing how I like to make stuff up ;)

    But I am super interested in learning Marquette. The only down side for us would be having to purchase strips when Billings has been completely free. I really like that aspect of Billings. A lot.

    I have to say that I LOVE how you bring up that NFP is a lifestyle. So true!

    Also, the only notable difference between FAM and NFP as I have understood it is that FAM is the secular version of NFP and therefore allows condoms. But correct me if I’m wrong anyone! :)

    I do agree the terminology gets confusing!! And all of it is enough to make a GYN / OB go… “huh?” ;)

  24. Lisa says

    I think all women should read through Dr Hilger’s book Unleashing the Power in a Woman’s Cycle regardless of which method used. The book is very informative both on Catholic teaching and fertility. I had never practiced any form of preventing a pregnancy throughout 18 years of marriage and never bothered to learn a method of NFP believing God would provide for any baby He wanted to give us. (and he did. Even at the beginning when we lived on one income of $20,000 for a year!) however, at age 38 I went through 3 years of secondary infertility. Finding Creighton opened up a new level of health awareness for me. Through my NaPro doc we were able to track down the problem (no, not old age) and fix it and I have another beautiful 1 yr old after having lost 4 babies in a row. (i have to say that i was very thankful, during that time of despair, that i had never tried to prevent a pregnancy. It was a blessing to look back on during the time when i absolutely could not stay pregnant!) My best friend also read the book, learned the method, and the following year was able to head off a very nasty cancer caught in its most early stage because she knew something was wrong with her because of her cervical charting being off. So, there are good reasons for learning to read cervicals other than trying to prevent a pregnancy. It’s amazing. This Catholic faith, is amazing ladies. There is nothing better to take care of us! Blessings! Lisa

  25. says

    You’re so right about NFP being a lifestyle, and how it’s hard to communicate to the uninitiated how it’s just another form of birth control if you don’t let its philosophy permeate your life and your attitude towards your spouse and children. Our use of words is especially difficult. Like, I hate HATE when people ask me, “Was your son planned?” With a passion. I think the word “planned” should be striken from NFP dialogue because it implies a certain legitimacy that is not compatible with true openness to life. I go off more on that here: http://www.everything-to-someone.com/2013/06/potential-dangers-of-nfp-mentality.html

    I think your approach to fertility is healthy and heartening. <3

  26. Lindsay says

    Started using Marquette at 3 weeks postpartum after our last 2 babies were born just shy of 12 months apart. I am 13 months postpartum now and on my 4th cycle after return to fertility. The transition to fertility can result in a lot of abstaining for just a few months, but there are a lot of infertile days to be used and once you get brought e first 2 or 3 cycles after return to fertility it is super easy to follow. I HIGHLY recommend reading the forums and asking tons of questions. Dr. Fehring provides so much information and if you chart online he has access to your complete history so he can tailor his response to your individual situation. Also, there is a Facebook group called NFP Catholic Style and there are a few Marquette instructors and lots of users ready and willing to answer any questions. Good luck!!

  27. Melissa says

    I agree with the the idea of using NFP as a lifestyle. I like the term Fertility Awareness (not FAM) and Fertility Care. Learning about your fertility regardless of your intention (to avoid or achieve) is empowering. It helps women understand their feminine genius. It’s understanding and living according to the natural law. I encourage couples to always chart their cycles whether it be for avoiding, achieving, or health maintenance. This helps women avoid the contraceptive mentality of only charting when wanting to avoid and empowers them to take charge of their reproductive health. A recent article on Medscape encourages all women of reproductive age to chart their cycles in some way because it provides information that carries weight in a clinical setting. They used the term fertility literacy.

  28. EP says

    We learned the STM before getting married, but didn’t use it to avoid pregnancy until I was post-partum from my first babe. I had the lovely “continuous discharge” (OMG overshare alert), which made figuring out when I was fertile tricky at first. We ended up needing to abstain for a couple weeks longer than we had planned at first, so that I could work with an instructor and figure it out my particular fertility signs. After that, it wasn’t a big deal. There was more need to abstain than I’d like (even after we figured out my signs), but thankfully we only needed to use it for about 6 months or so. Baby #2 is coming any day now! :)

    I loved this series. It’s really the best on NFP that I’ve seen. I’m sure a ton of good has and will continue to come from it! God bless.

  29. Adele says

    I learned from Taking Charge of your Fertility simply because it was the first book I encountered. It was required reading for my midwifery education. I tried to chart coming off hormonal birth control which didn’t work (My cycles were a mess, I was a mess). We gave it a half hearted try after our first child (I had 18 months of lactational amenorrhea) and were pregnant on my first cycle, miscarried and conceived again the next month. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I was sick all nine months with both pregnancies and developed some serious food aversions. So now we are using, well my own version of mucus. I have very clear mucus sign now (my second is two and a bit). We are trying to restore my health before the next little one (build up my nutrition and a food stash in the freezer) but we’re not worried. Babies come when they come which is apparently a pretty radical idea for alot of my friends and family.

    • says

      Ugh. With you about your family and friends. I don’t think that I know even one female, child-bearing-age adult who ISN’T on birth control. Reeee-diculous!

      I also learned using Taking Charge of Your Fertility- charting coming off of birth control was tricky, but after a few months, I think I’ve started recognizing my own body signals. That’s what I think is important about this lifestyle- the guidelines were really really helpful at first, but they’re just guidelines. It’s just ideas to help you figure out what your body might be saying, but your body is different from anyone else’s. Like, when I’m stressed out, I get my period EARLY. Instead of delayed ovulation, my body decides not to menstruate at all. It’s all about recognizing signs!

  30. says

    With the reality of baby #2’s birth so close at hand, my husband and I are having that conversation again about what to do afterwards. For our own physical/mental health reasons we are strongly considering Chubby being our “last” baby and I’m struggling so much with how to NOT succumb to modern medicine’s pressures to make that a permanent event. As much as the thought turns my stomach, the part of me that is selfish and human is toying with what that could mean. I think Marquette sounds perfect for us at this point but I just get mad that insurance companies who will pay for abortificant medications- pills, patches, shots, etc, won’t pay for a monitor and dip sticks (how is a fertility monitor and sticks monthly different then a glucose monitor and sticks to them? they both serve a health/preventative medicine purpose) when the long term health benefits of not paying for the side effects down the road would pay off GREATLY. I know that even in dark times the light is ahead, and I’m holding onto what Pope Benedict XVI said: “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” Only God knows what that greatness is, and I am to be open to it – but sometimes that’s hard. I am so grateful for all that I learned during this series because I feel that I have options to explore to make the best decisions for myself and my family – be it small or large or in between.

  31. James says

    I agree that Fertility Awareness is more accurate. It also separates the method from the theology. NFP can get stuck in a “Catholic ghetto”, which I believe has kept it from being more mainstream.

  32. says

    So. I was using a ClearBlue monitor/Marquette until recently. Maybe you’ll have an easier time of it since your cycles are back, but I found it a little difficult to use the breastfeeding protocol, since you’re essentially trying to hack the machine to do something that it doesn’t want to do. My self-diagnosis is that I have several gearing-up attempts before I actually ovulate (and correspondingly super-long cycles), and the monitor would bump me up to Peak, then I wouldn’t menstruate after the appropriate luteal phase, and would be confused as to how to handle the protocol, especially when I would be getting mucus signs of fertility and the monitor wasn’t even asking me to test because it thought I had already ovulated! Anyway, I’m pretty sure it’s a great option for someone without my idiosyncrasies, so good luck! Oh, and find someplace safe to put it, especially if, like us, you only have one family bathroom. A moment with my one year old and the toilet was the final nail in the coffin for my Marquette experience :-(

  33. says

    Yes, I’ve enjoyed reading the series! Thanks for doing it! My husband and I used contraceptives (the Pill) for the first 18 months of our marriage. We are so grateful to have found NFP – whatever you best like to call it. We use the sympto-thermal method, learned it via the Couple to Couple League, and we’ve loved it so much that we’re now trained teachers for CCL – looking forward to teaching our first class soon! We used it successfully for the first 18 months to postpone pregnancy while he was starting law school, and we used it successfully postpartum, as well, for a couple of months before using it successfully to achieve =); but I understand that it helped that my fertility didn’t return until after 13 months, when our son weaned. In any case, besides just sharing my own story, I am thankful for the description and first-hand accounts from users of the other methods. I love knowing that there are different methods that are right for different people and their bodies, and I’m very happy that you’re endeavoring into a new method – while a bit scary, it’s also so exciting. Keep God close!

    I’ve shared certain entries of this series with friends using a method other than the one I know best, and they found it helpful to some of their questions, too! Particularly postpartum ;) that can be tricky!

  34. says

    I’m with you re: terminology. I’m not a fan of the term NFP because I think it’s better not to be “plan” oriented, in the sense of “controlling” something that is, in fact, a blessing and gift from God and quite beyond what we control (life!)! I’d rather call it fertility awareness. One can be aware of her fertility and work with it towards certain ends but still be very much open to the plan of God, not attached to her own “plans!”

    • says

      Well said! We all have our own ideas of what would be best for our families, but sometimes we forget that we selected NFP because we wanted to invite God into our plans. When we discovered that I was pregnant with my youngest boy, I was suprised that God did not agree with my plans, but I quickly realized the beauty of his plan and was glad I had chosen a path that allowed him to intervene.

  35. says

    I’m with you re: terminology. I’m not a fan of the term NFP because I think it’s better not to be “plan” oriented, in the sense of “controlling” something that is, in fact, a blessing and gift from God and quite beyond what we control (life!)! I’d rather call it fertility awareness. One can be aware of her fertility and work with it towards certain ends but still be very much open to the plan of God, not attached to her own “plans!”

  36. says

    We used the Marquette method successfully after my first daughter was born. I did breastfeed her for the first year, but not ecologically, because I was a medical resident and had to go back to my 80-hour-a-week job when she was 5.5 weeks old (and after a few months we ended up supplementing because, damn, pumping that much sucks). She was 19 months old before I got pregnant again. Now, postpartum for the second time, we’re using a combination of the Marquette method and the Sympto-thermal method (which is what we used before my first pregnancy), via the MyFertilityMD app, which I really like so far – though the app doesn’t necessarily take into account that I still have lactational amenorrhea, so I use it with a dash of common sense added in (and the knowledge that, now that I’m no longer a resident, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if we had closely-spaced babies). Good luck!

  37. Mary says

    I love my CBM! My body is not really ‘normal’ much like your Marquette guest poster said of hers, and I just hated trying to do the sympto-thermal method post-partum (seriously, what post-partum woman gets the unbroken early morning sleep necessary to get an accurate reading?), so the Marquette method saved NFP for me. I almost gave up after two years of struggling to learn mucous and thermal signs with my oddly spaced cycles and fertility issues. It is pricey, but cheaper than another baby ;-). I have other friends with much more predictable bodies though, who found Billings or Creighton user friendly. It is nice to hear all the other women’s stories.

  38. Marie says

    I have PCOS and conceive very easily. My regular cycles look a lot like post partum cycles. We’ve learned STM, CrMS, and BOM. Of those 3, Billings has been the most effective and flexible for us. Being able to establish a Basic Infertile Pattern has been a Godsend. It allows us to identify whether each day is fertile or infertile. That approach means the unpredictability of my cycle doesn’t matter, it’s a day by day evaluation anyway. By flexible I mean: it’s required the least amount of abstinence when adhering to the avoiding guidelines – especially during post partum transitions. We did try it without much support in the beginning and were not very confident. We thought we understood it, but we really didn’t know what we were doing. Re-learning it from an instructor, with follow up, made all the difference. I read up on Marquette cuz it looks interesting, but with my long cycles and multiple attempts at ovulation each cycle, the avoiding guidelines would require much more abstinence than we are experiencing now – with the same effectiveness rate and an added cost. So no real advantage in it for us. But that’s not to say it isn’t a good fit for other couples, with more regular cycles.

    I agree 100% that NFP is a lifestyle. It’s a whole different mindset. And I think it’s great that we have lots of NFP options to choose from because different couples will have different preferences.

  39. Alice says

    My husband and I did the Creighton Model for NFP and found it worked well. We used it to avoid pregnancy while paying down debt for around 2 years. Along with prayer, we used it to concieve our 2nd child which is due next April. NFP works great and you inevitably end up talking and praying more in deciding to “go for it” or avoid. It really makes intimacy intimate!

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