This is a guest post by Kelley of Over the Threshold in the Women Speak on NFP series. In this series you will hear from women using various methods of NFP, some to avoid pregnancy, some trying to conceive, and their experiences.
This series is not meant to be a substitute for any method of training in NFP! If you are interested in one of the methods introduced in this series, please contact a certified instructor for information about training in that method of NFP.
Hello, Carrots readers! My name is Kelley and I’m an NFP user. We have been using the Creighton model to postpone pregnancy for over three and a half years.
Our choice to use NFP came as a bit of a default choice for us originally. Because I have Lupus it was recommended that I not use hormonal birth control pills because I am at a higher risk for clots already and birth control pills increase that risk even more. Birth control pills work in 3 ways: suppressing ovulation, thinning cervical mucus, and preventing implantation of a fertilized egg (usually through thinning of the uterine lining). My gynecologist advised me that low-dose or progesterone-only pills do not carry the same amount of risk for clots (since it is the estrogen really that increases the risk for clots). However, I knew that low-dose and progesterone-only pills were also the pills that relied more heavily on preventing implantation of a fertilized egg because they are not as reliable at preventing ovulation. This was not okay with me. I was not Catholic, but I did not like to think a fertilized egg would be expelled from me because of my birth control. So, pills were out.
My husband is Catholic, but he left the whole matter up to me. I decided to give checking my temperature a try. I got a basal thermometer and tracked my temperature for a full six months. There was no discernable pattern or connection to my cycle. It’s possible that my Lupus was the reason for this since I have read that certain illnesses can cause abnormal fluctuations in temperature. I know couples who do rely solely on a temperature method, but in my opinion, there are way too many variables that can affect your temperature and if you are serious about avoiding pregnancy, I think you should always pair temperature with cervical mucus.
Then I decided that since the temperature method was out, condoms were in. I wasn’t really aware of other types of NFP so I didn’t really pursue it anymore. For three or four years I had carefully tracked my cycle and knew the minimum and maximum number of days per cycle so I determined based on that what the range of days for my ovulation would be (11-18) and I figured we would employ condoms only when it was really necessary. As it turned out, we pretty much relied only on my calendar method and used condoms only a few times ever because we really hated them. So there I was, using that ancient rhythm method!
When I went for my annual exam it was the first since I’d been married. I told the nurse practitioner that we were using NFP, even though technically I guess it was the rhythm method. I was interested in learning about a diaphragm so we talked about it and she gave me information to take home. She was obviously not really supportive of my NFP, but she had the decency to keep it to herself for the most part, unlike most doctors. I never did pursue the diaphragm because to me, barrier methods always seemed more risky than NFP unless you were also tracking your cycle at the same time. The failure rate of barrier methods is really pretty high, especially with diaphragms and the way I see it, if you aren’t having sex at all during the fertile period it must be more effective than a barrier method during the fertile period.
About six months after we were married we saw an announcement in our Catholic church’s bulletin for an NFP intro class. We decided to go mostly because I wanted to see if one of those methods would give us a shorter period to avoid! Ahh, newlyweds! It was just us and one other girl who was engaged. Kind of sad for the cathedral in the diocese of Atlanta! Anyway, it appeared we’d have even more days when sex was off limits so I wasn’t interested. But the instructor kept calling me and I finally decided to meet with her.
I showed up and she asked me about what kind of family planning we were doing and I think she was shocked to realize I was just doing rhythm and avoiding pregnancy was still very important to us. (My husband had just started grad school and I was only making $10-12/hour for the first few months.) She gave me a chart and taught me what I needed to do. We met pretty frequently to start and I got excited about it and couldn’t wait to count how many days there was from my “peak” to the start of my period. It was always 12–how cool! (I was an NFP nerd from the beginning.)
At every session she’d quiz me on the whole procedure, but I caught on really quickly. Creighton is based only on cervical mucus. You can chart other symptoms if you want, but that’s really all there is. I think it’s a really easy method to use and I’m glad I don’t have to wake up early to take my temperature no matter what. While regular cycles aren’t required for Creighton, I will admit that it probably helped me learn it a lot faster than I would have otherwise. Since you are only looking at the cervical mucus, it doesn’t matter what day it is at all so being irregular is irrelevant. It turned out that based on my normal fertile period and peak, my rhythm method was fine. It worked for those 6 months, but I didn’t have any irregularities. I have seen irregularities a couple of times and been able to see how that affects things.
Using NFP is not always easy, but I’ve really appreciated not having to add yet another drug to my long list. I also really enjoy knowing my cycle so well and I think it’s really intresting. I know it’s been easier for me having regular cycles and being a nurse as well, but I think lots of other women can benefit from the Creighton method. I hope to be an instructor one day, but it’s an awfully expensive method to learn so it hasn’t happened yet.
If you have any questions or would like to talk to me more about my NFP experience as a Protestant, you can find me at Over the Threshold. But these will be past experiences because this Easter I became Catholic 🙂
Kelley and her husband have been married for almost 4 years and currently live in Connecticut. Their blog has been chronicling their married life from day one. You can follow their adventures (living in 4 different states and Germany), read book and movie reviews, recipes, and a hodge-podge of other faith-based thoughts at Over the Threshold.
Zac here, Michele Boda’s husband (yesterday’s Creighton post). What a great story! Thank you Haley for posting and thank you Kelley for sharing your story! I can speak from experience that yes while Creighton is pricey for training the knowledge and experience are well worth the time, work and cost. I am so very proud of my wife for deciding to take on this task to help more women and couples in the Pittsburgh area understand how amazing their bodies are made and how rewarding the system can be to marriage. God bless you all in your ventures. Know you have prayers from the Boda’s. Peace.
KelleyAnnie @ Over the Threshold says
Thanks for all the tips! I guess I’ll get to work on it once we find a place to stay put for more than a year 🙂
Mary Susan says
Thanks so much for sharing! We’re planning to revamp/relearn our NFP methods, so this was very helpful. And welcome to the Catholic church, Kelley!! 🙂
KelleyAnnie @ Over the Threshold says
Thanks, Mary Susan!
Glad to read your testimony…thanks for sharing! I have super regular cycles, got trained on Billings but stopped charting a few months into marriage since we were ready for kids. Hoping to re-up on Creighton and maybe instruct someday- now that we have 2 little ones and lots going on, my brain needs a chart – and having husband in the charting loop will help us be on the same page about those “rhythms”! Happy Easter and Congrats on your entry into the Church!!!
KelleyAnnie @ Over the Threshold says
Awesome–good luck! And thank you!