I’m posting today on a subject very close to my heart. I know that probably half of my readers think this topic has nothing to do with you, but I would like to invite each of you to take time to read it, even though it’s aimed at natural family planning users, because the point I’m making in the post is that the birth control-natural methods debate is not just about religion–that there are many, many reasons why reasoning, thinking people think natural methods of family planning are way better than artificial ones. And you might be surprised to see that those reasons echo concerns that are felt across our society, by religious and non-religious alike. At the least, I hope you’ll read in order to get a different perspective on this than what you may have heard of before.
Loved your article. While my personal conversion with regard to Church teaching needed to be on the theological battleground, I realize not everyone is of that mindset. I think the biggest things that have helped people in my sphere of influence are understanding the impact of contraceptives in our bodies and the impact on the environment with artificial hormones in our water supply. Unfortunately, I really struggle with our society’s penchant for vasectomies…it’s difficult to reach people who have already decided on that when the time comes. They see it as a non-issue. It makes me sad.
Nice article, Kate. My hubby and I chose not to do the NFP class. I think the fact that he is not Catholic had a lot to do with that. He is not opposed to NFP, in fact we practice it, but not for theological reasons. In fact, I don’t think I could ever do it simply based on theological reasons, and I did begin because of environmental reasons (and the fear that the years I spent on the pill – for medical reasons – had already made me unable to ever conceive). So yeah, promoting it from other non-theological perspectives is a great way to get the word out there.
As someone who is not religious and a regular user of medical birth control, my thoughts are this. There are two major factors that have kept me from ever considering NFP. First, effective rate. When the goal is to prevent pregnancy, hearing that a pill is 99.9% effective is a huge reassurance. What is the effective rate of NFP? Before I stopped to think about it I think I just figured it was a 50/50 rate – the same odds I would assume would come from not using any method. But I don’t think I gave due credence to the “planning” part of NFP, and when that is taken into consideration, it must be more than 50/50 odds of pregnancy. In fact, you seem to use it quite effectively, which really makes me curious what its effectiveness is. Unfortunately, for me to think about it logically and scientifically, and for me to weigh NFP as a serious option, I need equal information. I need to know its rate of effectiveness. The second thing that always made me stop short is just plain ignorance. What is NFP? I have no clue! I really have no idea what you do – I imagine constant body examinations and meticulous calendar entries to track your ovulation cycle, but really I’m ignorant to the whole process. If you ever wanted to begin to court people like me, those are the two places I would start. Help us compare apples to apples. If the scientific community is courting us through rates of effectiveness, NFP advocates need to provide theirs. Help familiarize us with what NFP involves. Most of us probably have no real idea. And remember: those of us using medical birth control methods are likely only concerned about one thing: preventing pregnancy! If you want to win the debate, tell us how easy/effective/trustworthy NFP is. That’s what the big pharmaceutical companies are doing. And while I know that’s not a fair fight, that’s also reality. I will say this: the idea of letting my body function naturally with as little outside influence as possible really appeals to me. I don’t like taking medication unless absolutely necessary, and I feel that way about birth control, too. I would use a natural method if I felt confident I wasn’t going to end up with a surprise child.
Whew! Sorry I didn’t get to respond yesterday–I was offline all day.
The effectiveness thing is huge. People tend to think that we’re pushing “rhythm,” which didn’t work well at all–in our classes we have a chart we analyze with rhythm rules vs. modern NFP rules to illustrate why it didn’t work. But probably the best info I can give on effectiveness is here:
Click to access humrep.dem003.full.pdf
or if you don’t want to wade through all the scientific data, it can be summed up here (but this is CCL’s summation, which is why I wanted to give the original independent study above):
There’s also this helpful chart, which, though shared by CCL, is based on a chart from a contraceptive technology textbook:
NFP families are sometimes bigger, but, like ours, it’s generally b/c we chose to make it that way. That’s not to say there aren’t any “surprises,” because there are, just like there are on hormonal b.c. –nothing is 100%.
CCL does a great job teaching a natural way of planning families (www.ccli.org), but for those uncomfortable with a religious dynamic, which is definitely an integrated part of the CCL package, you might be more comfortable with Toni Weschler’s “Taking Charge of your Fertility” (http://www.tcoyf.com/). It’s been a number of years since I looked at her book but at the time it was very, very close to the sympto-thermal NFP we teach. My only hesitation is that she allowed for barrier methods during the fertile time, and all moral considerations aside, barrier methods are generally less effective.
Interesting stuff, Kate. I appreciate the education. Thanks for the links!