5 NFP Myths Debunked

If you’ve spent more than 10 minutes on social media, you’ve probably gotten the sense that everyone’s an expert on everything, but no one seems to actually know what they’re talking about. As the Information Age makes mistakes easier and easier to spread, it’s all the more important that we take the time to dig until we find the facts.

We at CCL work to help others learn about and become educated about NFP. We know it well, and we have the evidence to back up our claims. So here are five of the biggest NFP myths debunked with research, experience and facts.

Myth: NFP is ineffective at preventing pregnancy.
Truth: Every major method of NFP has comparable correct-use effectiveness — and often even better typical-use effectiveness — than most forms of contraception.

Contrary to some widely-spread but flawed statistics, most NFP methods really do rank with contraceptives in terms of effectiveness, both for correct (perfect) and typical (human) use. In other words, NFP is as good as or better than any other pregnancy-avoiding method out there. [1] The only forms of contraception with failure ratings superior to NFP are irreversible surgical procedures and implants — both of which can create severe side effects. NFP is non-surgical, non-hormonal, non-foreign, and still does everything (and more!) those other methods do.

Myth: NFP means big families.
Truth: NFP means an attitude of generosity towards responsible parenthood.

Let’s get this through everyone’s head: There is no correct family size. The only correct family size is the one God wills for your family. Families with no children can be valid families. Families with four children can be valid families. Families with 16 children can be valid families. (After all, it is possible that some people actually like children.) For some parents, responsible parenthood means more children; for others, it means less.

It should be noted that parents can have selfish intentions when creating their families, and often involve lots of gray areas that we can’t explore here. Such questions on responsible parenthood and particular situations deserve special attention from a professional such as a priest or a counselor.

The NFP mentality — when lived out properly — means that family sizes vary based on a balance of circumstance and sacrifice. (For Christians, this balance is called the will of God. We look at our circumstances and God’s call for us to discern his will.) Every NFP family is different; some have no children, only one or two children or many children. Often, most if not all pregnancies are planned.  But even when children aren’t planned, the NFP mentality can allow spouses to adopt a healthier and more accepting outlook on surprises.

Myth: NFP makes every marriage a happy land of rainbows.
Truth: Marriage can be tough. NFP can be tough. The success of each depends on the dedication of the spouses.

Just in case no one’s mentioned it yet, let one thing about NFP be clear: NFP is not always easy for every couple.

It’s great, but that doesn’t change the fact that it can be really hard, just like anything in life that’s worth our time. Again, marriage can be tough. Family life can be tough. Spirituality can be tough. Stopping yourself from eating too many tacos can be (usually is) tough.

But that doesn’t mean we should shy away from the challenge.

It should be noted that everyone has a different experience with NFP. The struggles of some don’t take away from the truth that other couples find it easy and wonderfully joyful. By the same token, of course, easy experiences don’t discredit difficult ones, either.

Really, the ability of NFP to improve a marriage depends on the commitment of each spouse. If a married couple is aware of the challenges of matrimony and responsible parenthood and they stop at nothing to support each other, NFP will enhance their marriage and in turn their lives. If, however, a couple goes into marriage thinking it’s nothing more than a sexual free-for-all and NFP is an easy, “ethical” way to make that happen, they will be sorely disappointed at best.

NFP, properly practiced, is a school of love in which spouses of all ages continually learn the meaning of matrimony.

Myth: NFP doesn’t work with irregular cycles.
Truth: NFP works with all cycles.

There is an enormous difference between modern NFP and the infamous Rhythm Method from the 1930s. We only endorse modern NFP.

The rhythm method has several major drawbacks, not the least of which is that it’s not actually monitoring anyone’s cycles. It’s simply a method of counting days on a calendar, following the phases of a 28-day model cycle that was formerly assumed to be the “average” cycle of a woman. Turns out it’s not so average. At all. In fact, only about 12 percent of women’s cycles are 28 days long.[2] So for the other 78 percent of women — with longer, shorter, or irregular cycles — the rhythm method doesn’t accurately reflect fertile phases and therefore isn’t reliable.

Modern NFP, on the other hand, actively tracks and assesses each cycle independently in real time. NFP monitors hormonal changes by tracking the observable symptoms they create. These hormones are directly responsible for ovulation, so NFP can determine a woman’s fertility with scientific certainty, day by day, no matter how irregular her cycle may be.

Myth: NFP is just another method of birth control.
Truth: NFP is an organic choice-giving, lifestyle-improving, health monitor with positive spiritual and relational side effects.

The beauty of NFP is that there is so much more to it than avoiding pregnancy. NFP can also be used to achieve pregnancy, improve relationships, monitor well-being (since fertility is strongly linked to the overall health of women), promote better self-care, pinpoint possible illnesses before other symptoms arise, promote environmental awareness and even improve spirituality.

What pill or IUD can do all that?

— CCL Staff Member

[1] Manhart, M.D., Duane, M., Linda, A., Sinai, I., Golden-Tevald J. Fertility awareness-based methods of family planning: A review of effectiveness for avoiding pregnancy using SORT, Osteopathic Family Physician, 2013, 5(1), 2-8.

[2] Manhart, et al.