It’s National Women’s Health Awareness Week and we expect to see media messages about how women have been empowered through contraception. But is contraception really best for female health? Is shutting down a perfectly healthy reproductive system truly empowering our daughters, wives and mothers?
What if there was a form of empowerment that elevated women in all of their glory? What if there was a kind of empowerment that brought men and women together as collaborators, rather than setting them against each other as competitors? What if human fertility — and thus all human life — were embraced rather than sabotaged?
Turns out there is, and the Church has been onto it the whole time (surprise, surprise). And while natural family planning (NFP) gets a bad rep from being wrongly conflated with the Rhythm method, when modern NFP is properly understood it makes contraception unthinkable for many couples.
NFP works by tracking biomarkers to determine fertility on a day-to-day basis. These fertility signs are healthy symptoms that are directly related to the different phases of a woman’s cycle — no matter how regular or irregular the cycle may be. Combining what we know about male and female fertility, NFP can identify the times each month when a couple is likely to conceive, therefore empowering couples to work with their God-given monthly phases of fertility and infertility — rather than against them — to discern and either wait or co-create with God.
Tracking is 100% natural and organic, meaning no dangerous chemicals go into the woman’s body, none come out and none are deposited into the environment.
Better yet, because tracking these symptoms (called charting) develops a deeper bodily awareness, NFP often highlights existing health problems (sometimes benign and sometimes serious, like PCOS) and can point to possible cures — all of which hormonal contraceptives would have chemically covered up or masked.
How can there be National Women’s Health Week discussions that ignore the fact that most women are completely unaware of the state of their reproductive health in the first place? How can a woman — or a couple, at that — be empowered when she’s being told that fertility is a disease and her normal, functioning reproductive system should be medicated?
The kind of cooperation involved in practicing NFP helps guide a husband and wife to work as one flesh and makes God a constant presence in the building of their family. After all, as Ven. Fulton Sheen would tell us, it takes three to get married. We’re not exactly likely to find this level of human unity in a box of condoms or an IUD, yet it’s exactly the kind of total loving surrender the human person naturally longs to make.
Choose for yourself which is more empowering for women: dependence on devices and chemicals, or greater body awareness and the freedom to love fully. Let’s hear more about the latter this week!