NFP: For All Seasons of Life 

Does practicing NFP have benefits for those outside the childbearing years?  Based on personal experience and studies in literature, I would argue it does.  NFP is a life skill that has benefits well beyond those focused on assisting the decision to postpone or conceive.

For couples using NFP, I have documented the benefits of improved communication, self-control, mastery, and promotion of a better relationship.  But I think NFP has several other “spill over” benefits as well.

Easing the Conversation

Practitioners of NFP have stated the benefit that their use of NFP makes the discussion of sexuality with their children easier (1).  My own personal experience in having “the talk” with our sons is consistent with this.  Beyond this, one of our daughters had some cycle irregularities as a teen. These were improved and better managed by her starting to track her cycles.  Because she understood how her body worked, she was able to effectively decline the multiple invitations from physicians to put her on the pill. She may have even convinced one or two to rethink their knee jerk response to teen period complaints by prescribing birth control.

Likelihood of NFP Use

Reinforcing the benefits of NFP knowledge long before one needs family planning, a recent study surveyed married couples in two Catholic dioceses to look for factors that predicted NFP use in marriage and found one of the strongest predictors was knowledge and understanding of NFP long before serious dating began (2).  The Teen Star program has studies on the impact of teaching girls and boys about fertility. These studies document sustained durations of chastity and significant improvement in commitment to secondary chastity-a true benefit.  One can only speculate if most American teens and pre-teens really understood their fertile cycle, how this might have impacted the current epidemic of gender confusion.

Relationship-Improving

At the other end of the spectrum, during those years of marriage after the fertile years, there is less objective data on the benefits of NFP.  However, the relationship-improving effects of NFP use and the demonstrated reduction on likelihood of divorce among married couples who have ever-used NFP (3,4) imply that NFP use in the fertile years builds a solid foundation for continued benefits after menopause.  Post-menopausal couples may no longer chart. However, the attitudes and skills learned from previous charting continue to bring life-giving, marriage-building benefits. These benefits are just manifest in ways other than children.

NFP has benefits for all seasons of life. The authors of a study mentioned above said it this way; “NFP can be viewed as theology in practice and understood as dyadic-level spirituality for couples in the Catholic Church.”(2)


References:

1-Unseld M, Rötzer E, Weigl R, Masel EK and Manhart MD (2017) Use of Natural Family Planning (NFP) and Its Effect on Couple Relationships and Sexual Satisfaction: A Multi-Country Survey of NFP Users from US and Europe. Front. Public Health 5:42. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2017.00042. Benefit.

2- Christopher Gross & Julia Klausli (2023) Natural Family Planning for Catholic Couples: Relationship Functioning, Prevalence, and Predictors of Use. Integratus, 1(2), 111–129, 2023.

3. Barroilhet, S., Sen˜oret, C., Mallea, X., Fritsch, R., Vohringer, P., & Arraztoa, J. A. (2018). Marital functioning in couples practicing periodic abstinence for family planning. The Linacre Quarterly, 85(2), 16–155. Benefit. https://doi.org/10.1177/0024363918764950

4. Michael D. Manhart & Richard J. Fehring (2023): The Association of Family Planning Methods With the Odds of Divorce Among Women in the 2015–2019 National Survey of Family Growth, Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2023.2179837


Written for Family Foundations by Dr. Mike Manhart, CCL Board President.