Natural Family Planning helps keep marriages healthy

Maurer family photo
Provided: Kyle and MaryAnne Maurer belong to St. Joseph Church in Columbia.

Kyle and MaryAnne Maurer of Columbia knew even before they were married five years ago that they wanted God to play a central role in planning their future family, and that they wanted to follow Church teaching on the sanctity of life and not use contraception.

The couple learned about natural family planning at a Pre-Cana class they took in the Diocese of Charlotte, and knew immediately that it was right for them. They then learned and practiced different methods at different stages of their marriage. Initially they used the Sympto-Thermal method, and now they practice the Creighton model. Today, the Maurers are proud parents of two young boys and follow the Creighton model of NFP.

“An unintended benefit of this for us is that it has helped us with our communication,” Mrs. Maurer said. “We have an appreciation and understanding for natural fertility, and we know where we are at this season in our lives. It’s great when you are on the same page as a couple.”

The Maurers are a prime example of a success story when it comes to using natural family planning.

That increase in communication as well as spiritual and health benefits are among the reasons that NFP instructors and medical professionals who follow Church teaching encourage couples to consider natural family planning.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops even designated an entire week in July to promote awareness of NFP.

‘An unintended benefit of this for us is that it has helped us with our communication. We have an appreciation and understanding for natural fertility, and we know where we are at this season in our lives. It’s great when you are on the same page as a couple.’

MaryAnne Maurer

It’s a challenge in a culture that often promotes instant gratification and self-centeredness, and in a current medical climate where contraception is considered the norm when it comes to family planning. People like Kelli Ball, NFP coordinator for the Diocese of Charleston, have their work cut out for them. But the importance of the message is worth the effort, she said.

“Natural family planning is a key ingredient for a very healthy marriage because it fosters so many good things,” Ball said. “It helps couples to communicate, encourages sacrifice, self-mastery and honesty, and actually increases the intimacy between a husband and wife. It’s a way to promote authentic love between the couple.”

Ball said about half the couples she teaches about NFP seem to seriously consider it and follow up with instruction, but it’s hard to determine how many actually intend to go through with practicing it in their marriage.

“It’s a challenging message and definitely not what the world today portrays to us at all as the norm for marriage,” she said.

Ball uses a wide variety of resources to get the NFP message out to couples, including websites, YouTube videos and books that offer straight talk about what the Church teaches and why this is a good choice for them. Two of her favorites are “The Good News About Sex and Marriage” by Christopher West and “The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning” by Simcha Fisher.

Dr. Nancy Stroud, an OB-GYN at Summerville Women’s Care, stepped out in faith four years ago when she decided to promote natural family planning with her patients. She became an instructor in the Creighton model after studying at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Nebraska. It’s an unusual and challenging step for someone in her field, and she said she is thankful others at her practice have been supportive.

‘[Natural Family Planning is] also helpful in monitoring your own health situation because you can recognize symptoms. Artificial contraception, on the other hand, can suppress certain symptoms and keep women from getting to the root of a problem.’

Dr. Nancy Stroud, OB-GYN, Summerville Women’s Care

Stroud said most of her patients who seek to practice NFP are interested in becoming pregnant, and she wishes more women were familiar with how useful it is for other purposes, such as dealing with infertility and women’s health issues such as endometriosis. She knows single women who have started to practice the Creighton charting method because it helps them deal with problems such as irregular periods or severe premenstrual syndrome.

“One benefit of NFP for sure is the natural aspect of it — it is non-hormonal and non-invasive in terms of using devices inside your body,” she said. “It really does help you to learn your own reproductive system and how it works. Women can learn how to avoid pregnancy at certain times or how to space them out.”

“It’s also helpful in monitoring your own health situation because you can recognize symptoms. Artificial contraception, on the other hand, can suppress certain symptoms and keep women from getting to the root of a problem,” she added.

She said that couples who choose NFP must accept certain challenges.

“It does require more of a personal commitment in terms of something that you have to think about daily in cooperation with your partner,” Dr. Stroud said. “That is a big plus in a lot of ways because it helps couples to work together and explore other ways of expressing love in their relationship.”

That is a concept that the Maurers understand and fully embrace as they continue to make NFP a central part of their relationship.

“It’s important to be fully supportive and for the husband to have an active role in NFP as well as the wife,” Mr. Maurer said. “I would tell couples considering it to pray about it and try to understand that this is God’s plan for you. It puts your mind at ease when you are able to give yourself up to the idea that God is helping plan what is right for your family.”

Popular Natural Family Planning methods

Here is a look at some of the most common methods of natural family planning. NFP methods are most effective when one method is learned exclusively, taught and learned correctly, and with adherence to prescribed guidelines.

MethodDescription and featuresWhere to learnMore info
Creighton ModelBased on detailed cervical mucus observations. It is a standardized modification of the Billings Ovulation Method, so the two methods are very similar. NaProTechnology is based on the Creighton model, so it can help diagnose health issues.Introductory group sessions and individual classes by instructorsCreighton Model
Sympto-Thermal MethodBased on basic cervical mucus observations, basal body temperature, and cervix (optional). Cross-checking symptoms can provide extra confidence. Not as ideal if you have an irregular sleep schedule.Can take online classes through the Couple to Couple LeagueCouple to Couple League
Billings Ovulation MethodMonitors cervical mucus and sensations. Like Creighton, no temperature check is required, and it is inexpensive and simple to chart. Introductory via video chat or in person, follwup in person or through SkypeBOMA-USA
Billings LIFE
MarquetteUses Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor to measure hormone levels. Provides fast, accurate and clear information. Requires regular purchase of test strips, so it is more expensive than other methods.Online information at Marquette siteNFP at Marquette University

What couples have to say

What do real people who use NFP have to say about it? We talked with some couples who use these methods and asked for their perspectives and what it has done for their relationship with God and with each other.

Connie Ranks

Married to Michael Ranks. Member of St. Mary Magdalene Church, Simpsonville. One son, 2. Uses the Creighton Model.

“The Creighton model worked best for me when I was trying to conceive because it is a very visual method that helped me understand my cycle and the way things naturally work. The method itself is a real blessing.”

Madeline Montee

Married to Markus Montee. Member of Blessed Sacrament Church, Charleston. No children, married two years. Uses Creighton Model.

“The Creighton method has been wonderful for my husband and me as we focus on how to plan our family. I started the Creighton charting even before we were married and it helped me discover some very important things about my health, including the fact that I had very low progesterone levels. Because of NFP, I have been able to start on progesterone supplements which have helped my health. I also love the fact that NFP makes the couple’s fertility a team effort.”

Mary Mack

Married to Charles Mack. Lives in Gaffney, S.C. Two children. Uses the Sympto-Thermal method.

“One of the benefits of using this method is knowing how your body works and how hormones affect everything, not just fertility. They affect your moods, your appearance, everything … NFP requires sacrifice but a couple can build a very beautiful and strong relationship by working together and respecting each other.“