Our culture can get pretty obsessive with organic and all-natural foods. Cereal boxes proudly display the presence of “whole grains,” and packages of fruit snacks will state if “real fruit juice” is used. Even if I don’t often get into the “healthy” stuff, I always feel a little bit better about myself when I eat foods that have the “all-natural” label slapped on them.
Yet there’s a strange paradox in our culture: How many people spend gobs of money on organic or natural food at the store, but, in the bedroom, use condoms or take birth control pills? While they are helping their bodies with healthy foods, these people are harming their bodies with birth control! From weight gain to shortness of breath, and from depression to blood clots, hormonal birth control pills can create many adverse side effects for the women who take them.
I’d be willing to bet that many people don’t realize the harmful side effects of birth control pills, or even know any other way to handle their sexuality. These people have been handed the message of condoms and birth control since their young teenage and adult days, to the point where it’s a typical part of sex.
Just like our obsession with natural foods, we need to get fired up for all-natural sex. No condoms, no contraception. What I propose is something called Fertility Awareness Methods, also known as Natural Family Planning, or NFP. These three little letters can be largely misunderstood, and sometimes evoke fear or confusion from people: “NFP? That means no sex when a woman is fertile. ‘No sex’ is no fun, so no thank you!” Or perhaps, “NFP…that’s just a married couple thing. I don’t need to know, and I don’t care.”
What many people don’t realize is that NFP is much more than a form of periodic abstinence. Furthermore, even single people can learn about NFP, to prepare for their own marriages later in life. Natural Family Planning is used by couples who, for some serious reasons, want or need to avoid getting pregnant. But it’s also a way for couples to communicate together about the woman’s fertility, so that they may give themselves to each other in the most complete way possible.
Why is NFP a Big Deal?
It’s all-natural. There are several methods of NFP, and all of them are natural. Each method involves monitoring a woman’s fertility signs, and charting these signs to detect her fertile and infertile times of each cycle. The type of NFP my husband and I practice, the Sympto-Thermal Method, has three fertility signs that we monitor each day. No hormonal contraceptives or artificial barriers, just observing the natural way that my body was made.
It’s effective. If a couple diligently charts the woman’s fertility signs and follows the particular rules accordingly, Natural Family Planning methods effectively show the woman’s fertile and infertile times to the couple, so they can try to avoid or achieve pregnancy quite well. When done properly, Natural Family Planning can even be more effective than many contraceptives.
It’s selfless, not selfish. When couples use any type of contraceptive, they are sending a message with their bodies: “I give you my body—but not my fertility.” Contraceptive sex encourages people to use each other for pleasure. When couples engage in all-natural sex, with no contraceptives, their actions and bodies communicate as well: “I give you my whole self, including my fertility.” Here, spouses make complete gifts of themselves.
It strengthens communication. Ideally, the couple records the woman’s signs together, so they are both aware of the woman’s fertility. For example, I have to take my temperature every morning. But I don’t have to wake up and do this while my husband is peacefully asleep; he wakes up, gives me the thermometer, and later records my temperature. We’re in it together, and we communicate openly and freely about anything, including sexuality.
It deepens intimacy. Communicating together about the woman’s fertility deepens marital intimacy. NFP practicing couples, through their continual communication and working together, grow in sharing their bodies, hearts, and love. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one of the major drawbacks of NFP is “Your partner must agree and cooperate.” However, instead of being a downfall to marriage, cooperation and intimacy between spouses will only help their love to grow. As NFP enriches a couple’s intimacy and cooperation, it also can be used to help women solve infertility problems, because women are in-tune with how their bodies naturally work. Many times, doctors prescribe birth control to “solve” various health problems—though they typically don’t solve the problems—when, if the woman understood how her body worked, natural methods could often be effectively used.
Admittedly, NFP can be hard sometimes. But, couples can take courage and celebrate this all-natural approach towards sexuality.
AnneMarie Miller is a geeky, weird, and fun-loving woman who enjoys the epic adventures of life in the Midwest with her husband. When she’s not reading, writing, or playing board games, AnneMarie avoids housework and reflects on life’s randomness on her blog, Sacrifice of Love (http://marianninja.blogspot.com).