Like we talked about in our initial blog post, there were many things my husband and I talked about prior to getting married, but two things that were most important. Last week we talked about the first of the two; Finances and gaining financial peace. This week we are going to cover the topic of intimacy in marriage, the use of birth control and what we decided to use in regards to our own marriage relationship.
First let’s start by talking about how we got to this place of searching for better options. Like we mentioned previously, when my husband and I met, I did not know the Lord and he had fallen away from the Lord. When we met, I was an avid user of hormonal artificial contraceptive prescribed by my doctor and my husband and I were intimate. As our relationship grew and we developed a relationship with God, our hearts changed and we decided we no longer needed to take any sort of birth control because we wanted to abstain from intimacy until we were married. Therefore, I quit taking the birth control and we remained abstinent until our wedding. During our engagement, we thought it was important to discuss birth control options and what we would do once we were married. A married couple who are close friends of ours who were mentoring us discussed with us some things that we should think about regarding marriage, one of which being intimacy in marriage and birth control. They were open and honest with us and shared that they had learned about NFP prior to getting married themselves and had used it, successfully, all 11 (now 12) years of their marriage and three children later. They began using it when they got married and they haven’t looked back since.
What is NFP exactly?
Natural family planning (NFP) is fertility awareness, which is simply knowledge of a couple’s fertility. It is a means of reading the body’s signs of fertility and infertility; applying this knowledge through the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) is over 99% effective in postponing pregnancy. A married couple’s virtuous application of this knowledge either to try to achieve a pregnancy or to postpone a pregnancy is called responsible parenthood.
Practicing NFP is 100% natural — there are no drugs, chemicals or devices involved, which is one reason many today find it to be a positive and refreshing alternative to contraceptive methods. NFP honors our dignity as persons by respecting the natural rhythms and functions of the body. It is very common to hear couples who use NFP speak of an increased awe and respect for femininity and their mutual fertility, and a greater sense of empowerment through self-knowledge (ccli.org)
We use what is called the “Sympto-Thermal” Method of fertility tracking; not to be confused with the rythym method, as every woman’s cycle is not the same and every woman’s cycle varies even month to month.
“The Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) taught by CCL is based on three key signs of fertility: cervical mucus, basal body temperature and changes in the cervix. By observing and recording these signs you and your spouse will be able to identify Phase I, II and III and therefore know if you’re in a time of fertility or infertility.
These signs are easily noticed by any woman who has learned to watch for them. It takes only a minute or two each day to record them in CCL’s mobile app, CycleProGo, or on a paper chart. The chart provides a daily record that can be used to identify the days of fertility and infertility. Once the fertile and infertile days have been identified, couples apply “rules” that they learn in class (and that are explained in CCL’s Student Guide) to frame the boundaries between the phases of the cycle.” (ccli.org)
What are the three phases of a woman’s cycle?
“The female fertility cycle can be divided into three phases.
Phase I begins on the first day of menstrual bleeding, and normally includes a few infertile days after menstruation.
Phase II begins as soon as a woman’s daily observations detect the onset of signs of fertility. This fertile time lasts up to and a few days after the time of ovulation (when an egg is released from the ovary). In a normal, healthy woman, Phase II will typically last up to 12 days.
Phase III is the post-ovulation time and is a time of infertility. Phase III typically accounts for the last one-third of a healthy woman’s cycle.
The three phases of the female cycle are the result of the interplay of four key hormones – estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. These hormones are also responsible for the fertility signs that a woman can learn to observe.”
So why did we decide to used NFP instead of alternative methods to birth control?
My husband and I decided that we didn’t want the responsibility of responsible birth control to fall just on one person or the other. We also realized that the effects of using birth control long term can have lasting effects that can cause issues with conception when a couple is ready to start having a family. In regards to the health issues alone, we decided that an all natural option was our best bet. So we signed up and took the class, which our friends are certified to teach and they helped us understand it better and how to use it effectively.
Upon beginning the classes and trying to track the necessary information, it was definitely overwhelming and confusing, and it usually is until you get into the swing of things and actually know what you’re doing. Now that we have been charting for a year and a half and actually implementing the use of NFP for the last year of our marriage, we have found it to be easier to track and understand as time goes on. I’m sure there are people out there who doubt if it works, or are skeptical or scared to try it out but I assure you it does work. I am also sure that there are some people who would ask if there are any drawbacks to using NFP over other alternatives, and there definitely pros and cons to every decision you make. One reason we ultimately chose to use NFP was because we wanted to honor God with our marriage relationship and with our family. We feel that using NFP promotes trust in God and using our bodies how He intended them to be.
NFP, although all-natural and 100% cost effective (aka free), it can definitely be taxing, as you have to take certain periods of time and abstain from sexual intimacy if you don’t want to get pregnant. However, that has never caused us to choose anything differently. Is it frustrating, at times, that I cannot be with my spouse whenever I want? Absolutely! Are my health and well-being along with the communication that is built between my husband and I worth it? Yes.
My husband and I have had to learn over the last year of marriage, how to communicate regarding our charting and how to take time to spend together when we aren’t able to be physically intimate. We have found that during times of fertility we simply take care to enhance our marriage through reading marriage books to strengthen our marriage. We love the times of spending intimate time together that doesn’t involve physical intimacy just as much as we enjoy spending time together when we are able to be physically intimate. The biggest challenge that we have faced using NFP is making physically intimacy a priority during times of infertility. We love the freedom that NFP has given us and the way it has strengthened our marriage and we highly encourage married couples and engaged couples to look into this option for themselves.
You can find more information by visiting CCLI.ORG. Feel free to shoot us an email with any questions you may have, and we will do our best to answer them for you. Have a great day and God Bless!
Keep an eye out next week for a special blog post!