Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter
August 1, 2023 // Diocese

Natural Family Planning Method Helps Married Couples Achieve or Postpone Pregnancy

Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter

Many little girls dream about the day they get married to their prince charming. They pick out flower colors, consider the friends who will participate, and envision that special moment dad walks them down the aisle. Once the dream becomes a reality, in-laws want to know when they will hear the pitter-patter of little feet and the pressure begins for when a couple will have a baby.

Having children is a big choice in a couple’s life. Are they ready? Is it the right time? These are questions that only a couple can discern for themselves. One way the Catholic Church can assist during this process is sharing education on the Natural Family Planning (NFP) method.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) designates the last week of July each year as National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.

“Fertility awareness-based methods of family planning, commonly called Natural Family Planning or NFP, are those which teach couples to observe and interpret on a daily basis the biomarkers of fertility that naturally occur in a woman’s body. This awareness of their fertility enables couples to identify the days on which conception is most likely should they desire to conceive a child, or in contrast, to refrain from sexual relations on the days when conception is possible should they desire to avoid a pregnancy,” shared Lisa Everett, Director for Marriage & Family Ministry with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

According to the USCCB, NFP is a general title for the scientific, natural, and moral methods of family planning that can help married couples either achieve or postpone pregnancy. The methods are based on the observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to prevent pregnancy. Since the methods of NFP respect the love-giving (unitive) and life-giving (procreative) nature of the conjugal act, they support God’s design for married love.

Information on the USCCB website is that the NFP method is focused on one or more signs of female fertility. It says they can be grouped into three categories: Cervical Mucus Methods (CMM), Sympto-Thermal Method (STM), and Sympto-Hormonal Method (SHM).

CMM is the method that observes cervical mucus and is commonly called the “Ovulation Method” or “OM.” In NFP education, a woman learns how to identify the normal, healthy, cervical mucus which indicates the days that sexual intercourse is most likely to result in pregnancy. A number of NFP providers teach a variety of approaches to the observation and charting of cervical mucus (e.g., Billings Ovulation Method Association – USA, Creighton Model FertilityCare™ Centers, Family of the Americas, etc.).

The STM method observes several signs of fertility and cross-checks two or more of the signs to pinpoint ovulation and is commonly called the Sympto-Thermal Method or STM. STM typically combines charting of the Basal Body Temperature (BBT) and cervical mucus with other optional indicators, such as changes in the cervix and secondary fertility signs. A number of NFP providers teach a variety of approaches to the observation and charting of these signs (e.g., Couple to Couple League, Northwest Family Services, various diocesan programs, etc.).

SHM is a method that observes several signs of fertility and adds the use of an ovulation predictor kit (OPK) or fertility monitor. Similar to the STM, this approach adds the self-detection of reproductive hormones in the urine with the assistance of an OPK or fertility monitor. Various diocesan NFP programs make use of the SHM as well as Marquette University’s Institute for NFP (Marquette Model).

“The Church promotes natural family planning (NFP) because it respects the inseparable link between the love-giving and life-giving purposes of sex. By teaching couples to identify scientifically-based biomarkers in a woman’s body which indicate the presence or absence of fertility, NFP enables a couple to prayerfully discern on a regular basis God’s will for the growth of their family and then to identify the days on which conception is possible should they desire to achieve or avoid a pregnancy,” noted Everett. “International studies confirm that when spouses are properly instructed and follow the rules carefully, NFP can have an effectiveness rate of 98 to 99 percent. In addition, many couples find that the mutual respect, regular communication, shared responsibility, and self-control which the practice of NFP requires strengthens their relationship with one another. Most importantly, couples who use NFP have the assurance that they are approaching the gift of their fertility in accordance with their faith.”

For more information about options for learning NFP either in person or online, visit the diocesan website at for an English version and for a Spanish version.

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