Questions and Answers

  1. What is Natural Family Planning (NFP)?
  2. How effective is NFP?
  3. What NFP methods are taught in the Archdiocese of Detroit?
  4. What are the similarities and differences between the Ovulation Method, Creighton Model FertilityCare and Sympto-Thermal Method?
  5. How does a person register for Natural Family Planning classes?
  6. What is the cost of Natural Family Planning classes?
  7. Do you have an introductory class for natural family planning?
  8. Is NFP complicated to learn and use?
  9. Can I learn NFP from information on the Internet or in books?
  10. Can NFP be used only by women with regular cycles?
  11. Can a condom be used during the time of fertility to avoid a pregnancy?
  12. Do couples using NFP engage in less conjugal love than the average American couple?
  13. How can NFP help a couple achieve a pregnancy?
  14. What are the advantages of using NFP?

Church Teaching on the Sacrament of Matrimony

  1. Who marries the couple?
  2. What makes marriage in the Catholic Church a Sacrament?
  3. What is conjugal love?
  4. What are the two purposes of the Sacrament of Matrimony?
  5. What three questions are asked at a Catholic wedding ceremony?
  6. When is a couple legally married for the State/for the Church?
  7. What does the Church say when abuse is present in a marriage relationship?
  8. What does society and the Church teach about cohabitation?
  9. What does having an "informed conscience" mean?
  10. Who is responsible for deciding the number of children in a family?
  11. What should parents take into consideration when deciding to limit family size?
  12. What does the Church teach about abortion, sterilization, contraception, and natural family planning?
  13. What are signs of fertility during a woman's cycle?
  14. Besides "egg" and "sperm", what other substance is needed for conception?
  15. What are the five major natural family planning methods and how does each determine the time of fertility?
  16. How can abstaining from sexual activity affect a marriage relationship?
  17. What is needed to gain a working knowledge of a natural family planning method?

1. What is Natural Family Planning (NFP)?

Natural family planning (NFP) is a way of avoiding or achieving a pregnancy without the use of drugs or devices. NFP is a way of life in which a couple recognizes their days of fertility and infertility, and together they decide if they will engage in conjugal love or abstain. There are many variations of NFP methods that can be placed under five broad categories: Sympto-Thermal, Mucus, Sympto-Hormonal, Temperature, and Rhythm.

The Sympto-Thermal Methods (1950s) are based on the changes in three physical signs experienced by the woman: cervical mucus, temperature and the position, texture, and opening/closing of the cervix.

The Mucus Methods (1960s) are based on the recognition of a specific type of cervical mucus present before ovulation and experienced at the vulva. Pregnancy cannot occur without fertile mucus. In addition to this primary sign of fertility, clients learn to recognize other external signs of fertility.

The Sympto Hormonal Methods (1990s) are based on the detection of specific levels of reproductive hormones utilizing a fertility monitor (or other device) alone or in conjunction with another sign of fertility such as mucus or temperature.

The Temperature Method (1940s) is based on the medical fact that a rise of the woman's basal body temperature (BBT) occurs a few days before or after ovulation.

Rhythm (1930s) is the oldest known NFP method. It is based on the fact that menstruation occurs about fourteen days after ovulation. Rhythm is based on a woman's history of past regular cycles. Rhythm is 75 to 85% effective in avoiding a pregnancy. There are several versions of the Rhythm Method suggesting different numbers for calculating the fertile time of the cycle. The Rhythm Method is effective when cycles are consistently regular.

The Sympto-Thermal, Mucus, Sympto-Hormonal and Temperature NFP methods are up to 99% method effective in avoiding a pregnancy and are based on signs of fertility and infertility that occur on a daily basis in the present cycle–not in past cycles. The Rhythm method is 75-85% effective in avoiding a pregnancy as it relies on predicting the fertile time of a cycle assuming the current and future cycles will be the same as past cycles.

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2. How effective is NFP?

Other than Rhythm, NFP is 96% - 99% method effective in avoiding a pregnancy. NFP is up to 99% method successful in spacing or limiting pregnancy when couples understand the method, are motivated to follow the method, and are taught by competent teachers. Archdiocese of Detroit NFP teachers are certified according to the Standards for Diocesan Natural Family Planning Ministry with a program of the committee for Pro-Life Activities with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It is necessary for couples to carefully follow the rules of the NFP method to achieve their family planning intention. Those who are strongly motivated to avoid pregnancy, and who follow the method strictly, find NFP very effective.


3. What NFP methods are taught in the Archdiocese of Detroit?

The Archdiocese of Detroit is fortunate to have NFP teachers from several different methods offer regularly scheduled classes in both in the Metro-Detroit area.

The Sympto-Thermal Method
The Ovulation Method
Creighton Model FertilityCare

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4. What are the similarities and difference between the Ovulation Method, Creighton Model FertilityCare and Sympto-Thermal Method?

All are methods accepted by the Catholic Church as valid natural family planning methods. All have method effectiveness rates of up to 99% for avoiding a pregnancy. All methods observe the primary sign of fertility, cervical mucus. All methods require charting and abstaining from conjugal love during the fertile time in the woman's cycle to avoid pregnancy.

Although the Ovulation Method teaches several external signs of fertility, it focuses on one major sign of fertility, cervical mucus as experienced at the vulva. Creighton Model FertilityCare teaches observation of the cervical mucus using a standardized descriptive model and works to identify biomarkers that can help diagnose and treat various reproductive disorders & infertility. The Sympto-Thermal Method correlates information from three signs of fertility: temperature, mucus and cervical changes as experienced at the cervix.

Differences between the the methods lie in the interpretation of the signs of fertility, and in the way ovulation is determined.


5. How does a person register for Natural Family Planning classes?

Register for a class by visiting the website or contacting the teacher listed to inquire about the fee, the class schedule and registration requirements.

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6. What is the cost of Natural Family Planning classes?

Fees for NFP classes vary by method and range upwards from $100. Fees typically include a defined number of classes or sessions, the learning materials, individual chart reviews & follow-ups. Each method is different, so ask the teacher what is included in the fee quoted.


7. Do you have an introductory class for natural family planning?

A two hour introductory presentation entitled Conjugal Love and Natural Family Planning is offered at various locations around Metro-Detroit. This class is especially designed with engaged couples in mind and is based on the recommendations of the Archdiocesan Tribunal. For a schedule of classes visit our website or contact nfp@aod.org. Registration is required. The fee for this presentation is $30 per couple.

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8. Is NFP complicated to learn and use?

Couples with little or no education use NFP successfully. The NFP methods are so simple that they are successfully used by couples of various cultures and educational backgrounds all around the world. (Kambic and Gray, Human Reproduction, 1988, p. 693). The blind use NFP effectively. During the NFP classes, couples are taught to recognize signs of fertility and infertility. With some NFP methods couples are also taught to read, record, and interpret temperatures.


9. Can I learn NFP from information on the Internet or in books?

Some NFP organizations and methods offer online or distance learning.

The best way to accurately learn an NFP method is to take classes with a competent, certified teacher. At classes, teachers can answer questions and clarify confusing information. Individual chart reviews can also be scheduled to help correct any misunderstanding or to reassure a couple that it is correctly applying the information & guidelines for the method.

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10. Can NFP be used only by women with regular cycles?

NFP can be used by any woman regardless of the length or variations in her cycle. NFP is effective with menstrual cycles of any length and any degree of irregularity such as during breastfeeding, pre-menopause, and other special circumstances. Modern NFP methods monitor the current, day-to-day signs of fertility and/or infertility. These body signs are specific and observable.

NFP allows a woman to understand her body's physical signals telling her when she is most likely to become pregnant. Knowing this, she and her spouse can effectively avoid or achieve a pregnancy.

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11. Can a condom be used during the time of fertility to avoid a pregnancy?

When avoiding a pregnancy, NFP couples use the time of fertility to spontaneously love each other in ways other than through genital contact.

Dr. Thomas Hilgers, developer of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, encourages the use of S-P-I-C-E. to express love through spiritual, physical (but non-genital), intellectual, creative/communicative and emotional pursuits during the fertile time.

The use of the condom results in additional discharges that may be confusing for the woman to determine when fertility stops resulting in additional days of required abstinence. The Catholic Church does not approve of the use of the condom or other forms of contraceptives and barriers.

In addition, condom effectiveness is based on the fact that the condom is used for every act of sexual contact – whether the woman is fertile or not. No studies are available to state the effectiveness of the condom when used only during the woman's fertile time.


12. Do couples using NFP engage in less conjugal love than the average American couple?

A comprehensive study showed that Americans on the average engage in sex 5-9 times a month. "No group in society, we find, has anything more than modest amounts of sex with a partner. And the group that has the most sex is not the young and the footloose but the married." (p.112) "We found that Americans fall into three groups. About a third have sex with a partner at least twice a week, a third have sex with a partner a few times a month, and the rest have sex with a partner a few times a year or have no sexual partners at all." (p.114)

(Sex in America: A Definitive Survey, Robert T. Michael, John H. Gognon, Edward O. Laumann, and Gina Kolata, Little, Brown and Company: New York, 1994.)

When avoiding a pregnancy, a couple is advised to abstain from intercourse and genital contact during the wife's menstruation (3-7 days), during the fertile time (6-8 days), and any day after genital contact before the fertile time. The numbers of days of abstinence for individual cycles vary. On the average there are more than the 5-9 days a month available for conjugal love without achieving a pregnancy.

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13. How can NFP help a couple achieve a pregnancy?

Charting the signs of fertility and infertility learned in an NFP class reveals for the couple the best time to engage in conjugal love to conceive a child.

Charting may reveal that ovulation is not occurring, or ovulation may be occurring and the hormone progesterone is not sufficient for a pregnancy to continue, or various biomarkers may be observed which may indicate a gynecologic or reproductive disorder. Physicians familiar with NFP or NaPro Technology can use the information obtained in an NFP chart to diagnose and treat many gynecologic conditions including, but not limited to, Endometriosis, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, fibroids, PMS, subfertility and infertility.

Stress and inadequate nutrition are additional reasons why couples may have difficulty achieving a pregnancy. These are discussed in the classes.


14. What are the advantages of using NFP?

  1. Safe medically - Since no drugs or chemicals are used, there are no physical side effects.
  2. Develop awareness of normal discharges - A valuable guide to gynecological health: knowing when a discharge is not normal, a woman can seek early medical attention.
  3. Develop awareness of fertility/infertility - During the fertile time, a pregnancy can be achieved. During the infertile time, pregnancy can be avoided with no need to use chemicals or devices.
  4. Appreciate reproduction and children - Encourages respect for the male and female body. Children are recognized as "gifts".
  5. Plan to achieve a pregnancy - At least one out of four couples have an infertility concern. Knowing when the 6-8 days of fertility exist enhances the possibility of pregnancy.
  6. Exercise responsible parenthood - Parents can act responsibly by knowing the time of fertility. They then choose to achieve or avoid a pregnancy taking into consideration their physical, economic, psychological and social conditions.
  7. Enhance communication - Open communication about times of fertility and infertility encourages open communication in other aspects of life.
  8. Promote romance - Romance is promoted as an essential part of a committed marriage relationship. Abstinence becomes a positive experience.
  9. Morally acceptable - Catholic Church approves the use of NFP to achieve a pregnancy, and to avoid a pregnancy when a couple has a serious reason to limit their family size.
  10. Minimal cost - Supplies for each method vary, but are generally limited to charts, and/or a thermometer. Other than the nominal class fee overall cost of using natural family planning is less than $0.01 cent per day.

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1. Who marries the couple?

"In the Latin Church…spouses, as ministers of Christ's grace, mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church." CCC1623


2. What makes marriage in the Catholic Church a Sacrament?

"Marriage helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuits of one's own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving" CCC 1609 "… Jesus himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God." CCC 1615


3. What is conjugal love?

"Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter - appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility."CCC1643

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4. What are the two purposes of the Sacrament of Matrimony?

"The matrimonial covenant…by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring." CCC1601


5. What three questions are asked at a Catholic wedding ceremony?

  1. Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?
  2. Will you love and honor each other for the rest of your lives?
  3. Will you accept children lovingly and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?

6. When is a couple legally married for the State/for the Church?

State requires witnesses of your marriage to sign the marriage license after the verbal consent.  Church holds the exchange of consent between spouses to be the indispensable element that "makes the marriage."  Consent consists in a "human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other".  This consent binds…the two "becoming one flesh."  CCC1626-7 "From a valid marriage arises a bond…in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved." CCC1638-40  "In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion." CCC 2360

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7. What does the Church say when abuse is present in a marriage relationship?

"Yet there are some situations in which living together becomes practically impossible for a variety of reasons. In such cases the Church permits the physical separation of the couple and their living apart." CCC1649

The Church does not condone any type of abuse. The Church encourages couples to get professional help at the first sign of abuse. Many abusers were brought up in their family of origin to accept abusive behavior.


8. What does society and the Church teach about cohabitation?

"Fornication is a carnal union between an unmarried man and unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children." CCC 2353

Social science studies reveal that cohabitation is a preparation for divorce. Cohabitation sets up a mind set that if the relationship gets tough the couple dissolves the relationship without going to court for a divorce.  Not engaging in sexual intimacy before marriage is a preparation for marriage since abstinence requires commitment, self-control, and perseverance – all essential virtues for a successful marriage.

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Natural Family Planning

9. What does having an "informed conscience" mean?

"A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. Everyone must avail himself of the means to form his conscience." CCC1798

"Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them." CCC 1799


10. Who is responsible for deciding the number of children in a family?

"The parents themselves should ultimately make this judgment, in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily."… "This Council realizes that certain modern conditions often keep couples from arranging their married lives harmoniously, and that they find themselves in circumstances where at least temporarily the size of their families should not be increased."… (The Documents of Vatican II)


11. What should parents take into consideration when deciding to limit family size?

"They will thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which may be foreseen. For this accounting they will reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they will consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself." (The Documents of Vatican II)

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12. What does the Church teach about abortion, sterilization, contraception, and natural family planning?

"We are obliged once more to declare that…abortions…are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children…. Equally to be condemned…is direct sterilization…. Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation – whether as an end or as a means." (On Human Life #14) "If there are serious motives to space out births...It is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms...and this way to regulate birth." (On Human Life #16)


13. What are signs of fertility during a woman's cycle?

Fertile mucus Temperature
Mood swings Cervical signs
Lymph node sign Skin/eye changes
Swelling and tenderness at labia Mucus changes after ovulation

14. Besides "egg" and "sperm", what other substance is needed for conception?

Fertile mucus.

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15. What are the four major natural family planning methods and how does each determine the time of fertility?

  1. 1930s Rhythm/Calendar (based on past cycle lengths)
  2. 1940s Temperature (based on a rise of basal body temperature after ovulation)
  3. 1950s Sympto-Thermal (based on 3 signs of fertility: mucus, temperature, and cervical changes)
  4. 1960s Mucus Method (based on presence of fertile mucus before ovulation)
  5. 1990s Sympto-Hormonal Method (based on the detection of reproductive hormones using a fertility monitor either alone or in conjunction with another sign of fertility such as mucus or temperature)

16. How can abstaining from sexual activity affect a marriage relationship?

Strengthen or destroy a marriage. It all depends on the couple's attitude. A strong positive motive is needed for postponing pregnancy.


17. What is needed to gain a working knowledge of a natural family planning method?

Attend a complete series of NFP classes. OM and STM are offered throughout the archdiocese. Attend class. Make observations. Follow the rules. Have charts reviewed by a certified teacher.