Fertility & Natural Family Planning

Understanding natural fertility, infertility, and related moral and social issues.

Learning NFP From a Book


“So what do you do?”

In the last few months his question has caused me some anxiety.  At first, I would take a deep breath and then begin to ramble “Well, you see, I teach Natural Family Planning to women and couples….”  However, I quickly learned that most people (Catholics and Non-Catholics alike) did not have any idea what that meant.  Many assumed that helping couples with their fertility meant in vitro fertilization, some thought I counseled couples about whether or not to have children, and others eyes just glazed over.

It wasn’t long before I began to revise my sound-bite to something closer to this: “I help women understand their signs of fertility to enable them to avoid or achieve pregnancy naturally.”  Of course, there is a lot more to NFP than the explanation accounts for, but I figure it is a solid start.

You can imagine how exciting it is to begin to try and explain NFP, only to have someone tell you they know what it is all about.  Well, it happened to me.  About 5 minutes after I met a stranger who I would spend the next 45 minutes with…  “Oh yeah, I used that!” my awesome new hairstylist exclaimed.  “Wow!  Someone who knows what I am talking about,” I thought to myself, but before I could say anything she added, “It didn’t work for me.”

She went on to explain that a friend had suggested she learn NFP as a means of avoiding pregnancy.  And she did.  Unfortunately, she learned from a book.  I love learning things from books.  You can go at your own pace and it is often free (public library!).  What could be better, right?  Lots of ladies have consulted fertility books to learn about their bodies.

I just don’t think that learning NFP from a book with the intention of avoiding pregnancy is the way to go.  The margin of error when self-teaching is typically wider than when learning from someone else for a variety of reasons.  Of course, if you are going into learning from a book with a true mindset of being ready to welcome life, should you create it, then there is really no harm done.  If, however, serious reasons exist to avoid pregnancy, learning a NFP method from a teacher is the way to go.  That being said, it is important to remember that any act of intercourse (regardless of family planning method) carries with it the chance of conception and pregnancy.


8 thoughts on “Learning NFP From a Book

  1. I totally agree with you. Most successful NFP users have had close contact, at least initially, with a professional instructor, who reviewed charts and provided feedback. It’s essential for effective use of the methods.

    Batrice Adcock, MSN, RN

  2. Those conversations must be so frustrating for you! I’m NOT an NFP instructor, and I often struggle with how to respond to people who talk about how NFP is the reason they have their unplanned child. I have found that it doesn’t really matter how they learned the method, the underlying commonality is that everyone expected to be able to avoid pregnancy with far less than two weeks of abstinence each month, and it is a rare couple who never needs to abstain for longer than a week in order to avoid pregnancy.

    I think there is also a difference between learning NFP from a book, and learning it from several books. I read somewhere between 10 and 20 books on NFP/Fertility Awareness before I took NFP classes, and so I can’t say that I learned anything in terms of practical knowledge from the instructor. But I know that my fascination with fertility is rare, and I always tell others that they must take a class

    • Rae, you are right. In general, most couples who want to avoid achieving a pregnancy must abstain for at least a week. I do know women who are regular enough to only need to abstain for 5 days. Regardless, I think that as an instructor, or someone simply educating others on NFP, it is helpful to be realistic with clients in terms of the potential length of abstinence that may be required to avoid conception. It may only be 4 days for a couple who has a very limited/dry mucus cycle, but for a woman with irregular cycles, varying ovulation days, continuous mucus, etc, she may be abstaining for weeks, especially at the outset of learning NFP. I think certain systems of NFP are better suited to particular issues than others.

      I also agree about learning NFP from one book versus several books. If someone is interested enough (like you or I!) to learn about NFP from multiple books, they probably have a pretty good idea what they are doing by the time they are done reading. And without question, there can be a great variance in how well NFP is taught by any instructor depending on experience, interest, materials, and the general teaching structure of a method (amount of one on one time vs. classroom settings, etc.).

  3. I’ve had issues explaining NFP as well. We’re using it for birth control, but we would welcome a child into our lives if it happened. I’ve been charting for 3 months, but it’s been a little wacky since I stopped taking birth control after 11 years. My husband and I decided that the pill wasn’t worth the debilitating migraines I suffered.

    • Hey Sarah! Glad you found the blog, as well 🙂 And even happier to know that you guys have are practicing NFP and that your migraines have subsided. I hope your cycle begin to regulate naturally soon- typically they do within about 6 months, but every woman’s body is different. All the best!

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