NFP: Just another form of contraception?

Contrary to popular belief, Natural Family Planning (NFP) is not “Catholic Contraception” like it is commonly misconstrued. It isn’t the outdated “calendar rhythm method” either, where a woman estimates when her fertile period is, based on information gleaned from her previous six cycles. This method is quite unreliable indeed. So what exactly is NFP and what’s all the fuss about?

Natural Family Planning or NFP is an umbrella term for scientific, natural and moral methods of family planning that can help couples either achieve or postpone pregnancies by observing the fertility signals of a woman’s body to determine the most likely days of conception in the month. Some methods of NFP include the Sympto-Thermal Method, the Creighton Model System of FertilityCare (CrMS), and the Billings Ovulation Method (BOM).

The BOM is the method taught locally at NFP Singapore. Essentially, NFP is an approach to fertility awareness and management; a way of life and responsible parenting.

Natural Family Planning vs Contraception
Contraception (“Contra” means against and “ception” refers to conception) is the deliberate use of artificial substances, methods and techniques to interrupt or sterilize an act of sexual intercourse with the use of a host of drugs and/or devices, to prevent pregnancy. The more common forms include the condom or sheath; the contraceptive pill, which contains synthetic sex hormones to prevent ovulation in the female; intrauterine devices (IUD) which prevent the fertilized ovum from implanting in the uterus; and male or female sterilization (vasectomy and tubal ligation).

In a very informative and enlightening interview on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), famed author and chastity speaker Jason Evert draws some clear distinctions between contraception and natural family planning and defines NFP as “the method of avoiding or achieving pregnancy based on observing the changes in a woman’s body that indicate her fertility. This method of planning a family, he explains, is scientifically endorsed by the British Medical Journal as 99% effective (with proper use), without the harmful effects of chemicals and devices. It is a “totally natural way to plan out one’s family if you have a good reason to space out your family,” says Evert.

He weaves in a great analogy about NFP vs Contraception being two women who want to maintain slim figures – one who’s dieting and the other who is bulimic. Both have the same goal of losing weight and keeping it off, he says, but their approaches and methods are entirely different. The woman who is dieting practises temperance by sacrificing and avoiding fatty foods while maintaining the discipline to exercise regularly. The bulimic woman, on the other hand, “binges on all kinds of fatty foods and then throws up to purge the weight-gaining effects of bingeing”. Contraception is like the woman who binges and throws up. NFP is the woman who practises temperance and sacrifice. Contraception is like bingeing on sex and then purging its life-giving effects, says the father of five, who is expecting his sixth with wife Crystalina Evert early next year.

NFP is Couple Orientated
NFP is also couple orientated and promotes sharing and joint responsibility in family planning. It helps cultivate intimacy in a marriage and enriches it, since the same qualities that make marriage work such as respect, patience, fidelity, regard, self-mastery, understanding and consultation are required and developed when a couple faithfully practises NFP. 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. It is an entire approach to life.

Love and Responsibility
In his book Men, Women and the Mystery of Love (Practical Insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility), Dr Edward Sri highlights that according to the canonised Pope, contraception is not just immoral, it “destroys the love between a husband and wife in marriage”. He brings to light four important points St John Paul the Great made:

Accepting the Possibility of Parenthood: for sexual relations to become a true union of persons, it must be accompanied in the mind and will by the acceptance of the possibility of parenthood. Sexual union itself does not automatically bring about a true union of love. One of the key ingredients needed to make the bodily union between a man and woman an expression of an even deeper personal union of love is a willingness to accept the possibility that through the sexual act, “I may become a father” or “I may become a mother” (227-228). This openness to parenthood is crucial if love is to mature in a marriage. He adds: “When a husband and wife are truly open to life in their marital relations, it is as if they are looking each other in the eye and saying, ‘I love you so much I am even willing to embark on the adventure of parenthood with you’”.

Rejecting Parenthood, Rejecting one’s spouse: Contraceptive sex is not just a rejection of the possibility of parenthood, but a certain rejection of the other person, in that it prevents the physical union of marital intercourse from blossoming into a full personal union of love, says JPII (228). When spouses reject the possibility of becoming parents together in the marital act, the focus of their experience in sexual intercourse becomes merely “centered on sexual pleasure”. It is as if they are saying

“I want the sensual pleasure from this act, but I reject the possibility of you becoming a parent with me” (234).
Periodic Continence: While couples should never reject the possibility of parenthood in sexual intercourse, John Paul II teaches that they do not need to “positively desire to procreate on every occasion when they have intercourse” (233). Couples may face certain situations in which they desire to postpone the conception of a child. In those cases, they may choose to abstain from having sexual relations during the times the woman is most likely to be fertile.

Still open to life: According to St John Paul, the most important point to consider involves the couple’s attitude towards procreation. Periodic continence may be used to help regulate conception, but it should not be used to postpone having a family. The Pope explains, “We cannot therefore speak of continence as a virtue where the spouses take advantage of the periods of biological infertility exclusively for the purpose of avoiding parenthood altogether” (242), pointing out that the good of the family should be weighed seriously before practising periodic continence, as he notes that “giving children siblings can contribute in an important way to a child’s education and upbringing, since brothers and sisters form a natural community that helps shape the child”.

Fertility is a gift
Jason Evert puts it beautifully: “There is no reason to interrupt the sexual act at the moment we are supposed to be renewing our wedding vows. If we are going to come together as one flesh, it should be as God designed: in the love of husband and wife”.
After all, fertility is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love tends to be fruitful (CCC 2366).

More on the Billings Ovulation Method is available at

To sign up for a course on NFP or to become an NFP instructor, call the NFP Hotline: 9106 1990

By Jeanette Alexander

Conceiving naturally and having Faith

One of the most beautiful and life-changing events in the journey of married couples is the welcoming of children as new members of the nuclear family. Unfortunately, while many couples await the arrival of children, some struggle with the challenges of conceiving children naturally. Derek and Gladys Ng, 39 and 34 respectively, share their personal experience of having been one of these couples.

Derek and Gladys are parishioners of the Church of the Risen Christ. They were baptised and received their Sacrament of Confirmation in 2014. The couple got married eight years ago, but were only ready to have children about five years into their marriage. However, being ready was not all that it took for them to conceive their first child.

Gladys was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which is associated with hormonal imbalance and low fertility. This medical condition resulted in a two-year struggle for the couple to conceive a child.

During these two years, the couple received their fair share of pressure from family members to bear a child as soon as possible. They were deeply affected by their environmental stressors which certainly did not help to make the struggle any easier to bear.

Derek and Gladys then came to know about natural family planning (NFP) when they attended the Archdiocese Commission for the Family (ACF) dialogue in October 2014. There, the NFP team had set up a booth and briefly shared with them what NFP was about. The NFP team then followed up on the couple’s case soon after assigning Gladys to instruction under Ms Agnes Yap at the Risen Christ Church NFP Centre.

To be able to finally chart her cycle was something that Gladys was never able to do since puberty, so this progress was a significant milestone as charting one’s menstrual cycle was essential in NFP. Subsequently, while adopting NFP, Gladys faced the challenge of having to be precise in her daily observation of indicators which signaled her monthly fertility window.

All these efforts, though often trying, finally paid off. Two short months after adopting NFP, Gladys was pregnant. Today, Derek and Gladys are the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl, aptly named Faith.

To couples who are currently considering NFP as a method of conceiving a child naturally, Derek and Gladys would like you to know that NFP is not exclusive to anyone, and you certainly do not have to be a Catholic to adopt this method. They would also like to encourage all couples to trust in God’s plan and Providence, and not to compare your situation against anyone else’s, as every family is unique and beloved in the eyes of God.

By Melissa Joan Dragon

Genuine freedom

"It’s easy nowadays to confuse genuine freedom with the idea that each individual can act arbitrarily, as if there were no truths, values and principles to provide guidance, and everything were possible and permissible. The ideal of marriage, marked by a commitment to exclusivity and stability, is swept aside whenever it proves inconvenient or tiresome. The fear of loneliness and the desire for stability and fidelity exist side by side with a growing fear of entrapment in a relationship that could hamper the achievement of one’s personal goals ... What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.”
- Pope Francis (Amoris Laetitia, 34, 35)

Amoris Laetitia (Latin: The Joy of Love) is a post-synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis released on 8 April 2016. It followed the Synods on the Family held in 2014 and 2015. To read the full document, visit

In this monthly column, we feature Catholic personalities and their favourite memories of being ‘family’. In this issue, actress Jade Seah shares why her family is special to her…

Jade celebrating her father’s (seated, far left) birthday with her family members last year.

Family is the most important thing to me. I feel blessed that mine is a very close-knit one, and we’ve seen each other through good times and bad.

Although my dad is not Catholic, he has always made the effort to take us for catechism and for mass. He would even nag us for being late for church!

My mother and maternal grandmother have very strong faith, and I’ve been brought up to always “pray about it” when the road is not easy. They have been taking me to the Novena devotion for as long as I can remember (since I was 5 years old?).

These days, unless I am overseas or working on a Saturday, I am still always there, every week. It gives me such joy and peace and I look forward to attending every weekend. We’re all eagerly waiting for the Novena church to re-open!

With everyone busier now and my older brother and I having long moved out of the family home, we don’t have the chance to interact daily. However, I see my parents at least once or twice a week. We all meet up for a family gathering at least once a month and we celebrate every birthday. At these celebrations, although we’re all adults now – the youngest one just turned 20 – it’s almost like no time has passed.

We’re a very vocal family, and we tell each other things as they are. I appreciate how we are so honest and open with one another – it’s like everyone feels a safe sanctuary within our precious family where we can really just be ourselves – no pretences, no walls and no masks. We’re by no means a “perfect” family, and we have never felt the need to be. We have our disagreements and squabbles, but these bring us closer together, and the special thing is the bond and the unconditional love between us all.

I am thankful for this gift of family. My family moments are in all the little things – the laughter we share over some lame joke, the times we tease one another, the many birthday cakes we cut together; and when we band together in support when one of us is going through tough times.

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