Such a monumental and life-changing event as a wedding deserves a significant amount of thought and planning to be sure! From the perfect church to complicated guest lists, to bouquets of flowers and more, planning a wedding requires a lot of time, effort, and brainpower.
With so much focus on the actual day of the wedding, many couples unwisely brush aside some of the -shall we say- less glamorous aspects of wedding preparation, including choosing a method of Natural Family Planning (NFP).
While I could go on and on about all things NFP, here are the most important things engaged couples need to know about NFP during Marriage Prep:
The World of NFP Can Seem Overwhelming
Cervical mucus observations? Waking temperature? LH strips? What does it all mean, and how do they know what method is for them? There are many types of Natural Family Planning, which can make choosing a type of NFP feel overwhelming for many couples. Some couples have never heard of NFP, have heard it spoken of in a negative way, or feel like it’s much too complicated. In these cases, they need to know their feelings are valid, and they are not alone.
For these reasons and many more, they may place choosing an NFP method at the bottom of their wedding to-do list. When that happens, as they cross items off their list and it gets closer and closer to their wedding, many couples “panic shop” the various types of NFP methods. Some may commit to the first one they learn about without fully understanding the method or discerning if it will work best with their lifestyle.
How can we help couples realize that choosing a type of NFP is good for a healthy and successful marriage? How do we make it more than an item to be crossed off on their wedding prep checklist?
We (the Church) Can Help You Navigate This Choice
If we want to help couples avoid last-minute decisions about Natural Family Planning, we can begin by accompanying them on the journey and sharing knowledge. An important first step is helping them understand the basics of the primary methods of NFP.
The current most popular methods are:
- Ovulation methods, like the Creighton Model FertilityCare System or the Billings’ Ovulation Method
- Sympto-Hormonal methods, such as the Marquette Model
- Sympto-Thermal methods such as Couple to Couple League and SymptoPro
- Crosscheck methods, which combine all three aspects of the methods listed above, such as the Boston Crosscheck Method
If that list leaves you feeling overwhelmed with the world of NFP, remember neither you nor the couples you serve need to be an expert in each of the various methods. A basic understanding of the different types of NFP is enough to help them make an informed and intentional decision about what type of NFP will work for their marriage.
Before choosing a method, each couple should consider their lifestyle, family goals, and health concerns. Have them openly and honestly discuss which method of NFP “makes sense” for both of them. Providing resources for couples to learn the basics of more than one method is important and can lead to greater success. Also, if they find they’re unhappy with their chosen method, they can switch to another one.
Start Charting As Soon As Possible
We all are familiar with the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” This saying also applies to using NFP! Once a couple selects a model or method of NFP they feel will meet their family planning needs, they should begin receiving instruction in the selected method and begin charting as soon as possible.
As a FertilityCare Practitioner of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, I see all too often that couples decide early on during marriage preparation which NFP method they want to use, but they don’t actually begin learning the method until a few weeks before their wedding. This can lead to frustrations, uncertainty, and nervousness about NFP as their wedding day approaches.
A couple that begins learning their selected method of NFP early on during their Marriage Prep, and continues to work with their method instructor, will be more confident in their understanding of their fertility on the day of their wedding and beyond. That also leads to fewer jitters on their wedding day!
Who’s Responsible for Natural Family Planning?
While it’s true the methods of NFP focus on the cyclic changes happening within a woman’s body, that does not mean that the burden of learning a method of NFP falls squarely on the woman’s shoulders. A couple will discuss their Natural Family Planning method every day of their married life, which means both the man and the woman need to work on this together during their engagement and marriage preparation.
Encourage both the man and the woman to attend classes for their chosen method and discuss the results of their charting daily, just like they will do during their marriage. Trust me, if an engaged couple can seriously discuss their understanding and planned use of their Natural Family Planning method during their time of marriage preparation, they will have a lot of great practice for communication when they are married. Many of us in the world of NFP like to say when working with a couple, “If you two can talk about this, you can talk about anything!”
Natural Family Planning is Not Easy
Natural Family Planning is about more than the physical body, trying to conceive, or discerning when to open oneself up to a new addition to the family. There are spiritual principles that provide the foundation for every one of the physical practices, and couples need to know these as well. Approaching all of this in an approachable and authentic way is essential to helping engaged couples prepare for practicing NFP throughout their marriage.
As a spiritual leader, you can support couples by equipping them with the knowledge they’ll need to navigate the spiritual, physical, and practical aspects of Natural Family Planning. Creating a resource page on your parish website that includes recommended courses, websites, and downloadable info sheets is a great way to help couples learn.
Here are some of our favorites:
- NFP Life: The Beauty & Science of Natural Family Planning
- Groesbeck FertilityCare Center
- FabM Base
- Billings Method
- Boston CrossCheck Method
- Couple to Couple League
- Creighton Model
- Marquette Model
- Sympto-Thermal Method
- FEMM Health
They’re Just Getting Started
With everything there is to learn about Natural Family Planning, marriage prep is just the beginning, especially if this is the couple’s first exposure to the topic. Reminding them that the Church and many fertility care providers are there to help, that they can start learning and charting before the wedding, and that they’ll need to support one another in this sometimes difficult journey will be a tremendous help.
If you need help educating couples in Natural Family Planning, please reach out for a free demo of our course, NFP Life, an excellent overview of the beauty and science of NFP that teaches the basics of each method and the spiritual foundations based on Humane Vitae and Theology of the Body.
You can also connect couples with one-on-one coaching from a certified FertilityCare Practitioner at Groesbeck FertilityCare Center for help with the Creighton Method of NFP.
NFP Life™ featuring Dr. Danielle & Kyle Koestner — This six-part video series is an overview, witness, and introduction to the beauty and science of Natural Family Planning. Watch the trailer below and have your couples register here.