For many this may be the first time you’re hearing of or delving into the incredibly fascinating world of Natural Family Planning (NFP). I thought a nice simple guide to the types and most popular systems would be a great way to spread awareness! We’ll start with a quick and simple definition of NFP to get started and then get into the categories of systems and their similarities and differences.
What is NFP?
No matter what kind of NFP (or Natural Family Planning) System you use every NFP system has the same basic objective which is to identify the times which is a couple is fertile or infertile. This is done for two reasons. The first is that the couple is looking to achieve pregnancy; the second is that the couple is attempting to space out their children or avoid pregnancy for a good reason (medical necessity, financial difficulty or another serious reason).
What Kinds of NFP Systems Are there?
There are four main categories of NFP systems: Mucus Only Methods, Temperature Only Methods, Sympto-Thermal Methods and Calendar Methods. Due to the Calendar Methods’ general unreliability I won’t be covering them in this article and will focus exclusively on Mucus Only, Temperature Only and Sympto-Thermal Methods.
Mucus Only Methods
Billings Ovulation Method. Women are taught to observe the sensation at the vulva (the vaginal opening) during the day and to notice if there is any cervical mucus present when they use the restroom. Women develop their own vocabulary to describe their observations and keep a written record to track their fertility.
Creighton Model. Women track their fertile periods by observing the presence or type of cervical mucus present when they use the bathroom. Unlike Billings Creighton has a standard vocabulary that all observations tend to fall into and they chart their observations using stickers. It is also affiliated with NaPro Technology which gives the woman access to doctors that are supportive of the system and can provide medical support to the woman if any problems were to come to light.
The Family of the Americas Foundation Method. Like Billings, women are taught to observe the sensation of the vulva, and like Creighton users observe cervical mucus and then match it to photographs. Then they chart their observations on a chart using stickers that relate to each observation.
Temperature Only Methods
Basal Body Temperature (Marshall System). Women track their fertility only by taking and tracking their waking temperature. They then abstain from intercourse from the first day of their period until they experience a temperature shift that will tell them that ovulation has occurred. Women must take their temperature at relatively the same time every day.
Doering System. The Doering System is a bit more complex than the Basal Body Temperature System. Women subtract 7 days from the time they experienced their last temperature shift for around 6 to 12 cycles before. They then abstain from that day until after they experience the temperature shift that tells them ovulation as occurred. This means that if a woman has a particularly long cycle occasionally (and most women will at some point) she may have to abstain for a longer period of time until that temperature shift occurs.
Couple to Couple League System. Women keep track of three signs of fertility, their waking temperature, their cervical mucus and changes in the cervix itself. Each of these signs are used to cross check each other and figure out where in her cycle the woman is. There are a few ways to determine the beginning or end of the fertile phase of a woman’s cycle.
Marquette Model. A Sympto-thermal method of Natural Family Planning that uses a device called the Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor. It measures hormone levels in urine to help determine the beginning and end time of a woman’s fertility. This can also be used in conjunction with measuring waking temperature, cervical mucus and other fertility indicators.
Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). Another similar Sympto-thermal method that utilizes waking temp, the presence and type of cervical mucus and changes in the cervix. Like most Temperature only and Sympto-Thermal Methods temps must be taken at the same time every morning and require that women get consistently the same amount of sleep per night. It is also a completely secular method and recommends sexual alternatives when couples are attempting to abstain that are not permissible according to Catholic teaching.
How Do I Choose the Right NFP Model?
The beauty of NFP is that it gives you the control to choose the system that works best with your lifestyle. If your life has a very structured routine Temperature and Sympto-Thermal Methods are a great option. If your life is a bit more hectic or your sleep schedule is often disrupted another Mucus Only Methods can provide you with an effective system that fits a busy lifestyle. It’s really up to you! It’s great to talk to NFP teachers to gain further insight into how these systems work.
Learning an NFP Model or an NFP Pro? Share your NFP stories Below!
About Therese Ptak
Therese is a Catholic freelance writer who has been writing for over 13 years now. When not writing for #shinecatholic, you can usually find Therese blogging at On the Brink of Discovery, or writing her novel. She enjoys intense discussions about sushi, singing chant music, and of course being Catholic!