By RENEE WEBB
“It’s time! Say ‘Yes’ to God’s plan for Married Love” is the theme for this year’s NFP Awareness Week that will be held July 23-29.
According to Linsey Hoard, diocesan coordinator of NFP, the awareness week is a time set aside by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as a reminder to celebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality.
Just as awareness weeks are held for a variety of other causes, Hoard said dioceses join with the U.S. bishops to use time to promote the benefits of NFP, how it ties in with the teaching of the church and why couples are called to follow God’s plan.
The mother of two young children uses NFP in her marriage and has seen its positive effects.
“It’s been a blessing in our life,” said Hoard. “I’m very confident that NFP, and the Creighton Model specifically, has most likely saved the life of my children.”
When Hoard and her husband were learning NFP during marriage prep, it was pointed out to her by their practitioner that there were signs on her chart that she may have low progesterone, which is needed to help sustain pregnancies. The practitioner told her to get tested for that right away once she was pregnant.
“I got tested and sure enough, I had low progesterone,” she noted.
Hoard was on a progesterone supplement for half of her first pregnancy and nearly all of her second because her levels were barely detectable.
“I feel very grateful and that is one of the big reasons why I am so passionate about NFP,” she said. “It’s very likely I would have miscarried one, if not both, of my children had I not known to be looking for that low progesterone.”
Lisa Willis, director of the Mercy Fertility Care Services that teaches the Creighton Model Fertility Care System, said NFP – specifically the Creighton Model System – can be used to help women with gynecologic and infertility issues.
Physicians who are trained to read Creighton Model patient charts, Willis noted, can help treat issues without the “Band-aid effect” that birth control pills have. For that reason, she said NFP systems have a medical component that aren’t just for married couples to use. Single and young women having health problems in relation to their cycles may find solutions to resolve the issues by seeing an NFP medical consultant.
Hoard pointed out that learning a method of NFP is a requirement for every couple who goes through marriage prep in the Diocese of Sioux City. The diocese’s Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries supports the following methods: Billings Ovulation Method, Sympto-Thermal Method (Couple-to-Couple) and Creighton Model Fertility Care System.
Willis suggests couples explore the various methods to find one that works best for them.
“I would like to see couples check out NFP because not only does it go in line with the church’s teachings on marriage, family, achieving/avoiding pregnancy, but it also is ‘green,’ meaning that there are no side effects from using NFP,” she said. “It also encourages communication between spouses, so using NFP in your marriage greatly decreases the divorce rate.”
NFP methods are based on the observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy.
Willis encourages couples to learn the real facts about NFP because she believes there are many misconceptions out there.
“A lot of people believe it isn’t effective,” said the certified fertility care practitioner. “If couples learn NFP with a teacher, the effectiveness goes up – 99.5 percent method effectiveness to avoid pregnancy – and there is less ‘guessing’ involved.”
Several instructors of the various methods are available in the diocese. Check out a list of providers on the diocesan website – https://scdiocese.org/natural-family-planning/. Instruction is also available online for the Billings method at www.learnnfponline.com.
Information about NFP is not only available on the diocesan website, but Hoard said there are great resources provided by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops at usccb.org.
To help celebrate the week, the diocese’s Adult and Family Ministries will be offering a giveaway on their Facebook page. They plan to give away five copies of Mary Lee Barron’s “Natural Family Planning: A Catholic Approach.”
“If they can ‘like’ our Facebook page, share the post and comment on it, then they will be entered into a giveaway,” said Hoard, who noted the booklet provides a cumulative guide to what natural planning is, what it isn’t and the types of methods that are available. “It explores the history of Christian belief regarding contraception and natural family planning, but it also looks at it from a medical perspective and provides real data on what research shows.”