Some people criticize Natural Family Planning (NFP) as just “Catholic birth control.” It is fundamentally no different, according to critics, than condoms, birth control pills, or other means to prevent pregnancy. These are obviously people who have never actually used NFP in their own lives, for if they did, they would know how different it really is.
The great thing about NFP is that using it helps one to recognize the great gift of marital sexuality as well as the great blessing of children in a marriage. Whereas artificial birth control focuses exclusively on preventing the natural consequence of sexual relations, NFP helps a couple focus on the two primary purposes of sexual relations: procreation and marital unity. This often leads them to a deeper marriage and a greater openness to children – and even a greater appreciation of the Catholic Church, as can be seen with this couple:
Couple credits NFP for changed worldview
Chris and Christelle Hagen weren’t Catholic when they decided to use natural family planning instead of artificial birth control.
Christelle was initially attracted to NFP for health, not moral, reasons, she said. At first, Chris was surprised she didn’t want to use birth control pills, but he was happy to oblige.
Now, 13 years into their marriage, the Hagens, members of St. Michael in Stillwater, say using NFP has positively affected not only Christelle’s health, but also the way they view their marriage, intimacy and children.
NFP also opened the door to the couple’s exploration of the Catholic faith, and their eventual conversion to Catholicism from the Evangelical faith in 1999, said Chris, 34.
Learning to trust
Unlike contraception, which uses barriers or hormones to prevent the marital act from producing life or, in some cases, can act as an abortifacient, NFP ensures the couples’ marital act is always open to life. When a couple does not want to become pregant, they abstain from sex when the wife is fertile.
According to the Catholic Church, NFP is the only moral way to regulate pregnancies.
Christelle, 37, first learned of NFP while living with a Catholic family after college, and she explained it to Chris, whom she was dating. They made a decision to use NFP after they married.
But, out of fear of pregnancy, the Hagens used condoms during their honeymoon. A few nights later, however, they had a spiritual experience — something Chris said is difficult to describe.
“We both felt an intense amount of fear, we felt very vulnerable, and we both had the sense — we were experiencing this at the same time — that it was because we were using condoms,” he said.
They didn’t use a condom after that night and tried better to trust God, they said.
Their Evangelical church didn’t teach contraception was wrong, and initially, the Hagens thought that, while it was wrong for them, contraception wasn’t wrong for everyone, Christelle said.
They eventually changed their minds. Chris was persuaded by the fact that no Christian denominations approved artificial birth control until the 20th century. Although Christelle had already changed her mind, a miscarriage eight months after their wedding confirmed her beliefs, she said.
“That experience for me was really a turning point emotionally for NFP, because I realized more of what was at stake with sexuality — that it had incredible power to it, the power to create life, and after that, I’ve never looked back,” she said.
They started to teach NFP, which they did for eight years as a couple through Couple to Couple League. When Chris became too busy to co-teach, they retired from Couple to Couple League, and Christelle focused on her growing interest in childbirth and parenting.
Practicing NFP deepened their appreciation for children, they said, and today they have four, ranging in age from 2 to 9.