Which NFP Method is best for us? Good Question!

There are many factors to consider when selecting the NFP method that is best for you. Let’s take a look at each.

What is your intention? Achieving or postponing pregnancy? – While all methods will assist you in both achieving and avoiding, methods that teach mucus and sensation observations (ovulation methods) are what you are looking for. This is because the mucus and sensation signs are those present during the fertile window of the cycle. If you have grave reasons to avoid pregnancy, a method that includes a temperature observation (sympto-thermal methods) will be your best bet because these methods most accurately predict when the fertile window is over.

What is your cycle like? All women have cycles that vary in range (from one period to the next) and in length of menstrual flow. A “typical” cycle can range from 23 to 39 days in length and a “short” cycle is 22 days in length or less with a “long” cycle lasting 40+ days. And, a normal period lasts between 4 and 8 days with the flow decreasing in amount from the beginning to the end.

Instructors who teach single and multiple indicator methods are skilled at assisting couples where cycles are short, normal or long either avoid or achieve pregnancy. But, if a woman is experiencing abnormal cycles and would like someone to diagnose the underlying reasons for the irregularities, she should consider working with a
FertilityCare practitioner and medical consultant.

Are you breastfeeding? When a woman is breastfeeding, the couple will follow different rules to postpone pregnancy. These rules are based on the cervical mucus and sensation observed. The temperature indicator will not help a couple determine when ovulation occurs. Thus, any method that includes the cervical/sensation observation should offer instruction on breastfeeding. In some cases the instruction may require additional costs.

What is your morning like?
This may seem like a strange question, but methods that ask you to keep track of a “basal temperature” (sympto-thermal) will require that you take your temperature each morning before you get out of bed. This means that you will need to stay in bed for just a couple of minutes beyond your alarm before rising. In addition, sympto-hormonal methods will ask you to do an urinary assay test each morning.

Is cost an issue? The cost of an NFP course will vary by method and by area of the country. In this Diocese, the cost of a series of classes (yes – all methods will ask you to take more than just one class to effectively learn how to use the method) ranges from $95 – $250. Be aware that some methods do offer stipends to help defray the cost for couples who need assistance.

How long are you willing to abstain if you are postponing pregnancy? The science behind NFP methods indicates that the actual window of fertility for a woman is 6 days. Unfortunately, each woman and each cycle is unique. This means that pinpointing the actual 6 days is hard to do. That is why each method uses rules that identify a wider “window” of fertility. That being said, the more indicators a couple is willing to observe and chart, the more accurate they will be in identifying the fertility window. That may translate into a shorter period of abstinence.

When a woman first starts tracking her cycle, she will typically be given more conservative rules which means that the time of abstinence will be greater. These rules typically add days to the window making the time of fertility somewhere between 9-13 days. However, as the woman continues to track each cycle, she builds a dataset of her menstrual cycle pattern. After 6 cycles, this dataset makes it possible for her to be more accurate in determining the fertile time and that means the time of abstinence may be reduced. After 12 cycles of charting, the dataset again makes it possible for her to become even more accurate in determining the window of fertility which leads to a reduction in the days of abstinence if the couple is avoiding pregnancy.

There is one other factor that comes to play when talking about the length of abstinence; the couple’s intention. If a couple have grave reasons to avoid a pregnancy,
they should understand that the most conservative rules will be recommended to them. These rules will ask for more abstinence. Likewise, if a couple is spacing and open to another pregnancy, then they are free to engage in the marital act as they wish – even when the recommended rules state that they could be possibly fertile.

How much time do you have to learn the method?
Many of the methods now provide some version of an on-line course. Some make their instruction available on a 24/7 schedule. If you are very busy and can’t find time to make a class that meets on a certain time schedule, then the 24/7 instruction may be your best choice. If you have plenty of time to learn, then this consideration is moot.

How do you learn best; one to one or in a group? Again, methods vary in how they teach couples. If you want a one to one session, make sure to ask if that is available to you.

Biggest Consideration of All

No matter what method you choose, there are two factors that you should require of any NFP class series. First, make sure that the method you choose is certified by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This certification means that the method has undergone scrutiny ensuring that your instructors have been adequately trained, have completed a lengthy supervised practicum and have a general understanding of the Catholic Church teachings about life and love.

Secondly, make sure that the method provides you with chart feedback and follow-up services. Couples who learn NFP from a certified instructor who is available to answer questions and provide on-going assistance have the greatest effectiveness in meeting their family planning intention.