In elementary school, I remember an awkward video followed by free sample travel-sized deodorants. Then in high school, sex ed mainly consisted of awkward diagrams on a handout, a long list of STD's and symptoms, and a condoms vs. the pill vs. IUD type chart. My parents talked to me about the emotional and moral aspects of sexual activity, and even sent me to a special class at church with a dozen other unwilling victims to learn more about our church's stance (I was Methodist at the time. Their stance was basically no sex before marriage, no abortion without a good reason, otherwise do what you want.) But one thing missing in all of this was a thorough and scientifically accurate discussion of natural family planning.
It wasn't until I was in college and dating my now hubby that I found out there is a way to practice natural family planning that is safe, cheap, effective, all-natural, and doesn't mean you have to have 20 kids. I had never heard of the "sympto-thermal method", but I now know that it works by using your basal body temperature (waking temperature), cervical mucus, and optionally internal cervix self-exams, in a cross-checking way to determine when ovulation has occurred.
Then abstinence is recommended during your fertile times if you are trying to avoid getting pregnant, or condoms if you aren't opposed to them for religious reasons like me and other pro-life Catholics. If you want to get pregnant, you know when the odds are most in your favor. There's more to it than that, but that's the basic gist of it. It has been proven 99% effective in clinical studies, meaning it has a "perfect use" rating just as high or higher than comparable statistics for the pill, condoms, and IUDs (obviously, like any family planning method, it doesn't work very well if you don't do it right or you cheat!)
Anecdotally, we conceived Baby exactly when we wanted to, and Hubby has relatives with anywhere from 2 to 9 kids who spaced them exactly the way they wanted to.
After I first found out about sympto-thermal natural family planning, I told my mom about it, and she didn't believe me, because she had never heard of it. I recently shared it with a friend, and she hadn't heard of it either. I've found that most of my friends and relatives either haven't heard anything about natural family planning or think it just means the outdated and ineffective "calendar method" or "rhythm method".
I'm not going to tell anybody what kind of family planning/birth control they should practice, but it really irritates me that this option isn't really presented to most women as a viable one. So I wanted to post this so you, my readers, have the knowledge necessary to truly make informed choices about your reproduction.
A few good resources:
- NFPandmore.org - this Catholic organization has tons of info on NFP including an entire manual available in PDF form for free because they are so passionate about making NFP accessible to all women. Besides scientific and "how to" type info, this site also has theological arguments in favor of NFP and ecological breastfeeding from a Catholic perspective, and some links to Protestant theological arguments supporting NFP.
- Contracept.org:A secular website with a reasonably fair website, although they allege a 16% "average fail rate" without citing any research to support the use of that number. Also has some good links to other NFP sites.
- Planned Parenthood - PP refers to it as a "Fertility Awareness Method" and claims up to a 25% failure rate for all FAMs (lumping unreliable methods in with the sympto-thermal kind) if you don't always do them correctly. I personally find this pretty deceptive, as they list both perfect and imperfect use statistics for the methods they favor, such as the pill and condoms but only an imperfect use rate for NFP. But I know many people consider them fairly authoritative, so I included this link despite my dislike for PP and their practices, including but not limited to this small deception.
- I also recommend the "Sympto" charting app for iPhone or iPod Touch, which I'm helping to Anericanize by revising many of the texts written in English on a volunteer basis (meaning I get nothing other than warm fuzzy feelings if more people download it!)
Please pass this information along to other women so that they too can be educated about ALL their options!