This blog post is about Natural Family Planning. My good friend, Emily Kirkwold, has been practicing Natural Family Planning for several years. She shares this valuable information with us.
Emily Kirkwold, Natural Family Planning
EmiIy became a natural family planning educator after natural family planning changed her life. She was taking birth control pills before and after having her son. Then, when she and her husband wanted to have another baby, she was diagnosed with secondary infertility. Once she was able to get pregnant, she knew she never wanted to take synthetic hormones again. She learned all about her body’s own signs of fertility and how she could use this information to successfully avoid pregnancy. She started NFP Pharmacist to help other women achieve their family planning and health goals.
So What Is Natural Family Planning?
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about the term “natural family planning.” Actually, I don’t even love this term because it doesn’t fully describe what I do. When it comes down to it, natural family planning (or NFP for short) is learning your body’s individual signs of fertility, recognizing and tracking those signs, and then using that information.
Charting with Natural Family Planning
For some women, including teenagers who just started cycling, the information is used to help them predict their periods and pay attention to any differences in their cycles. Learning how to chart with NFP can be especially helpful to someone with irregular periods. It can also provide a lot of valuable information to women with PMS symptoms, painful periods, or heavy bleeding, and the information can be used to help address these issues.
For other women, their NFP charting information is used as a natural method of birth control. These women either cannot take birth control (perhaps, unfortunately, they had a blood clot while on the pill) or they prefer not to use synthetic hormones. When following a specific NFP method taught by an instructor, NFP is more effective than condoms and just as effective as the birth control pill. It is the only method of birth control with NO physical side effects!
For a third set of women, their fertility information is used to increase their chances of getting pregnant. When couples try to become pregnant without following any kind of NFP method, their chances of achieving pregnancy after one cycle is 22-30%, and 85% will become pregnant in one year. When using NFP, one study found 76% of the couples became pregnant after just one cycle, and 98% achieved pregnancy in 6 months.
Benefits of Natural Family Planning
One of the benefits of learning how to use natural family planning is that you can adapt how you use the information your body is giving you over time. For example, you could start out learning natural family planning as a single woman not involved with anyone sexually just to learn more about your own body and health. Then, without having to learn any new information or change anything with your charting, you could start using the information to avoid pregnancy naturally and effectively. Let’s say after a while you decide you would like to have a baby. Now that you know your body’s unique signs of fertility and your own fertile window, you know exactly when to have intercourse to maximize your chances of getting pregnant right away. Then, after you give birth, you can go back to using your charting to avoiding pregnancy for a while. It is incredibly adaptable.
Natural family planning empowers you to read your body and use the information it is telling you. When using NFP as a method of birth control, it takes the pressure off of you or your partner to solely take responsibility for taking a pill or putting on a condom. Instead, it is a tool for you and your partner to communicate about what your body is doing and to be on the same page about your family size.
I started using natural family planning because I didn’t want to have another baby, but I also did not want to deal with the side effects of artificial hormones. What I did not anticipate were all the other benefits I have now experienced: more self-confidence, more self-love, and a greater feeling of respect for and from my husband.
Are you interested in learning more about natural family planning? I would love to have a completely free, 15-minute call (phone or video) with you to get to know you and see if I could assist you. You can book that right here: www.calendly.com/nfppharmacist/15min
Here are some common questions I get asked about natural family planning:
Do I need an instructor? Can’t I learn NFP myself?
Yes, you can learn NFP on your own. There are books and websites out there that can teach you to track your cycles and chart your fertility signs. However, the studies that have shown that NFP is effective for achieving or avoiding pregnancy looked at women and couples who were following a specific NFP method taught by an instructor. Plus, I know I like having someone I can go to with questions or concerns, and my instructor was incredibly helpful for me when I started using NFP.
My doctor prescribed me birth control to regulate my cycle or to treat my acne. Can I use NFP and still take birth control?
Birth control pills contain synthetic hormones that suppress your body from producing your own natural hormones. Thus, you are not truly getting accurate signs of your fertility that NFP teaches you to recognize while taking birth control. While birth control may help relieve your symptoms, it really is just covering them up and is not treating your underlying condition. The information you get from tracking your cycles can actually help show you why your cycles are irregular or may explain why your acne is worse at different times in your cycle. Know that if you decide to come off birth control, your cycles may be even more irregular or your acne may get worse, but if you want to address the root cause of these issues then working with a NFP provider could be a great option for you.
I use a fertility app. Is that NFP?
Fertility apps are great tools, especially when it comes to tracking your cycle length. Unfortunately, many of these apps have not been shown to be effective for naturally avoiding pregnancy or even for improving timing for achieving pregnancy. There are some apps that can be used along with a validated NFP method for convenience of tracking.
Why didn’t my doctor tell me about NFP?
Unfortunately, many medical schools (and pharmacy schools and nursing schools) do not teach natural family planning, so your doctor may not have thought about NFP as an option for you. However, there are physicians that have gone through specific NFP training. You can find a list of these providers here: https://onemoresoul.com/nfp-directory
Where can I go to learn more about natural family planning, the available methods, and how to find an instructor?
You can visit this page for some free NFP resources that answer these questions: https://nfppharmacist.com/resources/ If you would like to work with me, you can schedule a free 15-min call with me here to get started: www.calendly.com/nfppharmacist/15min
I wish more people knew about NFP!
Me too! I LOVE speaking to community groups and churches about natural family planning and I am happy to adapt my talk to fit the needs of your group. If you would like me to speak at your next (in-person or virtual) event, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Kirkwold is a pharmacist (PharmD) and natural family planning educator. She is certified in the Marquette Method of natural family planning. Emily lives in MN with her husband Ben and their two children: Henry (4) and Amelia (2). Besides helping women achieve their family planning and health goals through 1-on-1 consultations, she loves speaking to community groups and churches about natural family planning. When Emily is not talking about NFP, she is out running, taking notes on the latest podcast she heard, drinking coffee, or having a dance party with her kids.
You can find Emily at her website (www.nfppharmacist.com), on Facebook (NFP Pharmacist), or Instagram (@nfppharmacist). You can also listen to Emily as she hosts the “Wholly a Woman” podcast, available on all major podcast players, or linked here: https://www.spreaker.com/show/wholly-a-woman
Follow Amy Bizal’s posts at www.amybizalwellness.com/blog.