Celebrate and Reverence God’s Vision of Human Sexuality
Fertility Awareness, and Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FABMs) –are the contemporary terms and methods for practicing NFP (Natural Family Planning). We speak more of Fertility Awareness and FABMs which mainstream the goodness of NFP and expand to encompass overall women’s health. These are methods of monitoring and managing women’s health, as well as family planning, in which external and internal signs or biomarkers [that reflect underlying hormonal changes] are combined with an effective set of instructions to help identify times of a woman’s cycle when pregnancy can and cannot occur.
The term NFP highlights that couples do not use artificial barriers or chemicals to prevent pregnancy, and intends that both spouses “share responsibility” for the decision of achieving or avoiding pregnancy.
This is one of the most misunderstood issues in and around the Catholic Church. God created a beautiful and practical biological system by which a woman’s body tells her (and her husband) everything she needs to know about her fertility.
This is why it is so important to learn about the natural science that enables couples to reap the benefits of God’s plan for love and life. Learning about your combined fertility allows couples to tap into those benefits, which are great, both in this world and throughout eternity.
Many of the foundational NFP methods were developed by Catholic scientists back in the mid-20th century shortly after the timing of ovulation was discovered. Over the past 5-10 years, companies and organizations have joined in this area of advancing research and innovation in women’s health and fertility.
God created us to live with sexual integrity, because he loves us and desires our happiness. To do this, we need to get educated and understand what God’s plan is, and strive to embrace and live it. Sex means “a total gift of self,” and understanding how our fertility is a part of this gift of self helps us open our hearts to God’s plan for our marriage and family.
Sometimes the more familiar term NFP is used along with, or in place of, the term FABM or Fertility Awareness.
NFP is the general term for the scientific, natural and moral methods of family planning that can help married couples either achieve or avoid pregnancy. It highlights that couples do not use artificial barriers (e.g., condoms) or chemicals (e.g., the birth control pill) to prevent pregnancy, and it intends that both spouses share responsibility for the decision of achieving or avoiding pregnancy. The couples accept fertility as a normal state of health and share responsibility for family planning by modifying behaviors according to their intentions.
In the strictest sense of the term, the FABM encompasses merely the scientific/biological aspect (that these methods are based on an understanding of one’s fertility). As such, the FABM can be used as a natural family planning method, but it can also be used for monitoring a woman’s reproductive health.
The difference is that an FABM doesn’t require both spouses to share responsibility for the decision of achieving or avoiding pregnancy (but many couples choose to share this responsibility.) While some couples who use FABMs also use condoms or other forms of contraception in addition to using an FABM, NFP excludes the use of artificial barriers (e.g., condoms) or chemicals (e.g., the birth control pill) because the use of these to suppress fertility violates God’s plan for married love.
More than ever – women are interested in understanding and tracking their cycles to monitor and manage their “overall” health. They are enabled by both apps and new medical technology, and one of the major forces of change is that the medical world is now identifying a woman’s fertility (ovulation & menstruation) as her 5th vital sign.
With the rapidly expanding landscape of fertility apps, monitors, and sensors, you may be questioning if these technologies are approved by the Catholic Church and if they are safe and effective. Some of these technologies can be of great assistance to couples in avoiding or achieving a pregnancy while still living out God’s plan for marital love. But the couple needs to learn about the science of fertility and do the required research.
If you use one of these apps or devices, the same Church teachings apply. When you detect that you are fertile, you either abstain from having sex (if you don’t want to get pregnant) or you engage in sex, open to the possibility that God will bless your union with new life.
God’s plan keeps Him this involved in your marital intimacy. Using any type of artificial barrier keeps God out of the equation, and this is what Church teaching disagrees with.
FEMTECH, or Female Technology, refers to the use of more advanced technologies in women’s health, such as using advanced learning algorithms and AI-based analysis, wearable sensors, and other new technologies. And while the FEMTECH industry is exploding with new opportunities for women, it continues to build on the original NFP foundations.
There are many new support groups emerging on Facebook and there are many faithful Catholic women and men managing their fertility according to God’s plan and sharing their stories via social media. Try searching Facebook for “Catholic and NFP.”
Finally, if couples want to consider any of the new technologies, we strongly suggest the following:
- Take a formal NFP or FABM course from a certified teacher and complete the designated curriculum, either online or in person. This is key to successful use of the technologies.
- Do your research! This is a growing and changing area that affects your lifestyle. Some apps, sensors and monitors work better than others, and most work with specific NFP methods. One app the Family Life office endorses is the FEMM app, but feel free to contact our NFP Specialists for additional information.
- Understand the commitment to daily practice you need to make. for NFP to be effective. It requires consistent use, mutual motivation and loving cooperation.
- Understand the risks and impacts of any of these methods failing. Can you always be open to the possibility of bringing new life into this world?
Talk to your spouse about NFP and fertility awareness, pray, and make a faith-filled and Christ-centered decision, respecting God’s design for married love.
FACTS (Fertility Appreciation Collaborative To Teach the Science) is a group of physicians, healthcare professionals and educators working together to provide information about natural or fertility awareness-based methods of family planning within the medical community.
Different FABM/NFP methods are based on the different physical signs or biomarkers that change throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle.
FACTS provides additional information about these signs, and about FABMs and NFP methods. Visit their charting webpage at: org/what-is-charting/
NOTE: Any reference on the FACTS website that allows use of an artificial barrier such as a condom, or any contraceptive, is not in alignment with Catholic teaching.
NATURAL WOMANHOOD is a non-profit dedicated to promoting fertility charting as a way to promote health, self-knowledge, relational intimacy and effective family planning. Its mission is to encourage women to understand their fertility cycles by charting them, not just for family planning, but also for health benefits and empowerment. They exist to change the common belief that contraceptives are the only way to avoid pregnancy or to treat certain women’s health disorders.
These are licensed physicians and healthcare providers who support and/or promote the use of Natural Family Planning and FABM methods.
(MyCatholicDoctor makes Catholic healthcare accessible throughout the United States by using video-based consultation, a referral network of faithful healthcare professionals, and a unique financial model that aims to accommodate different healthcare payment methods.)
Dr. Anne Nolte, MD, FCMC, Family Practice
(specializing in the Creighton Method – FertilityCareTM)
Gianna Center (NY) – Catholic Healthcare for Women
15 East 40th St. (just West of Madison Ave) Suite 101
New York, NY 10016
Dr. Kyle Beiter MD, OB/GYN, FCMC
(specializing in the Creighton Method – FertilityCareTM and NaProTechnology)
Gianna Center (NJ) – Catholic Healthcare for Women
254 Easton Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Phone: (732) 565-5490
Dr. Jean Golden-Tevald, DO, CFCMC, FCP
(specializing in the Creighton Method – FertilityCareTM)
54 Old Hwy 22
Clinton, NJ 08867
Phone: (908) 735-9344