Prayer and Relationship with Christ
Celebrate and Revere 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.
Infertility presents couples with an unexpected cross. Marriage is inherently called to bring forth new life, and those couples unable to conceive suffer from this unfulfilled, natural human desire. There is hope. The Creighton Model FertilityCareTM System, used in conjunction with NaPro TECHNOLOGY – a medical approach cooperating with natural hormonal balance of the human body, can increase a couple’s potential to conceive a child.
Updated websites for the Manhattan and St. Peter’s Gianna Centers are listed below.
Gianna Centers – Healthcare for Women
The Gianna Centers provide comprehensive gynecologic primary care and specialized fertility and family planning techniques to uncover the causes of infertility for all women. Some Gianna Centers offer NaPro TECHNOLOGY, which is the natural alternative to assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization. NaPro TECHNOLOGY is a Church-approved fertility treatment in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. Staff by friendly, licensed professionals, the Gianna Centers esteem woman’s healthcare and they remain deeply committed to honoring a woman’s dignity and the sanctity of human life.
Area Gianna Centers that offer initial consultations for infertility and recurrent miscarriage and provide NaPro TECHNOLOGY include the Centers listed below. For more information or to schedule an appointment at one of the Centers, visit their website:
Catholic Health Services of Long Island Centers:
- New York City Gianna Center in Manhattan
- Long Island Gianna Center in Babylon, NY
- Rockville Centre Gianna Center
Saint Peter’s Gianna Center (Somerset, NJ) Website: https://sppanj.com/services/gianna-center/
MorningStar Family Health Center (Clinton, NJ) Website: www.morningstarfhc.com
Gianna Center of Albany Website: www.giannaofalbany.com
SPRINGS IN THE DESERT
Springs in the Desert is a Catholic apostolate founded by Kimberly Henkel, PhD and Ann Koshute, MTS. Their shared experience of infertility and the isolation it breeds led them to found this ministry to provide spiritual and emotional support and accompaniment to those carrying infertility’s heavy burden. For more information visit www.springsinthedesert.org.
Monthly Support Group at the Manhattan Gianna Center
The Manhattan Gianna Center for Women’s Catholic Healthcare (15 East 40th Street Ste. 101) offers a FREE monthly support group on the third Thursday of each month. These meetings allow women to discuss their feelings with other women who are also struggling with infertility. Reading material on infertility is provided and discussed. Any woman can attend; they do not need to be patients of the center nor Catholic. Please call (212) 481-1219 for more information. Some meetings are cancelled if turn out is low, so be sure to contact them ahead of time.
Additional Articles and Resources
- New Hope in Infertility by Dr. Anne Nolte, M.D.
- Embracing the Cross of Infertility by Dr. Marie Meaney
- Facing infertility: A journey of faith, hope and love by Mary Louise Kurey
- Dealing with Infertility: A Guide for Catholics by Julie Kelemen
- The Infertility Companion for Catholics by Angelique Ruhi-Lopez and Carmen Santamaria
- Infertility Journey by Jeannie & Bruce Hannemann
- Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology: a statement published by the USCCB, November 17, 2009.
- Catholic Infertility Prayers
- General Infertility Prayers
St. Gianna Mass
The St. Gianna Mass is a beautiful liturgy celebrated for couples who have or currently are struggling with infertility or recurrent miscarriage. Gathered in a solidarity of hope, couples are invited to experience the healing graces of the Eucharist, followed by fellowship and an opportunity to meet a healthcare professional from the Gianna Center for Women’s Healthcare. If you would like to host a St. Gianna Mass in your area, contact Vincent DaSilva at (646) 794-3168 or email him at email@example.com. The St. Gianna Masses are co-sponsored by the Family Life Office and the Gianna Center for Catholic Women’s Healthcare.
NFP/FABM Educators are listed below according to the method taught to achieve or postpone pregnancy. Most offer classes, both online and in-person that cover the science and biology, how to use the method, the Church’s teaching, and basic charting.
While there are many effective NFP methods and instructors available, the three methods of NFP that the Archdiocese of New York supports include the Cervical Fluid methods, the Sympto-Hormonal methods, and the Sympto-Thermal methods listed below, along with the independent organizations who provide training in these methods.
For assistance in discerning which method might be best for you, or which technologies work best with a particular method, feel free to contact Cassie Moriarty (Fertility Educator) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803.606.2121.
Cervical Fluid Methods
The Billings Ovulation Method (BOM) is based on a woman’s daily observations of cervical fluid (also known as cervical mucus). For additional information on the BOM, visit: http://www.factsaboutfertility.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BillingsPEH_REV3.pdf
For training options available, visit the following sites:
- learnnfponline.com by The Marriage Group, LLC
- boma-usa.org by BOMA-USA
- St. Augustine Foundation’s “Catholic Couples NFP” no-cost program. For more information, visit CCNFP.org or call 888-899-8884.
The Creighton Model FertilityCare System (CrMS) is a comprehensive method for tracking a woman’s fertility by teaching her to understand the cervical fluid or mucus observations throughout her cycle. The Creighton method also serves as a tool for evaluating and monitoring a woman’s reproductive and gynecologic health through the new science of Natural Procreative (NaPro) Technology. For additional information on the CrMS, visit: http://www.factsaboutfertility.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/CreightonPEH.pdf
For training options available, visit the following sites:
- Gianna Centers (Manhattan and Long Island): chsli.org/gianna-center
- St. Peter’s Gianna Center (Somerset, NJ): saintpetershcs.com/Services/Gianna-Center
- MorningStar Family Health Center (Clinton, NJ): morningstarfhc.com/
- Gianna Center of Albany: giannaofalbany.com/
- Creighton Fertility Care Services: lifertilitycareservices.com/class-descriptions
- FertilityCare Centers of America: fertilitycare.org
Sympto-Hormonal Methods (SHMs) incorporate cervical fluid observations with a second sign, for example, urinary metabolite hormone levels, to identify days of fertility. The SHMs that we endorse include:
FEMM (Fertility Education & Medical Management) teaches women the link between hormones and health, and helps them to understand and identify ovulation as a sign of health. Women learn how to identify normal or abnormal health patterns, as well as how to use this information to manage their fertility (achieve or avoid pregnancy). FEMM can also be used as a method of natural family planning.
To view and register for classes, visit https://femmhealth.org/classes/ where you will find longer day sessions and shorter segmented sessions (same content is provided in different approaches).
The FEMM app assists women and couples in tracking their health and fertility data, as well as physical and emotional symptoms. The app provides individual, personalized information and feedback, helping women to know:
- the average length of their cycle
- quality and length of their bleeding
- point of ovulation at each cycle
- fertility window and more
Currently available in English and Spanish, the app can be downloaded for free from the Android and Apple stores.
For your information, here are some website and social media links:
The Marquette method of NFP helps women and couples to find their fertile window and understand the woman’s menstrual and reproductive health by interpreting biological signs of fertility. These signs of fertility are manifested in the activity of reproductive hormones found in urine, changes in cervical mucus and/or fluctuations in basal body temperatures. The purpose of using natural biological signs of fertility is to help women and couples to identify the day closest to ovulation and accurately estimate the fertile window.
The Marquette Method (MM) uses a hand-held electronic fertility monitor (such as ClearBlue) to measure hormones levels (at home) in the woman’s urine. The monitor helps the woman estimate the beginning and end of the fertile time in her cycle. The information from the monitor can be used with observations of cervical fluid, basal body temperature, or other biological indicators of fertility.
For further information, and to find instructors (in-person and online), here are some websites and social media sites you can visit:
- St. Augustine Foundation’s “Catholic Couples NFP” no-cost program. Visit CCNFP.org or call 888-899-8884.
The Sympto-thermal Method (STM) is based on a woman’s observations of her cervical fluid, basal body temperature (waking temperature), and other biological signs (e.g., changes in the cervix). A woman records the characteristics of her cervical fluid secretions and monitors the basal body temperature, which rises after ovulation. Couples cross-check these two primary signs and follow specific guidelines to determine the beginning and end of their fertile days. For additional information on the STM, visit: http://www.factsaboutfertility.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/SymptoThermalPEH.pdf
For training options available, visit the following sites:
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.
OFF THE CHARTS – – Want a great web resource for on-going pastoral help? Consider joining this faithful, warm, intelligent, and extremely practical virtual community. A subscription fee is charged for full access to the community, but you can cancel at any time. For more information, visit the Off the Charts website at www.offthechartsnfp.com, or contact them directly at email@example.com.
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.)
femmhealth.org/telehealth/ and femmhealth.org/medical-providers/ are sites that can help you access affordable and convenient medical care. FEMM trained doctors and healthcare providers work with you to diagnose and treat underlying conditions and restore health.
Creighton Method Physicians
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. Carlos W. Benito, MD (OB/GYN)
(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
- NFP/Fertility Educator/Consultant
- Associate Director, Family Life