The culture that we live in today has given rise to many fears regarding hormonal contraception and other barrier methods of preventing pregnancy. The widely-known side effects of the birth control pill include blood clots, stroke, high blood pressure, weight gain, headaches, fatigue, vaginal infections, and depression. While low-dose pills have been shown to reduce these effects, they still leave a woman prone to spotting, which is an indication that ovulation is not being thoroughly suppressed.
Because of this, many women have turned to natural family planning (NFP), also known as the fertility awareness method, as a way to achieve or prevent pregnancy. This method is 99% effective if researched thoroughly and followed accurately.
My husband and I currently use natural family planning as our method of contraception (we have no children). The biggest misconception about this method is that NFP couples simply use a calendar to estimate periods of fertility and infertility. It is assumed that we have only a vague idea of how the female reproductive system works, and we use this rudimentary knowledge to determine the future of our family and children.
This is not the case at all. Couples who utilize NFP follow very specific (and scientific) rules for charting a woman’s fertility and menstrual cycles. There are a wide variety of techniques available, but most couples use a combination of body temperature, cervical mucus production, and cervical position to determine when they should abstain from sex. These elements are recorded daily in what is commonly referred to as a fertility chart.
There is a great deal of anxiety in our society about the fact that NFP families choose to simply abstain from sex during the times when a woman is fertile. Some people think that men/husbands should have an "all-access pass" to the female body, and that the right to sexual gratification embodies an unalienable right. According to this line of reasoning, it is borderline sinful to deny a man access to his wife or partner's vagina.
Those who criticize NFP because of its element of abstinence should be challenged to consider their own sex lives.