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Is NFP Effective?

All of the major methods of Natural Family Planning are 97-100% effective at avoiding pregnancy. NFP uses the science of the body to understand and evaluate its natural biomarkers of fertility. See our Effectiveness of NFP page for more information.

Isn’t NFP just Catholic contraception?


The Catholic Church teaches that contraception is anything that is done before, during, or after the sexual act to render that act infertile. This would include the use of hormonal birth control, IUD’s, condoms, jellies, etc., if the reason for their use by the couple was to prevent pregnancy. Natural Family Planning is simply a matter of the couple knowing the signs and symptoms of fertility which are naturally-occurring in every woman’s monthly cycle, and using that knowledge to achieve or avoid pregnancy. This is done by either engaging in, or abstaining from, intercourse on specific days of the woman’s cycle.

  • Practicing Natural Family Planning actually strengthens marriages by allowing for open communication between the spouses regarding their family, and liberates the sexual relationship between them as well by removing anything that gets in the way of the original design of the sexual act.
  • NFP is not in any way permanent. Before every act of sexual intercourse, a couple has the freedom to choose to abstain or act, which could determine their conception of a child. In most forms of contraception, there is a permanent period of infertility that cannot be changed once it is administered, and lasting negative effects on health and fertility may be found after their use.

For more on this question, visit our NFP vs. Contraception page, as well as our Resources page.

Is NFP the rhythm method?

The rhythm method, which was first introduced in the 1930’s, as well as other calendar-based methods of family planning, involve tracking the average length of a woman’s menstrual cycle and counting a certain number of days in order to determine when she is fertile. This method has a high failure rate, because many women’s cycles do not fall within the “normal” length. It does not take into account any signs or symptoms of fertility–it is based on counting alone.

NFP, on the other hand, teaches couples what signs and symptoms to look for, and then they follow a set of rules based on these signs and symptoms to determine their fertility at any point in the cycle. The major methods of NFP are all extremely effective at avoiding pregnancy (see Effectiveness page).

Is NFP Scientific?

NFP methods are scientific, and are backed up by research and medical viability. NFP uses the science of the body to understand and evaluate its natural biomarkers of fertility. Many nurses and doctors are certified in methods of NFP and use them to work with their patients on fertility awareness, reproductive health, and general women’s health. Certain methods can even help to diagnose cancer and other diseases.

Does practicing NFP guarantee that I will have a large family?

Not at all. The Church teaches that couples should prayerfully discern whether they have just reasons to avoid pregnancy, and can decide based on those reasons if they should avoid pregnancy temporarily or even, in some cases, indefinitely (Humanae Vitae no. 10).

That being said, sometimes couples who practice NFP end up having larger-than-average families, simply because they are open to life and God’s plan for their family size. This openness materializes as a deep trust in God, that He will provide for their family no matter what, and this trust drives out many of the fears of having another child.

Consider the following quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Sacred Scripture and the Church’s teaching see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2373).

In January of 2015, in an interview with journalists, Pope Francis said that in order to be good parents, Catholics do not need to “breed like rabbits.” This quote has been taken out of context many times and in many different ways, but when one reads the full quote from the interview, it is clear that Pope Francis was simply encouraging prayerful discernment and responsible parenthood. Natural Family Planning is exactly that–providing couples with a way to avoid pregnancy if necessary, in a morally licit manner. For more on this comment, check out the following article.

This sounds like a lot of work! What if I have a busy lifestyle, do I have time to practice NFP?

Once you have learned a specific method of NFP, making and charting the observations becomes extremely easy. Most people who practice NFP will tell you that It becomes integrated into your daily routine, to the point that you won’t ever feel like you have to “make time” for it.

Take the quiz to help you decide which method might work best with your lifestyle.

If I’m a married Catholic, do I have to practice NFP?

Absolutely not. Many couples do not feel the need to practice any form of family planning, and instead feel called to leave it completely up to God as far as the timing and spacing of their children.

There are other couples, however, who do desire to space out or postpone their pregnancies, and think that the only way to do this is through the use of contraceptives. They may do this because they have been told that it is the only effective means of avoiding pregnancy, which is simply not true (see the question on effectiveness above).

Many people know that the Catholic Church does not approve of contraceptives, but they may not know why. If you’re interested in that question, visit our NFP vs. Contraception page to learn more.

If the timing of pregnancy and/or the spacing of children doesn’t matter at all to you and your spouse, then NFP simply might not be necessary for you to practice at this time. However, remember that you always have the option to learn it for the future, when there may be a time you could benefit from it (whether it be achieving or avoiding pregnancy, or also pinpointing various feminine health issues such as endometriosis or ovarian cysts).

Why does the Catholic Church care about my sexual relationship with my spouse? Isn’t that private?

Some people may not think that their method of family planning has any bearing on their sexual relationship and the health of their marriage. Sexual intimacy is, however, negatively affected when we add anything or take anything away from its original design. Out of love for the God-given design of all human beings, the Church always has their best interest at heart. In the sexual embrace, man and woman reflect the free, total, faithful and fruitful love of God. Furthermore, the sexual act is the physical representation and renewal of the Christian marriage vows. The sexual relationship is designed to lift couples to the ecstasy of heaven, and anything less than that falls short of that potential ecstasy. Please visit our Catholic teaching page to learn more about the teaching behind Natural Family Planning. Also see our “Is Sex Holy?” page!

Take the Survey!

Take this 2-minute survey to be added to our list of people practicing NFP in the Diocese of Syracuse! This survey will help us to better serve the NFP community in our diocese.