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NFP vs. Contraception

Practicing Natural Family Planning differs greatly from the use of contraception, both in action and in the beliefs behind it.

In Action

Common Methods of Contraception

Hormonal birth control (most common in the US)

  • Pill
  • Patch
  • Injection
  • IUD (intra-uterine device)

Barrier methods

  • Male condom
  • Female condom
  • Diaphragm
  • Spermicide
  • Films

Sterilization (forms of permanent contraception)

  • Vasectomy
  • Tubal ligation

Please see note at the bottom of the page.


  • Contraception often includes a long list of serious side effects, such as: cancer, blood clots, depression, and allergic reactions.
  • Requires the use of invasive devices/procedures.
  • May cause impaired sex drive and sexual discomfort/awkwardness.
  • Certain methods may have abortifacient qualities (If conception occurs, the environment may be unsuitable for the development of a fetus, which can cause early miscarriage).
  • The effectiveness of hormonal birth control depends entirely on the commitment and proper use by the woman.

Natural Family Planning

  • There are no harmful side effects.
  • Does not require any invasive device or oppressive medicine.
  • Requires no medical procedures.
  • Many couples report an increased level of intimacy and sexual satisfaction as a result of practicing NFP.
  • Works with the body rather than attempting to change or disrupt the natural workings of the body.
  • All acts of sexual intercourse are open to life.
  • Requires communication and a shared burden by both the man and the woman in order for it to be effective.

Beliefs Behind It


  • The meaning of the word is “against conception, or against beginning.”
  • According to the Catholic Church’s teaching, contraception includes anything that is done before, during, or after the sexual act that renders that act infertile (SOURCE: Humanae Vitae 14).
  • Impinges on the true meaning and design of the sexual act – in essence, it takes the “total” and “fruitful” aspects out of the picture. Doing so makes it out of line with God’s design for married love and the marital act.
  • Furthermore, it blocks part of the natural aspects of intercourse and can easily lead to people using each other for their own sexual satisfaction, even within marriage.

Natural Family Planning

  • Methods that allow for couples to achieve or avoid pregnancy using knowledge of the woman’s fertile signs and symptoms.
  • NFP does nothing before, during, or after the sexual act to render it infertile (see Catholic Teaching page).
  • Marital love is designed to be free, total, faithful, and fruitful, and the sexual act is the physical representation of marital love (see Catholic Teaching page).
  • Anything that takes any one of the above aspects out of the equation would not be in line with God’s design for married love.
  • NFP respects the God-given design for married love, and allows every act of intercourse to be free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

A note on vasectomy/tubal ligation: Because these methods render every sexual act after them infertile, they are not in line with Catholic teaching on marriage and the sexual act. Consider the following quote from the Church’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae (vasectomy and tubal ligation would both fall under the category of “permanent sterilization.”).

“Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. (15) Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. (16)”
-Humanae Vitae, 14

For more information, see ‘Is NFP Catholic Contraception’ on our FAQ’s page. Also see our Resources page!

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