Friday, December 28, 2007

NFP good for women, couples, and environment.

There is a relatively decent article on NFP over at Lower Hudson Online.For its personal story, it revolves around a couple that uses the Creighton Model to track their fertility.

Here is an excerpt of the better parts of the article:

Some couples, such as the Antenuccis, had trouble getting pregnant. They wanted to learn the physical signs of a woman's fertile times of the month so they could target their efforts. Others, including David and Colleen Toder of New Paltz, sought an eco-friendly way to avoid pregnancy without the side effects associated with birth-control pills.

Both couples agree with the Pappalardos of Stony Point, who teach Natural Family Planning in Rockland County, that the methods promote healthier marriages because of the physical and emotional intimacy required to master the techniques.

"Theresa is our gift from NFP," Tracey Pappalardo, 43, said as her husband, Andrew, cuddled the sleepy toddler, their youngest of four children. "We decided to have her because NFP made us closer to each other, and more open to new life."

The Archdiocese of New York endorses the Creighton or the Sympto-Thermal methods, which use cervical mucus and temperature readings to determine when a woman is most likely to conceive so she can avoid or have sex on those seven to 10 days each month, depending on the desired outcome.

In contrast to the infamous calendar-based "rhythm method," which wrongly assumed all women had the same cycle, these recommended techniques boast contraceptive rates between the 99.6 percent reported in the American Journal of Reproductive Medicine and the 75 percent estimated by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

And, remember, NFP isn't just for Catholics, either:

David Toder, who grew up in a Reform Jewish family in Scarsdale, also argues that the Catholic connotations are secondary to the benefits of practicing environmentally friendly parenting that strengthens a couple's emotional bond.

"Contraception puts a barrier between the couple," he said. "With NFP, you have to work together and trust each other. And, there's a cyclical relationship - a dating and a honeymoon - and that adds to the spice of life and the appreciation you have, and your relationship is well-rounded."

That's good stuff. But we can't have a complete article without the usual dose of doom, gloom, condescension, and skeptical lecturing from the Left:

The American Fertility Association doesn't oppose Natural Family Planning, but Pamela Madsen, executive director, expressed concern that women most drawn to these methods might also be the least likely to use them effectively to avoid pregnancy.

"Many women who are engaged with Natural Family Planning tend to be more conservative and may not be as comfortable in getting to know their bodies in the way that is recommended," she said, adding that she also fears that women trying to get pregnant could waste time on these techniques when they really need medical help.

Since when does conservatism entail being afraid of one's body? Madsen is not basing her opinion on facts. She is working from the popular stereotype of conservative women as being squeamish about anything having to do with their bodies, especially their reproductive health. This is a fallacy.

If anything, it is the use of artificial birth control that suggests fear of one's body, because it allows one to suppress or block natural functions that one does not understand or wish to face. Women who are afraid of their bodies (and men who are afraid of women's bodies and can't even handle the idea of mucous) do not use NFP. Instead, they usually give up before they've even tried it , and go back to artificial methods. If Ms. Madsen spent even five minutes talking to couples at an NFP class, (and five more talking to other couples about why NFP scares them) she would see that her own fears are largely unfounded.

Her other concern, that women would use NFP as a substitute for necessary medical advice is also highly pessimistic, and gives little credit to women or NFP itself. Daily tracking of one's fertility signs allows a person to be more in touch with her body than ever. Speaking from my reading and from personal experience, I can say that it can actually improve doctor-patient communication by allowing women to know when they really do need to go to the doctor. If one is using NFP to get pregnant, for example, and it is still not working, one knows that it is time to see a fertility specialist to discuss any medical problems that could interfere with conception. Not only that, but NFP allows women to be more in touch with their cycles. This allows them to spot some abnormalities that they may not have noticed otherwise, and discuss these with their doctors. In short, NFP makes women more aware, not less, of when they "really need medical help"--and can help doctors to make that medical help more effective.

Madsen's head is so buried in her prejudices (or whatever else) that she is unwilling to give modern conservative women credit for their brains, or science credit for its discoveries.

But at least her comments, despite being strategically placed for maximum dramatic effect, sound properly negative next to comments like this from couples who are throughly familiar with the pros and cons of NFP (I don't hear any fear of the body, do you?):

"With your body, with NFP, you're a gift to your spouse," he said. "It's so important for a husband and wife to be gifts to each other. And children become the fruit of that covenant."


Hat Tip: Dawn Eden.

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