Natural Family Planning; the best for a happy family

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By Dr. Sandra Nabachwa, coordinator Uganda Martyrs Pro-life Apostolate

We often hear or see in the media advertisements on family planning, many times we see Ministry of Health officials put to task to explain why we have unmet need for family planning. We have seen the same ministry draft policies aimed at encouraging young people 10-24years to get all information on family planning and easy access to the different family planning methods they prefer without discrimination and without asking for parental consent. Policies have been drawn encouraging women to take contraceptives without their husband’s knowledge.  Pressure is being mounted on our government to control our population at all cost including legalizing abortion so that those who prefer this as a way of family planning are free.

The question is: “Are we overpopulated? Is this the most urgent area to be handled by the state?”

UK has a population of 65.14 million and a total surface area of 243,610sq km which is very close to the total surface area of Uganda which is 241,550sq km yet the population of Uganda is about half of that of UK. Interestingly, UK is not seen as overpopulated and their government is not under any pressure to control its population which is in fact growing. We need to evaluate ourselves and give attention to things that in actual fact bring about development. We also need to learn from China which is developing at a very fast rate yet has a very big population.

Nonetheless it is important for spouses to regulate births according to just reasons. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that: “For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood” (2368). Yet not all forms of family planning are acceptable in the Catholic church but only the Natural Family Planning methods. The Catechism clearly states that “Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, are in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. In contrast, ‘every action which whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible’ is intrinsically evil” CCC2370. The Catholic Church teaches that the conjugal act was made by God for the unitive and procreative purposes and MUST be open to both these. Any device, injection, pill, surgery or any other intervention taken in order to block the procreative purpose is not acceptable.  Pope Paul VI said: “There is an unbreakable connection between the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning of the conjugal act, and both are inherent in the conjugal act. The connection was established by God and cannot be broken by man through his own volition” (HV12) and he added “But the church, which interprets natural law through its unchanging doctrine, reminds men and women that the teachings based on natural law must be obeyed, and teaches that it is necessary that each and every conjugal act remain ordained to procreating human life” (HV11).

The good news is that we have available modern natural methods of family planning also called Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM methods) which are well researched and scientifically proven to be as effective as the ‘best artificial methods of family planning’ in the area of postponing pregnancies. This means that modern Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods are more effective than some artificial methods. This is good news because in addition to their being effective, the woman is not exposed to ANY side effect but can instead detect very early in case something goes wrong with her reproductive system.

There are many types of modern natural family planning methods most of which require a woman to look out for signs of fertility as explained to her by the NFP provider. These signs include cervical secretions, temperature and hormonal monitoring. Some methods use one sign and other multiple signs of fertility.  Methods based on fertility signs include: Billings Ovulation Method and Two-Day Method which rely only on cervical secretions, Sympto-thermal method uses temperature, cervical secretions and position of cervix, basal body temperature method uses temperature only, Marquette method which uses cervical secretions, hormonal monitoring and basal body temperature. These methods work well for any woman of reproductive age no matter whether their CYCLES ARE REGULAR OR NOT.

There are two methods which do not require monitoring fertility signs, these are: “Standard Days Method” which uses beads popularly known as “moon beads”. This method works well ONLY for women who have REGULAR cycles that LAST between 26 and 32 days. The second one is Lactational Amenorrhoea Method (LAM) which is for women who have recently given birth, and works for those who choose to EXCLUSIVELY BREASTFEED their babies in the first 6 MONTHS of life. This method only works for 6 months if the woman has NOT YET resumed her menstrual periods. Absence of any of the three conditions renders it ineffective.

It is always important for the couple to learn these methods from NFP providers for clear understanding because success of these methods solely depends on following instructions correctly. These services are available in most Catholic hospitals around the country. Men are encouraged to escort their wives to NFP clinics.

The advantages of these methods are numerous: “They respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them and favour the education of an authentic freedom CCC2370.” Catholics who live by the Church’s teaching on sexuality have the strongest and happiest marriages. Generally, their homes are happy places to be: the spouses love each other and delight in the joyful lives of their children. A study done in the USA showed that while 50% of married couples who use contraceptives end in divorce, only 1-2% of marriages on NFP end in divorce. Do you want your marriage to work out? Use Natural Family Planning. The Church is a mother and whatever it tells us to do is what is best for us. The physical and spiritual consequences of using other means of family planning other than the ones allowed by the church can be very grave.

The world will propose many alternatives to you, “But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” 1Tim3:14-15.