Contrary to many secular sources, Natural Family Planning, or NFP, is not “Catholic Birth Control.” It is a way to achieve pregnancy, or delay it, following your body’s God-given, natural processes. At the same time, NFP reminds us that human life is a gift in all circumstances, and that our bodies have been wonderfully made.

If you’re anything like me, perhaps you’ve had trouble getting to know your body and practice NFP as it was meant to be practiced. (And if you are really like me, perhaps your lack of understanding has brought you one of the greatest gifts you’ve ever received—a child!) Practicing NFP might seem daunting at first, but through an honest effort, you can more fully discover the beauty of your physical body, your femininity, and married life. The way God created your body is truly a gift!

The three popular NFP methods (Marquette, Creighton, and Billings) provide helpful insights and instructions to understand and know your body’s cycles of fertility. None of these methods tamper with a woman’s cycle through hormonal manipulation or the use of intrauterine devices. Instead, each respects her body and allows it to function as it was made to, recognizing that some parts of her cycle come with greater fertility and others with less, while being open to life at all times.

NFP methods differ in how fertility is measured. While I am not a certified expert in any of these methods, I have found that certain methods may be easier than others for some who experience irregularity or constant cervical mucus. In general, each method tracks one or more of the following fertility indicators to determine a woman’s window of fertility during her cycle:

Cervical Fluid

Basal-Body Temperature

Cervical Changes

Luteinizing hormone (LH) and Estrogen with the use of a fertility monitor (Marquette)

Not only do these biological observations indicate changes and patterns of a woman’s fertility, but they can also serve as a measure of broader health. NFP allows a woman to intimately know her body and more easily detect problems with fertility, gynecological diseases, or hormonal imbalances, each of which can affect the entire physical health of a woman.

While NFP certainly requires time and effort, it enables each woman and couple to observe the gift of God’s providence through the gift of the female body. No matter what method you and your spouse discern is best for your family, it’s always best to consult your physician or a certified instructor!