If youâve been reading my blog or engaging in real-life conversation with me in the last couple of months, you know that Iâve been reading, thinking, writing, and even starting to practice Natural Family Planning (NFP). You know that I came across the idea when I came across Engaged Marriage, and after having Dustin tell me more about it, I began writing about it myself.
If you didnât know that, well, now you do. (And if you donât know what NFP is, I recommend clicking on the link above where Dustin explains it to me).
I have been learning SO MUCH about the subject, thanks largely to the NFP-loving community who has shared all kinds of wisdom with me in the comments to my posts. I also recently purchased Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler and almost had an explosion in my brain from all the learning.
Just a few short months ago, I was a complete dummy on the subject, and now I have become slightly less dumb!
A complication began to arise, however, because Weschler calls it Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), whereas Dustin and all the other cool Catholics I talked to call it Natural Family Planning (NFP). I started using both terms interchangeably, particularly in this post, and it started to get confusing.
They are not quite the same thing although they share the same basic principles.
So Iâm going to do you a favour. Iâm going to outline the (very simple) differences between FAM and NFP (for those of you who donât already know), and tell you which term Iâm planning to settle on for good, and explain why Iâm settling on it.
Similarities: Both NFP and FAM are examples of sympto-thermo methods of birth control. This means that both are methods of controlling your fertility through awareness of the female reproductive cycle. They both rely on observing cervical fluid and taking your basal body temperature, and tracking both of them on a chart, to help you determine when to have sex (depending on what youâre aiming for). Both can be used either to achieve or avoid pregnancy.
Difference: FAM allows the option of using a barrier (i.e. a condom) during the fertile phase to prevent pregnancy, whereas those who practice NFP choose to abstain during fertile periods if they donât want to get pregnant.
I guess this means there is a slight difference in the viewpoints underpinning the two methods: NFP-users usually believe that all forms of contraception are morally wrong, whereas FAM-users do not. FAM-users thus permit their occasional use.
But FAM-users agree with NFP-users that contraception is problematic for a variety of reasons, including its negative effects on health, the environment, and sexual enjoyment, not to mention its political implications, and should at least be minimized if not completely rejected.
Iâm currently on the fence about whether or not I think all contraception use is morally wrong. Brian Killianâs remarkable blog is having a strong influence on my perspective, and I encourage you to check it out.
Nevertheless, for the purposes of this blog, I have decided to stick with the term “Fertility Awareness Method” when discussing the subject.
- I like the emphasis on âawareness.â This term highlights the fact that all it takes to control your reproduction is an attentiveness to whatâs going on in your body. You just need to open your eyes to the natural processes already happening in your body and you can begin to take control.
One of the problems I have with contraceptives is that they rob us of this power by encouraging us to be ignorant. Contraception disempowers us. Fertility awareness empowers us. Yay for awareness.
- I like that FAM does not have religious connections. NFP is commonly associated with religious people. This is unfair but true. Many of FAMâs proponents, on the other hand, are completely secular (including Toni Weschler, as far as I can see).
Now, as you all know, I am a deeply spiritual person. I do not try to hide my religiosity. But FAM can benefit everyone, not just religious people, and I donât want to ostracize non-religious people. By using a non-religious term, I hope to emphasize what we have in common (a concern for the wellbeing of human beings and the planet) and a de-emphasize what we do not share (a belief in God). If we are open-minded I think we can all agree that there are benefits to FAM.
- I like that FAM provides more options, and can include NFP. FAM only teaches that you can use barriers during fertile phases if you want to; you donât have to. Weschler actually discourages it because itâs less reliable. So you can use plain olâ abstinence during these periods if you prefer. Itâs up to you.
- Iâd rather see people use occasional contraceptives, just during fertile phases, than reject FAM altogether in favour of the Pill. I understand that for some people, the 10-or-so-day period of abstinence each month may seem like too much of a stretch. I wouldnât want someone to reject FAM out-of-hand just because of this. I would rather see couples choose FAM and use the occasional condom than completely reject the whole shebang. Maybe once they try FAM this way for a while and grow to appreciate it, they will more willingly consider the all-natural method.
So there you have it. From now on, Iâm going with âFertility Awareness Method.â Iâve even added it to the Category title âSex and Fertility Awarenessâ (in the column on the right). But I am still unspeakably grateful to the NFP community for introducing me to such a wonderful system for controlling my fertility, and wholeheartedly support NFP.
You guys are the bomb!
Which term do you prefer, or which one do you use? Why? Which sounds more appealing to you?
What do you think, experts? Have I dealt with the similarities and differences accurately?