Myths about Natural Fertility Methods
Despite decades of research that have made Fertility Awareness Methods (FAMs) an effective way for couples to manage their fertility, myths still abound. It’s time to correct the misinformation about these life-affirming alternatives to invasive birth control.
July 25 marked the 55th anniversary of Humanae Vitae – St Pope Paul VI’s document on birth control. Its publication attracted criticism from many quarters, causing some to abandon the practice of their Catholic faith.
Tragically, some of these protestors admitted to never even reading the document. Today, it’s not uncommon to hear comments from medical professionals indicating widespread ignorance and misinformation about FAMs.
Myth 1: FAMs are the same as the Rhythm Method
If you were born after 1980, there’s a good chance you think the Rhythm method is a New Age drum therapy. Older people will remember Rhythm as an early form of natural family planning that relied on historical data of a woman’s cycle to predict the fertile status of the couple. It was simple, but not responsive to month-by-month changes.
Modern FAMs rely on the couple identifying their fertile window from observations of the woman’s current cycle. To avoid a pregnancy they simply abstain from intercourse during this window.
FAMs can also assist in the diagnosis of reproductive disorders and to identify peak fertility to maximize the chances of conception. In combination with Natural Procreative Technology, these methods rival artificial reproductive techniques, like IVF, in assisting subfertile couples to conceive.
Myth 2: FAMs are unreliable
Independent efficacy studies over decades have shown that modern FAMs (such as Billings Ovulation Method, Sympto-Thermal Method or Creighton Method) are as reliable in avoiding pregnancy as the contraceptive pill.
As a low-cost alternative, FAMs will never get the credit they deserve because they compete directly with the profit margins of the pharmaceutical industry. A couple can learn a FAM for a nominal cost, and there’s no ongoing expense. It’s a lousy business model but it’s great news for couples.
Myth 3: FAMs are just Catholic contraception
Ironically, some argue that because FAMs are so reliable in avoiding a pregnancy, there’s no moral difference between them and contraception. Yet, moral theology tells us that both the means and the end must be considered in all our actions.
In this case, although the end may be the same, the means is very different. FAMS do not interfere with the natural outcome of an act of love. Rather they inform and enable a couple to choose when to make love.
Myth 4: The Church just wants big families
The Church’s teaching on Responsible Parenthood is clear: it is the responsibility of each couple to faithfully discern the number and timing of births. The actual number is not the issue. What matters is that a couple make this decision in prayerful discernment and that they enact it in a manner that preserves the sacramental sanctity of their lovemaking.
Myth 5: Using FAMs means less lovemaking
Because FAMs require couples to abstain during the fertile window, it is assumed they make love less than those who use contraceptives. The research is clear: couples who use FAMs make love as much as couples who use contraceptives.
Moreover, the feasting and fasting pattern of lovemaking confers other benefits, such as improved communication and sexual self-mastery.
Myth 6: FAMs are hard to learn and use
It’s true that FAMs require more initial effort than many contraceptive options. But that’s true of lots of things in life – like establishing a new habit or learning a new skill.
Once learnt, FAMs can serve a couple for their entire reproductive life, without compromising future fertility or health. Instruction can be accessed through personal coaching or online via digital learning.
And FAMs are easier than ever to use with apps and wearable devices that make every aspect of using a FAM more efficient. Like digital fertility records and temperature arm bands worn while sleeping.
In fact, the capacity to capture fertility data in real time is revolutionising fertility research. Previous studies manually transcribed data from paper charts for a few thousand cycles. Now, fertility apps yield data from millions of cycles cross-referenced against multiple factors like medications, sleep patterns, diet and more.
All this means that the future of FAMs is looking more and more attractive. No longer are they the second-rate family planning methods used only by ‘oppressed’ Catholics and tree-hugging hippies. FAMs are the modern answer to self-sufficient, healthy fertility management.