by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Natural family planning’s benefits aren’t limited to avoiding or achieving pregnancy. For Angela Linville, NFP saved her son’s life.
During her second pregnancy, Linville went for a blood draw for testing on a Friday. When she went home, she used her NFP knowledge to make some observations of her body — and realized something wasn’t right.
Fearing a miscarriage, she put herself on bed rest.
“The nurses called on Monday in a panic over my hormone levels,” said Linville, a member of Twelve Apostles Parish in Platte City, Mo. “They were sure I had a miscarriage.”
“They told me to increase my medicine by three times,” she continued, “but because I knew my body and put myself on bed rest, I saved my son. That would have never happened if I hadn’t learned about my body through NFP.”
The benefits of NFP are being touted across both the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the rest of the country during National Natural Family Planning Week, from July 22 to 28. The theme of the week, which is sponsored by the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is “Faithfully Yours.”
The week also incorporates the 44th anniversary of the Pope Paul VI encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”) promulgated on July 25, 1968, and the July 26 feast day of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“It’s an effort where we can have a week where we focus on the wisdom, the beauty, and the reasonableness of the church’s teaching on marriage, conjugal love and family,” said Deacon Tony Zimmerman, lead consultant of the archdiocesan marriage and family life office.
“It becomes particularly important this year in light of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate,” he continued, “which will force employers — and all of us as well — to pay for artificial contraception in health care plans.”
The goal of the U.S. bishops’ NFP campaign is to get information into the hands of people who need it, at the parish level, using various means. This includes homily helps for pastors, reflections, posters, bulletin items, brochures and lists of NFP providers. Information packets have been distributed to all parishes in the archdiocese, said Deacon Zimmerman.
There’s a definite need for education about NFP, said Linville, who is a Fertility Care System practitioner and center director for the Kansas City area. She and her husband have been using the Fertility Care System of NFP for 10 years.
Her own grandfather, she admits wryly, can’t tell the difference between NFP and an older and obsolete approach called the rhythm method, developed in the 1930s but superseded by NFP decades ago.
“He’s Catholic and he knows I teach NFP, but every time he sees me he asks if this NFP is more reliable than it used to be,” said Linville.
Natural family planning is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and avoid pregnancy, according to the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
The methods are based on day-to-day observations of signs and symptoms of a woman’s menstrual cycle. There are three basic kinds of NFP: the two methods taught in the archdiocese are the Creighton Model as taught by Fertility Care, and the sympto-thermal method taught by the Couple to Couple League.
David and Christine Downey, members of Immaculate Conception Parish in Louisburg, have been practicing the sympto-thermal method for 23 years and have been Couple to Couple instructors for nearly as long.
“[NFP] improved our communication skills substantially and taught us to respect each other more,” said Christine Downey.
Natural family planning necessitates good communication between couples, which pays dividends in a better marriage, said David Downey.
“Our initial reason for NFP was that this was what the church approved of,” he said. “After we used it for a couple of years, we noticed the change in our marital life, especially in communication. NFP provided a stronger bond in our marriage.”
The couples they counsel get pretty excited about NFP once they understand what it is, said the Downeys. Women welcome the opportunity to learn more about their bodies and how to plan pregnancies without putting powerful chemicals into their bodies. Additionally, it’s easy to learn and effective.
“Taking into account user error, NFP is 96.3 percent effective,” said Linville.
Sometimes NFP is mistaken as just another form of contraception — just chemical-free and approved by the church.
That is incorrect, according to Christine Downey. All women can benefit from a better knowledge of their bodies.
“I think most people think it’s just another kind of contraception,” said Christine Downey. “It’s actually a whole way of life, just like the way you live your faith is a whole way of life different from anything else. You can’t really understand NFP until you practice it yourself — just like faith. You can’t understand it until you grasp it for yourself.”
For more information about NFP, contact
• Archdiocesan family life office: Libby DuPont, (913) 721-1570, ext. 126, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Couple to Couple League: David and Christine Downey, (913) 837-3182 or email: email@example.com
• Fertility Care of Center of Kansas City: Angela Linville, (816) 858-0198, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website at: www.fertility carekc.com