by Megan Taljaard Natural Family Planning (NFP) has allowed my husband, Pierre, and I to appreciate God’s intention for marriage and family life. Pierre and I got married three years ago and have been practicing NFP throughout our marriage. We made the decision to space our children using natural methods due to the conviction we felt from God when we became Catholic a few months before getting married. I had never considered an option other than going on the pill or some similar alternative as a means of contraception until I was made aware of the negative aspects of many artificial forms of contraception (including abortive “side effects”) as well as learning about the possibility of natural family planning. For Pierre and I, the decision to practise NFP was obvious – given our beliefs albeit quite difficult given that we were one of the first or only couples amongst many of our friends considering this as a realistic option. Many of our friends and family members were very concerned about our decision to not use any form of artificial contraception (including condoms). Pierre and I have always been completely convinced that we had no other option other than to practise NFP and that it was the best thing for our marriage. Our eyes have been opened to the true meaning of marriage and God’s intention for sexual intimacy within marriage – not merely for pleasure. Pierre and I decided from early in our courtship that if we were to get married, we would always be open to life and would never use any artificial barriers to prevent God from intervening in our marriage (not that anything can prevent God from allowing his plans to prevail, but we want God to know that our lives are in His hands completely). We are His vessels and we want to do everything and anything that will bring glory to His name. Put simply, NFP requires careful monitoring of the women’s basal metabolic (waking) temperature as well as other fertile signs and symptoms. NFP is not the Rhythm Method and is only reliable after a certain amount of training or research. I do not recommend practicing NFP as a form of family planning without first getting used to the method and your body’s particular tendencies and cycle averages. I started charting my waking temperature and other fertile signs about 10 months before getting married and using NFP for family planning purposes. It is most important to know the average day that you ovulate each month as this changes from person to person and will most likely also vary from cycle to cycle for each woman. Women ovulate the day before their waking temperature rises higher than the previous six days. For those couples who are seriously not wanting to conceive, it would be wise to abstain from 5 days before the woman’s earliest recorded day of ovulation (because sperm can last up to five days) until the evening of the third consecutive high temperature (to confirm ovulation). It is also important to track other fertile signs such as cervical mucous. The woman’s temperature will remain high (above the cover line, which is the horizontal line drawn on the woman’s chart to indicate the rise in temperature) until the start of her next menstrual cycle. This works out to about a week of abstinence. During this week or so, the married couple is blessed with the opportunity to try and devote time to each other – tapping into aspects of your relationship other than the physical. Most importantly, this time of abstinence is an incredible opportunity to make time for prayer and thanksgiving – acknowledging God and His goodness and the many blessings he has poured into our lives. Some of the most incredible findings from practicing NFP, indicating that sex was intended for procreation and not merely gratification include the following: During the woman’s most fertile phase, she is most sexually aroused and attracted to her spouse and her spouse tends to find her most attractive during this time as well. Artificial forms of contraception tend to suppress these hormones, often leading to the woman not at all interested in being sexually intimate with her spouse. During the woman’s most fertile phase, she secretes egg-white like mucous which acts as a natural lubrication and a suitable home for the sperm to survive and for fertilization to take place. Woman who are wanting to conceive are also able to chart and take note of their other fertile symptoms in order to determine their most fertile phase and day of ovulation in order to achieve pregnancy. NFP has been incredible for our marriage. Pierre and I do not have any children after three years of using NFP. It has definitely been beneficial that we started using NFP from the moment we got married and it is therefore all we know and we don’t find the few days of abstinence a task too difficult to accomplish. I have learnt so much about my body and have been overwhelmed by how incredibly God has designed us. About the Author Megan Taljaard I grew up in Natal and moved to Cape Town in 2009 to study Economics andPsychology at UCT. I fell in love with the man of my dreams in 2010 and we got married two years later. I thrive on the blessings of friends and family. I miss my friends and family in Durban and Johannesburg dearly but Cape Town is home for now. I tutor primary school children during my afternoons and run a tutoring agency in my mornings. I love walking, running, playing tennis, spending time with friends and family and baking. 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