Frequently asked questions

/Faq

I'm afraid. Am I going to accidentally end up with a large family?

Short answer: No, not necessarily.

It is up to you how small or large your family is. For the couple who finds abstinence and/ or charting difficult, a(nother) positive pregnancy test may not come as such a surprise. Often, the case is that the “relatively large” families are large by choice. The statistics prove that NFP and the Sympto-Thermal Method as taught by Serena are effective means of avoiding pregnancy. Realistically, however, both husband and wife need to be motivated and willing to commit to following the method as taught. The beauty of NFP is that each day of every cycle, you can be informed whether you are fertile, infertile, or somewhere in between and make your decision accordingly as a couple to abstain or to be intimate.

I'm all for NFP, but what if my husband is not?

Short answer: It can still work.

Don't feel badly! We've had all sorts of couples attend our courses and practice the method. We've had men nodding off during our course. We've had husbands more interested and on board with NFP than their wives. We've had men going green at the mention of mucus. We've had husbands raring to chart for their wives. We've even had husbands ready to wake at the chime of the alarm clock to hand their wives the basal body thermometer. We've had husbands who out rightly declare that they know not their cranium from their knee (as if that's an excuse not to have anything to do with NFP... HA!). Whatever your case, if you are on board but your spouse is not, it is indeed a win if your spouse even half-heartedly agrees to practice NFP even despite his doubts. The reality is that you will experience the full perks of NFP when both you and your husband are on board together; however, you can still benefit from working with your body as it was designed. Perhaps the first step is to ask your hesitant husband to come to a class with you. Taking a class is a great way to get information and ask questions. For husbands who just need a little nudge, the beauty of our courses are that they taught by a couple. He will have a real life MAN to talk to about his concerns, discomforts and fears. Often we find that with some man-to-man encouragement, the once seemingly disinterested husband begins to show some interest, relaxes and realizes, "Hey, this isn't so bad, and maybe I can have a part in this." Aside from the man-to-man connection, the science of the method itself that we will introduce at the course is often appealing to men, not to mention the charting aspect of NFP. However, if you still find yourself attending the course solo, despite your pleas and encouragement, remember that we are here to walk this through with you and that our teacher-couple will support you in anyway we can!

Be honest. What are the REAL difficulties for couples using NFP?

Short answer: Conflict, tension, heartache... *BUT* please read on!

No rose-coloured glasses here! Here are some scenarios to consider: 1.) One or both of you could have a high libido, which makes abstinence pretty hard. Communication during those times can get rough. Resentment for the one "going without" can set in. 2.) Charting may be harder than you think. Do your eyes go cross-eyed looking at several lines? Observing symptoms is one thing. Charting them is another. And yes, we expect you even to interpret the darn things... together! Charting and interpretation may not come so easy for you. If it gets to be too difficult, remember: that is what we are here for! 3.) Talking about your intimate life with anyone other than your spouse can be awkward and painful; but sometimes challenges are the prerequisite to growth! The investment of time, effort, money, energy, and maybe even a few arguments here and there is worth it if it helps iron out some real kinks in your relationship. We get that talking to us may be awkward, but we promise to treat you (and all that you share with us) with utter respect and reverence. We sincerely believe that your marriage is worth it!

How often will we need to abstain?

Short answer: It's grey, but on average 8-12 days (that is, if your goal is to avoid pregnancy).

If you’re practicing NFP to avoid/delay pregnancy, you will generally need to abstain from sex (including all genital contact) an average of 8-12 days every cycle depending on your cycle length. It also depends on how open or closed you are to getting pregnant. If it would be wiser to avoid pregnancy given your situation (like for medical reasons), perhaps a lengthier time of abstinence would be advisable and healthy. Whatever the case may be, we can help you determine what your fertile window may look like. In general, whether avoiding or achieving, we are fans of abstinence. Life will likely demand of you ample enough times of abstinence, but even if you don't need to abstain we would encourage you to try it occasionally. Abstinence will challenge you to look at your motives for sex, to be considerate of each other, to communicate, to express your love and desire in other ways, to live your intimacy more authentically.

How often are NFP couples intimate?

Short answer: Well, that depends on the couple!

If by "intimate" you mean "able to have sex," then it is really up to you and your goals as a couple. If you are wanting to avoid pregnancy, abstinence will depend on your cycle length and your days of relative fertility (we teach you how to calculate this). By observing your signs and symptoms, you can also know when you are relatively fertile. More sex doesn't necessarily equate to what we consider authentic intimacy. Cheesy as this may sound, think of the word "intimacy" as "in-to-me-see." We like to think of authentic intimacy as the seeing into and consideration of each others' hearts. It's the art of learning and honouring who and where each of you are. In the end, it's the journey of becoming less focused on yourself and more focused on your spouse and what you have to give. So, maybe the more appropriate question to ask is how satisfied NFP couples are. When both spouses are on board, NFP affords a priceless opportunity to delve into the most authentic intimacy that there is. And when couples live this authentic intimacy day in and day out, then yes, they are very satisfied! Sex -- real sex -- is not like the movies. But a couple’s commitment to living authentic intimacy means that their sex life can be meaningful and out of this world -- now that’s something a movie can’t quite capture!

What about spontaneity? Does NFP take the fun out of sex?

Short answer: It can, but it doesn't have to.

Having intercourse only when the wife is in the relatively and/ or definitely infertile phases of her cycles (that is, if your goal is to avoid pregnancy) may take the "fun and spontaneity" out of sex, but it also offers a good opportunity for you to show affection to one another in different ways. Intimacy is not achieved only through sexual intercourse, and NFP helps remind us of that. There are many life events that may require abstinence. For example, food poisoning in Mexico during your honeymoon, lengthy business trips, after having a baby (for physical healing and due to fatigue), etc. Whatever the case may be, using NFP helps couples to flex the abstinence muscle. It may help you to know that that NFP helps to build desire. After a period of waiting, when the woman hits the definitely infertile phase of her cycle, often both husband and wife are on board to resuming intimacy. In this way, you both can still be very "satisfied" and all the more united! If the concern over fun and spontaneity really is just a manifestation of your desire for a good, satisfying life, then we would encourage you to look beyond just the factors commonly attributed to a "fulfilled" sex life. Frequent, spontaneous and fun sex do not necessarily equate to better sex or a better life. To us, a good, meaningful and happy life together is one that speaks of authentic intimacy. Cheesy as this may sound, think of the word "intimacy" as "in-to-me-see". We like to think of authentic intimacy as the seeing into and consideration of each others' hearts. It's the art of learning and honouring who and where each of you are. In the end, it's the journey of becoming less focused on yourself and more focused on your spouse and what you have to give.

Will we have to abstain on our honeymoon?

Short answer: Maybe. The answer depends on whether or not you are open to having a "honeymoon baby".

When you think of your wedding, it's hard not to also think about your wedding night right? With so much emphasis on the wedding night from culture and the media, the idea of having to abstain that night (or any time during the honeymoon) may come as a disappointment. The good news is that the shock and disappointment will not and do not have to last. If it is better for you to abstain during all or a portion of your honeymoon, you will still consummate your marriage; you will just have to wait a little longer than what you may have originally expected. Your duration of abstinence will depend on your cycle length and where you are at that particular cycle. Abstinence will not be an issue at all for the couple whose wedding night and honeymoon happen to be during their definitely infertile phase. For couples wanting to avoid pregnancy and whose honeymoon period coincides with their their relatively infertile or fertile phase, they may need to delay consummating their marriage until the wife hits her definitely infertile phase. We recognize that you may first receive the idea of abstinence with hesitation, but the beauty of NFP is that you have a choice: what is better for you at this point as new husband and wife? Remember: although abstinence may first appear as something in the way of a couple's intimacy, it really isn't. Abstinence will challenge you to look at your motives for sex, to be considerate of each other, to communicate, to express your love and desire in other ways, to live your intimacy more authentically. Abstinence approached together and with the right heart and mind is unifying. Committing to the authentic intimacy that NFP affords, you may just need to flex the abstinence muscle earlier on in your marriage than expected.

What if I find abstinence difficult?

Short answer: Talk about it with your spouse.

Many life events require abstinence, whether it is after a baby, sickness or separation due to work or otherwise. Abstinence certainly can be difficult and although NFP offers a holistic approach to your health and overall well-being as individuals and as a couple, we would not ever want NFP to cause division between you as husband and wife. Talking to your spouse about alternate ways of showing affection during her fertile time, and being purposeful in doing so, (whether abstinence is actually called for or not) will help you get through those times of the month when you do need to abstain. Remember: abstinence makes the heart grow fonder and the honeymoon phase is just around the corner. We don’t want to sugar-coat it: times of abstinence may indeed be challenging, but we encourage you to at least try it. It's a muscle that can be strengthened and ultimately can help you to grow closer together.

Will I be sexually fulfilled practicing NFP?

Short answer: You sure can be, but it depends on what you mean by "sexually fulfilled"...

In the end, yes, sex matters, as do all the variables influencing how "sexually fulfilled" you are or not - but - wouldn't you agree that intimacy matters more and that sex itself is only an expression (albeit the most significant one for husband and wife) of the kind of intimacy that you desire? More sex and even "better" sex doesn't equal what we consider as authentic intimacy. Cheesy as this may sound, think of the word "intimacy" as "in-to-me-see", the seeing into and consideration of each others' hearts - even and perhaps all the more in matters of sex and fertility. It's the art of learning and honouring who you each are and where you each are at. In the end, it's the journey of becoming less focused on yourself, more focused on your spouse and what you have to give. This "authentic intimacy" has been the honest and beautiful experience for us as husbands and wives and it is possible. It is something that you too can grow into and live. So, maybe the more appropriate question to ask is how satisfied NFP couples are in terms of intimacy and their overall life together. When you as husband and wife are both on board, NFP affords a priceless opportunity to delve into the most authentic intimacy that there is. And when they live this authentic intimacy day in and day out, yes, they are very satisfied. You might not have the most sex and despite your years together, you may still experience here and there any of the oops, uh ohs and pains possible during this most intimate act (that by the way never happen in the movies), but committed to living authentic intimacy, the sex will certainly be meaningful, and with all the more potential to be out of this world.

The idea of NFP sounds great, but what if I am/we are still apprehensive?

Short answer: Take small steps.

If you are not at a place to quit your current method cold turkey, then first learn the method of NFP that best suits your needs and begin to chart. Day by day, month by month grow in confidence in learning how to observe and interpret your cycles. While we do not encourage or promote the use of contraceptives, you may gradually wean yourself off of them. If you are on the Pill or some other form of hormonal contraceptive, replace that with a barrier method and use it in conjunction with your chosen method of NFP (essentially then you would be practicing what is known as Fertility Awareness Method). When you are ready, remove all contraceptive use and experience all the benefits of NFP! Just remember that when abstaining from intercourse during the fertile window of your cycle you will not get pregnant; but if you use a barrier or other mode of contraceptive during that phase you could potentially get pregnant because every form of contraception has the potential for failure and you would be subjecting yourselves to the failure rate of the chosen contraceptive. Let us be lovingly clear, FAM is not the same as NFP. We want to invite you to a life of authentic intimacy, be it by small steps or by taking the full plunge.

Why are many medical professionals opposed to NFP?

Short answer: Everyone has their own reasons, but ignorance usually plays a part.

We have experienced some medical professionals referring to NFP as the “rhythm-blues” or being told in medical school to avoid the NFP section in the textbook because it simply doesn’t work. Sigh. We'll say it ourselves: traditional NFP marketing sucks. NFP is ill-advertised and ill-funded. As such, many healthcare providers lack the education and exposure to properly understand (and therefore promote and teach) NFP to couples. Interestingly enough, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends teaching adolescents about their cycle, calling it the “fourth vital sign” to monitor. Educating healthcare providers about NFP is where we, as a team, need to start. If your doctor is adamantly opposed to working within the realms of NFP, feel free to ask someone on the Serena team to see if we can help you find a doctor that fits right for you and your family. Additionally, if your doctor is willing to work with you and NFP but needs more information or resources, feel free to ask us for information. Hopefully, we can help to relieve any anxieties or doubts you may have as well as dispel any NFP myths.

Why have I not heard of this before?

Short answer: Organizations with influence never trust that the average person can abstain.

It has not been easy to get mainstream society - particularly health providers and schools - to accept that there are viable alternatives of birth regulation for those who don't want to contracept. In recent decades those of us who took sex education at public high schools only received information about the Pill, IUD, and condoms -- and were told that withdrawal and the rhythm methods do not work. Aside from jokes made at the expense of “religious people”, there was absolutely no mention of Natural Family Planning. We are working hard to promote the science behind Serena's Sympto-Thermal Method (STM). Internationally, NFP has been acknowledged to be a safe and viable option to avoid pregnancy. Check out this article on NFP published by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information and the BMJ, a peer-reviewed medical journal. Swaying the opinion of medical professionals who have a bias toward forms of contraception has certainly proven to be no easy feat! In secular circles there is growing interest in the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), which is essentially using a form of NFP but contracepting with a barrier or other method during the fertile window of the woman's cycle. Holly Grigg-Spall's book, Sweetening the Pill, has a lot of media attention and is getting women more aware there are actually other ways to manage fertility without hormonal birth control. A documentary about her book is in the works by Ricki Lake. Recently, the Sun News Network and Vancouver 24 Hrs have published articles about more women turning to NFP for non-religious reasons.

Why is NFP so granola?

Short answer: NFP is poorly funded and so, poorly advertised.

Yup, we've said it elsewhere on this site. Traditonal NFP marketing stinks. We know it. But we don't mean for it to stink. While we're not trying to make excuses, allow us please to explain... Most of the NFP work out there has been and continues to be done by volunteers who want to share with the world the good life that NFP has afforded them. Many of these volunteers happen to have young families which makes any extra investment of time, effort, energy and money into anything else a real stretch. Moreover, getting the sophisticated science of NFP down is one thing (we give credit to all the medical professionals - like Serena's very own Dr. Suzanne Parenteau - who work tirelessly to research and develop the various, reliable methods that you can find today). But getting the whole business side of things down is an entirely different ball game. The medical professionals and most of us volunteers committed to this cause typically have no training or background in how to effectively market our good message. The result? Granola brochures. Granola presentations. Granola exhibit booths. Granola websites (if a website is even to be had). Granola you name it. We NFP organizations are not out to make money. We're out to share something really good. No money = little support and little funding = granola = little credibility. See our challenge? All this said, we're trying to change things beginning with this website and we hope we have made an impression on you. No more granola - not just for the benefit of Serena and NFP, but for your personal good, our good, everyone's good. Here are a few NFP sites we've come across that are also making a better impression (we'll keep adding to the list as we learn of more): www.1flesh.org, www.iusenfp.com, www.lovenaturallynfp.com and www.naturalfertilitymatters.com. Please let us know if you come across any others.

Is NFP the rhythm method?

Short answer: No. The rhythm method is a method of NFP, but one that is out of date and unreliable.

Unfortunately, NFP is all too commonly mistaken for the rhythm method. While the rhythm method is a form of NFP, it is not one that we would recommend because there are more sophisticated methods that are proven to be effective for avoiding pregnancy (such as Serena's STM!). The rhythm method was one of the earlier forms of NFP which predicts when a woman will be fertile based on her previous cycles. While it can work for women who are regular, life all too often will present circumstances that will cause a change in the length a woman's cycle, and so throwing off the rhythm necessary for the success of the method.

What are our options if we think we are infertile?

Short answer: NFP and charting can help.

Infertility can be a very painful reality for couples. If you are having trouble conceiving and think you may be infertile, we are here to support you. If you are not already practicing NFP, we would encourage you first to learn a method (be it with us or another credible NFP organization) and to begin charting. While we will not be able to give you an official diagnosis, your charts could very well help us to identify any possible issues that need further medical investigation and we can refer you to the help you need. Your charts could indicate sub-fertility, which means that you are not actually infertile, but that for one reason or another you have more difficulty conceiving. With NFP and specifically Serena's STM, the days of optimal fertility can be identified and with that information sub-fertile couples certainly have a better chance at getting pregnant. For more complicated reproductive issues, we do highly recommend the Creighton Model of NFP. Creighton's NaProTECHNOLOGY offers a natural alternative to the mainstream reproductive technologies out there. It is a relatively unknown yet effective option that is less costly for the couple not only financially, but also emotionally, mentally and physically. For example NaProTECHNOLOGY success stories check out Natural Fertility Matters, the website of Freda McMahon, a Creighton Practitioner based in the UK. To find a Creighton Practitioner near you, see www.fertilitycare.org. For Creighton Practitioners in Vancouver, BC see FertilityCare Vancouver. If the possibility of infertility is an issue that you’re facing, we’re really sorry. We understand that it can be a painful process. If you would like to learn more about how Serena’s STM can help, contact us.