Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rethinking NFP.

TMI Warning: This post discusses birth control. If you don't want to hear about it, and especially my own thoughts on it, I suggest you leave now. You've been warned!

Moving on....

I've blogged about NFP (Natural Family Planning) before. I think it's a great technique and, when practiced by the book and under normal circumstances, an accurate one. We used NFP when we were first married, up until the point we decided to try for our first child. When we made that decision, we became pregnant immediately.

After Lucy was born, I discussed birth control options with my husband and midwife, and decided I was comfortable with continuing NFP. I guess I expected that it would work as well post-baby as it did pre-baby. Was I ever surprised when I discovered I was pregnant (with the baby now known as June) at 6 months post-partum!

Whereas before I bragged about how well NFP worked and couldn't imagine using any other method, now I can't help but feel a little let down by it. I guess I shouldn't- breastfeeding kept me cycle-free for six months. I know that even when practiced carefully, ecological breastfeeding is only recommended as reliable birth control for that amount of time. (I don't mean to imply I practiced ecological breastfeeding- as I work out-of-the-home, it's impossible. What I mean is that even under solid "breastfeeding-as-birth-control" conditions, 6 months is the standard).

Please, please don't think I regret my pregnancy with June. Although it was certainly a surprise, I trust in God's timing and my love for my baby girl is indescribable. That being said, I am not ready to join the 3-under-3 club (that is, having 3 children under 3). My mother, as well as several other people in my family, are members of that illustrious group, but I have zero desire to join them.

Problem is, I feel stuck now.

I don't use hormonal birth control because of my religious beliefs. As a Catholic, I believe that life begins at conception. But wait, you might say- the Pill prevents ovulation, and therefore conception, entirely. But that's not an accurate statement, at least not 100% of the time. Yes, the primary method by which the Pill works is by suppressing ovulation. However, it has a secondary method as well in that it works to make the lining of the uterus inhospitable to implementation.

The bottom line is that by using the Pill (and other forms of hormonal birth control), I would be knowingly taking action that could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. I'm not cool with that.

Further, most hormonal birth control presents the risk of killing one's supply while breastfeeding. Even the progesterone-only pills present a risk, albeit a lower one. Exclusively-breastfeeding my baby is something I take very, very seriously, so this is another reason why I don't consider hormonal birth control a good option.

So where does that leave me? As far as I can tell, I'm back at old-school contraceptives, i.e. barrier methods. Boooooooo.

Suggestions, anyone?


Mary-Rose said...

I get Google Alerts and I just saw your post. I teach NFP and I mainly work with women who are either postpartum and trying to learn (hardest time to learn but not impossible) or women with fertility problems. I would recommend taking an online NFP class if you do not have classes offered in your area. If you have taken a class and need a refresher that is okay too. Most of us need a refresher when our cycles are not cycling! Let me know if you need help or resources. Blessings, Mary Rose

Jenny said...

We are pretty much in the same place (or will be come April). My period came back shortly after Ivey started consistently eating solid foods at around 9 months, and we started the Creighton Model. We weren't supposed to have sex for the first month, but um, that was difficult. So we're having a baby in April. I'd like to believe that if we really did use the Creighton Model exactly as intended, and were super careful and committed to it, it would work. However, we are super fertile and while I'm happy and excited about this baby, I don't think I can handle another baby before he is at least three or so! I would never use hormonal birth control for a host of reasons, so that leaves us contemplating barrier methods, too, at least as an occasional backup.

Emily said...

Thank you both for your input!

I have taken the NFP course and am very familiar with my own fertility signs. However, while breastfeeding, my body did not present those fertility signs. No clear thermal shift, no fertile cervical mucus, and cervical position change difficult to interpret.

I guess I would sum it up by saying that I love the concept of NFP and truly believe it to be effective- most of the time. What I don't like is the fact that it is so much more difficult when nursing. Even the NFP instructors that I know personally acknowledge that practicing while breastfeeding can be very tricky- definitely possible, but more difficult. This, of course, varies from woman to woman.

For what it's worth, my mother practiced true ecological breastfeeding, and her children are all closely placed- 11 month between me and my sister (I'm oldest), 14 months between the next, and so on. It is much the same with my grandmother and her children.

Lindsay Gray said...

I never fail to learn something when I come to your blog. And might I add, those two girls of yours are absolutely beautiful and I love the name June!

Melissa L said...

I can very much relate to your post! We used NFP while nursing between the pregnancies and I thought I knew my body perfectly. Then BAM! we got pregnant this last time when we should not have been able to! I have been on the mini pill twice and last time tried the diaphragm which I had high hopes for but hated right away. After 3 babies ( and 3 studid c-sections) I am not taking any chances this time. I'm planning to get the copper IUD in a month or two even before the baby is 6m old.

Denise said...

I have yet to find many Christian friends who are as concerned about what birth control can do to a fertilized egg (i.e. embryo) with the secondary effect birth control has to thin the lining. I am so glad you know and care about this!

Personally, we thought we'd never have to consider the birth control option again, but having conceived as we did this time, yet with 2 frozen embryos we need/want to use before any more natural pregnancies, we will have to now. I know this probably will not change your view (which is fine, I'm just sharing), but based on all the research I've done (lots!) I was comfortable with the NuvaRing's suppressing ovulation the best (as it's internal, used for 21 days, so it's a regular amount of hormones being released, as opposed to oral-BC). But taken in addition with baby aspirin daily, which thickens the uterine lining up to an amount that makes the uterus able to support a pregnancy, I was comfortable I was not making my uterus inhospitable. Only those two used together (faithfully) are what I am going to proceed with once #2 is old enough.

I am a little concerned this time. I did not get my cycles back until Elyana was 14-15 months old, and I got pregnant when she was a little over 20 months old, so I had about 6 cycles, but I don't want to "risk" a pregnancy this time. I also don't want to introduce hormones too early (especially I am nursing a boy). So, I really will have to go with NFP with barrier methods as a backup until the baby is weaned or old enough that I feel it's ok.

Just saying, I feel your pain, though in a different way. We definitely have a moral obligation to our embryos and do not want a "natural" pregnancy before giving those a chance at life.

TheGirl said...

I have no advice for the birth control, I am not Catholic so that is not my territory but I know that I had the non-hormonal copper IUD for awhile post partum and that worked well.

good luck!

Emily said...

Thanks for the suggestions, ladies!

Denise- I was super excited about the idea for NuvaRing and baby aspirin...until I remembered I can't use it while breastfeeding. Unlike you, I get my cycles back early...booo.

Anonymous said...

Please don't use contraception. You mentioned that you were Catholic. You are blessed to have been shown the fullness of Truth in the Catholic Church. Following this as well as all of the Truths in the Catholic Church will bring you to your full potential in your life and marriage here on earth as well as eternal blessedness in Heaven one day.

One cannot be Catholic and use contraception. The Church in the western world does a horrible job in teaching on contraception. Even though contraception is seldom preached on, it is still our responsibility to know what the Church teaches and expects of us and to examine our conscience before we unite ourselves to Jesus in the Eucharist. Contraception is a grave sin that when used with full knowledge and full consent of your will makes it a mortal sin. The Church teaches that those who die in the state of mortal sin go to hell. Being in the state of mortal sin excludes you from the Eucharist until a valid confession is made.

My wife and I got pregnant with our 3rd baby while our 2nd baby was only 6mo. We thought we had the NFP down, but we still conceived. We were open to another baby and this made it easier to handle.

I can relate to your post as we have just had the same type of situation. After our 3rd was born we 'walked on egg shells' as far as our relations went on for a few months. We both decided that it is no fun living in fear and made a decision to use NFP only as a guide and let God decide if we will have another baby soon.

Baby #3 is now 5mo and we are enjoying each others bodies as God intended for those in Sacramental marriage. Abstinence out of fear is a tactic of the evil one to keep us apart. And with contraception being out of the question, there is only one option...Trust God. We are open to more children. It would be nice to have a bit more space between no3 and potential no4, but we will not let fear keep us apart from each other. Remember that the martial act (when done in accordance to Church teaching) is one way which Christ dispenses Sacramental grace upon your marriage.

Might I suggest (if you are not already doing so) Eucharistic Adoration and the Rosary as means to strengthen your relationship and trust in God. This will bless your marriage in many ways as well.

God Bless and all the best and many blessings in your marriage!