Karoline Heldt, CFCP
You asked, we answered!
We reached out on social media asking what questions you have about Creighton Model, or Natural Family Planning more broadly. Below are your questions and our answers. As always, you can contact one of our Practitioners for more information!
"What does using/practicing NFP really mean?"
If you are "using" NFP in the most basic sense that means that you are not using any artificial means to regulate or control your fertility (whether physical or chemical). Rather, you have an understanding of the signs and symptoms your body gives to tell you of the fertile and infertile time periods in your monthly cycle and you are using that information in one of 3 ways: to improve/monitor your health, achieve pregnancy or avoid pregnancy.
The broad use of the term "NFP" can be problematic because there are hundreds of apps available for tracking your cycles and limitless information on the internet, so someone saying that they "use NFP" could be anything from someone who tracks the first day of their period and uses a calendar prediction app to someone who is working closely with a highly trained CrMS practitioner to treat complex medical issues and achieve or avoid pregnancy. This very broad term leads to an overall distrust and often stigmatization of anyone who says that they use NFP. It also leads to poor data, like the CDC stating that "NFP" has 23% failure rate. There are also methods that claim to be "NFP" but are really just cycle tracking and advocate for the use of barrier methods during fertile periods to avoid pregnancy. You can see how this broad term can sometimes be problematic. The more specific the better.
Around here, we are obviously huge Creighton fans *wink*. But for good reason. Our practitioners are rigorously and thoroughly trained, highly educated women who really care about you. Our NaPro doctors are second to none. The system is proven effective for achieving pregnancy, avoiding pregnancy, and improving your health.
"What is considered a legitimate reason for NFP? ... How is it not just moral contraception?"
I put these two questions together because I addressed it in detail in this blog post about "Catholic Contraception".
The first question "is there a legitimate reason to use NFP" implies that there is an illegitimate reason to use NFP. I want to get more specific and talk strictly about Creighton Model because, as we discussed above, the broad use of the term NFP can be problematic.
This question is based on a very popular misunderstanding which is that if you are "using" NFP it's to not get pregnant and when you want to become pregnant you "stop using NFP". When it comes to Creighton Model, this couldn't be further from the truth.
Everything about using the Creighton Model is totally in line with Catholic Church teaching. Over a series of months and cycles you learn about the way your body was deigned to work and gain a deeper understanding of your health and fertility. You can use this information to improve your health and if you're married, make choices with your spouse on timing of intercourse to achieve or avoid pregnancy. What this question is really getting at is: "What are legitimate reasons to avoid pregnancy?" It might surprise you to learn that what these reasons are is left totally up to the good judgement of the married couple. The idea that to be a good and faithful Catholic you have to have a limitless number of children is both wrong and damaging. There are reasons for every size of family and its important that husbands and wives are able to discern God's will for their families in good conscience, it's a grave moral responsibility and not up to the opinions and input of others.
"Is NFP just for married women? ... How could NFP help unmarried women?"
Again, I'd like to get specific and talk about Creighton Model here since it's the only system that can be used cooperatively with medical treatment to address health issues. This can be extremely useful and beneficial for women in all seasons of life! There are teenagers, single women and even religious sisters who have benefited from learning and using Creighton model to monitor and improve their reproductive health. Your reproductive health is an integral part to your overall health and wellbeing and even if your body is not bearing children (at this time or ever), its so important to have a healthy functioning reproductive system. This can improve things like pain management, mental health, mood disorders, digestive disorders, metabolic conditions, cancer outcomes, and many more.
"Talk about SPICE!"
Jessica did a fantastic job talking about that here and here. But I'd love to give a synopsis about what this acronym actually means. Unless you're a Creighton Model user you're probably thinking "...huh?". SPICE is an acronym we use when teaching CrMS to talk about the spiritual, physical, intellectual, creative/communicative and emotional aspects to human sexuality. Your sexuality is so much more than the act of intercourse. A healthy sexuality is fully integrated into your personhood. Anyone in any state in life can have a healthy and fully integrated human sexuality and can have a healthy SPICE aspect to their relationships. The SPICE acronym attempts to summarize the multi-dimensional aspects to a health relationship. In any relationship, especially marriage, individuals will have areas of SPICE that come naturally to them and others that take more concerted effort to grow with their spouse.
What does all this have to do with NFP? Your experience of NFP across the procreative spectrum of your life will be more fulfilling the more mature you are with the SPICE aspects of your relationship. It will enhance the fertile and the infertile times!