Contribution to Book
Catholic University of America Press
Catholic Witness in Health Care
The Catholic Church calls married couples to responsible parenthood; this includes both openness to new human life and the avoidance of pregnancy when serious reasons present themselves. Natural methods of family planning respect the dignity of the person and the integrity of the sexual act. They treat fertility as a natural process rather than a disease. Natural family planning (NFP) works with a woman’s menstrual cycle; it uses awareness of fertile and infertile times to achieve or avoid pregnancy and allows married couples, through their awareness, to respect and maintain both the unitive and the procreative aspects of the sexual act. In this chapter, Dr. Fehring points out that the benefits of using NFP are “a better understanding of fertility, increased communication, self- mastery of sexual desires, greater generosity toward new human life, and openness to God’s will.” He also explores the history of fertility awareness methods, their scientific basis, and their efficacy. He discusses some medical side benefits of tracking fertility: it can reveal abnormalities and is an aid in the assessment and treatment of infertility. Daily discussion of fertility enhances communication between spouses. Periods of abstinence, while difficult at times, also provide opportunities for the couple to develop nonsexual expressions of intimacy, thereby enhancing mutual respect and married life. The teaching and use of NFP is an effective way of promoting the culture of life.—Editors.