Everyone has their own intentions and purposes for learning natural family planning, and everyone is unique. Some couples seek to achieve pregnancy, while others (often those who are new to the Marquette Method) are hoping to avoid pregnancy. Some have a strong need to avoid pregnancy indefinitely, others are just looking for a few months to recover after having a new baby.
Whatever the case, there are a few common “mistakes” that pop up after the intro class that might make the method more difficult to use.
Here are four of them, and how you can avoid them if you’re looking for a smooth transition to using the Marquette Method!
1: Not charting
I shall make a bold declaration: if you’re not charting, you’re not using NFP.
I don’t mean this as an absolute statement in regards to all methods of NFP (the 2-day method doesn’t require a chart at all!), but without a chart, you will have a more difficult time making informed decisions about family planning when using the Marquette Method.
It can be very tempting to forgo the chart: the monitor records your daily test result for up to 6 cycles, afterall! There are a few problems with relying on the monitor to record your data, though.
If you don’t have a record of your charting when things change in your fertility (and they inevitably will!), you won’t have the data to help you figure out what’s happening.
If the monitor breaks, or you have to reprogram it as part of the method instructions, you lose all of your previous information.
Recording the monitor results in a chart actually makes the method simpler to understand if you're new to NFP.
For those trying to conceive, your chart may provide useful information about your health, and that info can give your instructor some ideas of where to guide you in discussions with your doctor.
My favorite reason to recommend charting: I can answer your questions MUCH faster if you send me your chart. If you give me a summary in words of your test results and subjective descriptions of what’s going on, I have to translate all of that into objective data to help you determine when you’re fertile and when you’re not. This adds a great deal of time, which means you’re waiting longer, too! If you send me a chart, it takes me about 2 minutes to see what’s happening (with some exceptions, of course).
You only need to invest a minute or two each day to log your test result into the appropriate chart. If you’re not sure which chart to use, your instructor can guide you!
Side note, charting is a great role for husband’s to play in the “work” of NFP.
2: Never following up with your instructor
After the intro class, you’re not expected to be an expert in the Marquette Method. This is why you hired an instructor! At Whole Mission, we include unlimited follow-up for at least one full year because we know how important it is. Yes: you pay once, and can talk to your instructor 10 times that year. (we don’t think you'll need 10 follow-ups, but if you do…!)
A follow-up can be as simple as sending a copy of your chart to your instructor for feedback, or it can be an in-depth video meeting where you review charts, discuss questions, and go over the next set of protocols for your particular phase in life.
Here are a few times we recommend you reach out to your instructor to schedule a follow-up:
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll want to follow up:
When you start getting lots of highs before your first postpartum period
When you detect your first peak
When you start your first postpartum period
After 1, 3, and 6 cycles postpartum
If you wean from breastfeeding
Any time you have questions!
Everyone else, we recommend follow-up:
After 1, 3, and 6 cycles of charting
If your health changes or you start or stop a medication
Any time you have questions!
3: Relying solely on the monitor results
This is a big one.
The Marquette Method is more than just the monitor.
Think of it this way:
A thermometer is a tool that measures your body temperature. You input that data into a chart and interpret it using the method instructions to determine when you’re fertile and when you’re not. Your temperature alone doesn’t tell you if you’re fertile or not.
The monitor is a tool that measures your fertility hormones. You input that data into a chart and interpret it using the method instructions to determine when you’re fertile and when you’re not. Your monitor result alone doesn’t tell you if you’re fertile or not.
Especially for those couples who seek to avoid pregnancy, the method instructions (aka “algorithm”) are essential for the 98-99% effectiveness. If you’re relying only on the monitor, the effectiveness is unknown, but certainly lower!
4: Assuming it’s just Catholic birth control
Natural family planning is not contraception. It does not change fertility or intentionally destroy the total gift of self between husband and wife. It also means you’re going to be incorporating virtue and love into the practice of family planning instead of having sex whenever you want.
Love is demonstrated through an offering of self, self-sacrifice, for the good of the other person. Sometimes that good is avoiding pregnancy, which means some abstinence, which isn’t always easy.
Love sometimes means suffering for your beloved.
When you haven’t considered the “why” of Church teaching, it can make it more difficult to practice NFP joyfully. We discuss Catholic teaching and NFP just briefly during the intro to the Marquette Method, but I strongly urge you and your spouse to learn more about what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage and NFP. For more reading, try out the book “Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love” by Edward Sri, and definitely take a gander at Humanae Vitae from Pope St. Paul VI.
One last note on these common “mistakes”: you are free to do whatever you want! You’re not being graded on your chart, and your discernment in the use of NFP is up to you as a couple. For one couple, a chart and regular follow-up are going to be essential to meet their family planning goals. For another, an easygoing approach may be just fine.
Discern, then move forward!
Want more information on classes from Whole Mission? thewholemission.com/learn-nfp