• Liz Madsen, FCP, FNTP

NFP or Fertility Awareness?

Updated: Aug 28

I’ve got a confession: I've been afraid to talk about NFP. For years, this internal struggle of NFP versus Fertility Awareness has run rampant inside my heart, but that's changing.


Have you been afraid to talk about NFP for fear of "losing people" so you talked about Fertility Awareness instead? Well I have!



Photo Credit: Katie Kolbrick Photography


NFP and Fertility Awareness are not the same


I’m no longer saying that NFP and Fertility Awareness are the same. They aren’t.


Fertility Awareness will tell you when you are fertile and infertile, but NFP will draw you closer to God and one another.

Fertility Awareness is knowing when you are fertile or not on any given day of your cycle. You understand this by learning a fertility awareness based method or FABM whether that’s Creighton Model, Marquette, Billings, Sympto-Thermal, TCOYF or any other method. To look up all the good methods go here and here.


Natural Family Planning incorporates Fertility Awareness and all the scientific goodness of monitoring a woman's menstrual cycle. Natural Family Planning is distinctly different, though. It assumes the couple is a) married b)in conversation with God about their family planning. Fertility Awareness will tell you when you are fertile and infertile, but NFP will draw you closer to God and one another.


What about Creighton?


Is Creighton Model NFP? Yes. Is it Fertility Awareness? Yes. Ok, that's confusing.


Yes. I have been part of the problem here. On my very site, I listed Creighton Model and charting your cycle as merely Fertility Awareness. It is fertility awareness because it teaches you the science behind your cycle, but it is also NFP because it advocates for married love, shared responsibility and God's design for you fertility. I'm now making a new category for NFP, where I list all the same information with the added topics of marriage, preparing for marriage, being Catholic and basically inviting God into this process.


My Story


NFP drew me into the sphere of understanding my fertility and my gynecologic health. I learned Creighton Model about 7 years ago, and discovered the health monitoring aspect of my charting. I finally understood what Fertility Awareness meant.


When I devoured the science, all I wanted to do was tell people that NFP is really Fertility Awareness and to stop acting like I’m tying up your ovaries with my rosary (which I hardly ever prayed with). I became a FertilityCare Practitioner and taught people about their ovaries (which I still do). The problem was that I had defaulted to talking about all the health benefits and the effectiveness. I figured, everyone could relate to their body working the way it is supposed to. Everyone could relate to wanting high effectiveness rates. Nobody wanted to hear the words God, prayer or sanctity. The term NFP needed to go away, we needed to focus on Fertility Awareness. I'm sure God was like, "Oh Liz, that's cute."


I let Fear be the guide


I had been afraid to talk about the subject of God's plan and true openness to life with your spouse. I had been scared of hurting people, of pushing people away, of being less inclusive, of making people feel bad. It sounded so scary and heavy and intrusive. It didn't apply to everyone. People who weren’t Catholic wouldn't get it. People who were Catholic but who didn’t trust their bodies would be offended. That was wrong of me. Who was I to withhold beautiful information that could totally transform your life? I was taking in the truth, keeping it for myself and just blasting out the science at everyone.

I had been scared of hurting people, of pushing people away, of being less inclusive, of making people feel bad.

Talking about Fertility Awareness is truly beautiful. Do not get me wrong, I love Fertility Awareness. We should know the beauty and science of God's design. I will always be teaching that and promoting it. So many women need this information for healing and just understanding the beauty of their bodies. Fertility Awareness can also be a revolving door into the truth of NFP.


What Changed? Me.


Did you know it's ok to change? It is, I give you permission to do it whenever you want to. During the great COVID shut down, where in my state, we spent a good month or so locked inside, I listened to God more. It's that simple. He spoke to me through prayer, through listening to the amazing Podcast Abiding Together, reading in the School of the Holy Spirit. Slowly I developed a prayer life, and now I do use my rosary (imagine that!). Sometimes I feel like a child who is stuck and the way out is easy, but I need help. God is that help and He pulled me out. I knew from conversation with Him, that my work needed to reflect His love a lot more. I'm not going to hide behind JUST the science anymore, I'm probably going to bring up God sometimes.


You don’t need the best method. You don’t need to win the argument that fertility awareness is better than the pill. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone by not getting pregnant with NFP.

Natural Family Planning takes the cake any day.


With NFP, you could be using a FABM or not, but either way, you’re open to life in your marriage. Not only are you open to life but you are sharing that responsibility wholeheartedly with your spouse. Regardless of if you use a method or not, you are in constant communication about your combined fertility. You honor and respect one another by leaving contraception out of your sex life. Yes, knowing with 96.8% (Creighton statistic) certainty that you’ll avoid pregnancy is great, but the connection with your spouse in a free, total, faithful and fruitful way will pay off over and over again in your life together. You don’t need the best method. You don’t need to win the argument that fertility awareness is better than the pill. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone by not getting pregnant with NFP. You need to be at peace with your body, with God and with your spouse. That’s NFP. That's why I'm here.

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