You wouldn't think that the words "Natural family planning" and "single Catholic college girl" would work together in one sentence very well. Well, until now that is. It's not just for married couples - the concepts introduced with Natural Family Planning are concepts that can affect every one's life, regardless of what stage you're at. So why now?
Because you shouldn't wait until you are married to start thinking about your fertility.
It's easy to think that the time we have right now while in college is not the time to be worried about fertility and all that jazz. We're young. We've got our whole lives ahead of us. Yet let me tell you something - it is becoming more and more obvious to me that life is literally flying by quicker than I can blink. My little sister just graduated from high school. My co-worker just got married and now has a beautiful little baby. My college peers are graduating. Life is happening, and snap you're fingers and you'll be at another stage of your life. Don't wait until you're married to start thinking about how to take care of your health and fertility.
Because you should know where you stand on the issue of birth control before you are in a relationship.
The number one reason marriages don't last anymore? Failed communication. When birth control was first introduced to the public scene in the early 1960s, it's affect on issues like divorce wasn't something that was on people's minds. This was about improving marriages! Less stress around pregnancies, littles, and a general well being of the family. But come in the 1970s, and divorce rates doubled. And it didn't stop in the 70s - the number of divorces tripled from 400,000 in 1962 to 1.2 million in 1981.
Why? Because birth control in a marriage says one thing and does another. Sex, by it's unitive and procreative nature, says "Here is all of me!" but the addition of birth control tacks on "Well, all of me except my fertility. And our future children." And that communication can tear down a marriage that is meant to be, according to the Catechism, "ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring" but instead reduces both members down to the sum of their parts.
Because it's not birth control...which is what my doctors want me to be on.
It seems now a days that any medical issue that arises in a girl's life is a case where birth control is prescribed by her doctor. According to a study conducted in the United States, from 2006-2010, 62 percent of all women in the United states who are of reproductive age are currently prescribed some form of contraceptive birth control.
I've been there. I've sat down with my doctor and heard how medical issues would be easily, quickly, and painlessly resolved if I would just let her write a prescription for birth control for me.
But there are a lot of risks associated with just the pill - most of which are not gone over in the doctors office when the pill itself is prescribed. The pill is actually a combination of two different hormonal medications: estrogen and progestin. Because of this increase in hormone presence in the body, the pill carries with it many side affects, one of them being breast cancer. Research indicates that the birth control pill itself will increase the risk of a woman getting breast cancer by over 40% if she takes the pill before she has her first child. After she delivers her first baby though, the chances rocket to over 70% increase of breast cancer risk if she continues for more than four years.
My family has a very high risk of breast cancer on both sides of my family, so taking the pill for me would be not only putting my current health at risk, but also placing the time I spend with my future family at jeopardy as well. Other than just breast cancer risks though, the pill's side affects also include higher blood pressure, heart health issues, blood clotting, a lack of fertility once off the pill prescription, increase of liver and cervical cancers, difficulty breast feeding and a lowering of the immune system to AIDS and HIV.
On top of all this, the cost of being on the pill for just five years is over $1,000. I'm in college. And I drink a lot of coffee. The budget that I have for medication is very small - and to be purchasing something that acts as a band-aid for the medical issues that I do have, only to increase my future medical risks and costs isn't a cost effective choice.
Studying the concepts of Natural Family Planning - such as the charting and tracking of fertility - is one way that NFP has been a blessing to me as a single Catholic woman. Instead of relying on artificial hormones, I'm able to utilize the concepts of NFP to track my fertility and expose a lot of the underlying issues that birth control might have covered up - like the simple addition of vitamins into my diet and a better awareness of my fitness and general health.
Also, this book was incredibly helpful for that reason.
Because your body is amazing...and knowing how it works is fantastic too.
Even if you're not married, or heck, if you're in the same boat as me and you're not even dating, it's no excuse to not appreciate how stinking amazing the human body is. One of my dearest friends is in veterinarian school and sends me facts about the body and the reproduction system and it's amazing. For instance, did you know that, for women, the smell of a newborn baby triggers the same part of the brain reward center as a drug addiction does? God has literally thought of everything imaginable and to be able to learn about it is the bomb.
Although it may not seem like it, in your early twenties is the ideal time to learn all of this as well. Down the road you may have a family, a full time career, graduate degree work, or any other number of amazing thing God has planned for you. Right now is the perfect time to dig into the amazing work He's laid out for us in our creation.
Because life is beautiful no matter what stage of life you're in.
This morning at church I sat behind a family with five littles. They were gorgeous - all of them under ten and full of life and energy. And it was beautiful. Am I utilizing NFP right now to plan my family with my spouse? Nope. However, knowing how NFP works and the Church's teachings concerning families right now helps so much when both interacting with families now and when I, God willing, have my own family in the future.
God's plan for your fertility doesn't start when you put on a wedding dress. Or when you are called to start a family. Or even if you are not called to marriage at all. Your body is good. It makes it possible for you to be Christ's hands and feet to the world around you.
This weekend we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension - yet another way that Christ tells us that our bodies are important. He rises, body and soul, and ascends into Heaven. If the body wasn't important, Christ wouldn't have a glorified one.
So take the time now to learn more about your fertility. It is never too early to glorify the Lord with your whole self.
For further resources, check out these amazing websites:
- Couple to Couple League: A great way to learn the basics of NFP and how they interact in a - marriage.
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: This website has some great articles about the religious explanation of why the Catholic Church supports NFP.
- Carrots for Michaelmas: Haley Stewart is probably the most incredible Catholic mama blogger in my opinion. She's sassy, has an incredible sense of style, and, in her own words is a "homeschooling, bacon-eating, coffee-drinking southern girl with a flair for liturgical feasts and a penchant for bright red lipstick." In other words, who I want to be when I grow up. She has a fantastic piece on her NFP experience over on her blog.
There are countless of other bloggers who have written on their experience with NFP - the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you're looking for some more information on the subject, drop me a note in the comment box and I'll get you set up.