Thursday, May 30, 2013

Should We Teach NFP To Kids?

I attended a lecture on NFP a few weeks ago put on by my diocese featuring Creighton and NaPro Technology. It was geared specifically for medical professionals and clergy and was really quite informative. They had a Creighton trained OB/GYN physician walking us through specific treatments, surgeries, and subsequent outcomes. After that they had a woman (who was also an instructor) give her testimony of using NFP to recognize and treat multiple disorders and then ultimately use it to treat her infertility and conceive. I cried, of course. It was great.

Until. Of course there was an until.

Until a young priest who taught at a local high school asked "When should we be teaching this to girls?" The instructor responded "As soon as they start their period." She then told a story about how her younger sisters learned to chart at 14 and 17 and how one of them had similar issues but was able to treat it early and not struggle for years with infertility as she did. I couldn't have handpicked a better story to display the importance of teaching girls about their fertility when they're young.

So you're wondering what the foreboding "until" was about, right? Well here it comes. One person chimed in questioning the morality of teaching young girls about their fertility. She questioned "Aren't they very likely to abuse it? Shouldn't we not be teaching this to children because of that?"

I remember the instructor answered eloquently and intelligently to this but I cannot for the life of me remember what she said because my rage set in. I just cannot understand the reasoning behind withholding truth because people could possibly misuse it. Should we no longer teach children science and math because they, as we well know, can be warped and twisted for the creation of horribly evil things? Of course not.

The same mentality should be used for fertility awareness. Yes ,of course, it can be abused and in my opinion those most likely to abuse it are the ones we're actively promoting and teaching it to, the engaged. They already know they're with the person that will become their spouse and that it would be a very inopportune time to become pregnant. Yet here we are teaching them how to have sex and not get pregnant! Tsk. Tsk. NFP should only be taught after marriage, right?

Doesn't that just sound ludicrous? Instead I think that every girl should be taught the basics of her fertility from the time she first becomes fertile. Wouldn't it have been a much easier transition into using and trusting NFP as a newlywed if you had been using the concept from the advent of your fertility? Maybe our compliance rate with these newlyweds would be considerably higher if fertility awareness wasn't a completely foreign concept. Maybe, just maybe, teaching girls how to understand their fertility and become self sufficient in managing it would keep them out of the hands of Planned Parenthood who is quick to tell them that they need their fertility to be augmented.


If Planned Parenthood has intentions of teaching children about sex and fertility when they're as young as 10 years old, don't we then have an obligation to ensure that this teaching in counterbalanced with a message of dignity and truth about their bodies? We cannot expect for kids to be preached the gospel of Cecile Richards for 15 years and then expect to win them over to the lifestyle of NFP with one lecture during Marriage Prep!



We need to become more proactive with what we teach our children. I'm not advocating for teaching every 10 year old girl out there every single rule for avoiding pregnancy with NFP but I think it is at least prudent of us to teach them how their bodies work and how they can know it's working. I find those advocating for NFP (myself included) often promote it as a philosophy or lifestyle and to pitch a lifestyle we need more than just one really good powerpoint. We need to invest the time and energy in teaching our daughters and assisting them in this journey so that when the time comes to implement NFP they have a solid foundation of understanding of their own fertility on which to build upon.

P.S.
If you are in the Kansas City area and have a daughter you want to teach about NFP/fertility let me know. There's a GREAT event coming up in the area. I'll send you the info for it!

25 comments:

  1. This was fantastic and I agree with you 100%! Like you said, if we're teaching these girls about their fertility and through NFP showing them how beautifully and wonderfully made they are, perhaps they will learn to respect themselves and their bodies, their God given dignity, just that much more.

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  2. YOu know I agree with you. :) As soon as my oldest was ready to learn the info on exactly HOW God puts those babies in my tummy, I knew I had to go with a holistic viewpoint on the whole thing. She's barreling down the timeline to her first period, I am certain, but we've talked about so many things that she knows what to look for.

    She once threw a comment my way about how she really doesn't want to discuss this stuff with her mother and I just told her...the day you start menstruating, you will be happy to know what is going on, I would be a neglectful mother not to discuss this with you.

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  3. This post really gets me excited. I am a 22 year old girl and am starting to chart. Marriage isn't on the horizon yet because the Lord hasn't shown me the man however due to some issues I think I might be having and the plan to begin becoming a practitioner myself once I graduate from nursing school I have decided to begin charting. One of my goals as a practitioner is to teach it to "marriage isn't on the horizon girls" so that they don't feel like they have to turn to the pill when any itty bitty problem arises. This post reminds me just how important that is. Thanks Katie!!

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  4. Our diocese just had a presentation (or it is coming soon). My taught me the calendar method but I wish she/I had been more informed about "actual" charting of cycles. It would have been pretty helpful.

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  6. Just from a practical perspective, it would have been nice to know in middle school that cervical mucus is normal. Just sayin'. To address your point, I think young girls should be taught NFP, particularly how to chart their cycles, but it should definitely be tailored differently. For example, I did the CCL class, and it was very rule-focused for avoiding or achieving pregnancy. I think girls should be taught how to chart in a health-focused way, with an eye toward understanding their bodies and learning beauty of chastity and an openness to God's will in marriage when the time comes. Quite frankly, I don't think the argument that girls will go out and abuse this knowledge is a valid one. Like you said, the contraceptive lifestyle is already front-and-center in our culture. Ultimately, it will be the parents' decision and I think what is taught would have to be carefully and responsibly thought out.

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    1. We've taken all of the "Big Three": CCL, Creighton, Billings.

      Our experience was that CCL was very rule focused and Creighton expects women to work closely with a practitioner. The Billings course was by far the most focused on fertility awareness and health.

      It's also one of the simpler methods, so it could be taught to teenagers without much modification.

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    2. As a single young woman who has been charting with the Creighton method for almost two years, I can testify that my FCP and OB/GYN both focus on the health issue side of my fertility, rather than how likely I am to get pregnant. The FCPs are trained to tailor how they approach sessions with their clients according to their needs. Based on my own experiences, I don't think that presenting NFP to middle- and high-school girls would require much adaptation from the current system. What might need to change is the focus on communication about the system itself, as many women I have encountered (that plan on using NFP eventually) don't see the need to learn NFP or chart their cycles if they're not engaged or married, even if their cycles are irregular.

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  7. I think this is so important. I actually have adapted the NFP class that The Man and I teach to single women. I teach them at a discounted rate and we focus more on charting and signs of fertility. Rather than get in depth with the rules, I make sure they are able to identify the beginning and end of the potentially fertile time.

    And, the best part, IMHO, is that should they become engaged, they can take the full class with their fiance to learn the rules in detail AND the amount they paid is deducted from the class cost...whenever they take it. No expiration!

    It has worked out well and strikes a balance between teaching fertility awareness and healthy cycles while still leaving enough to learn that a couple can learn together during their engagement as the full class involves much more than just charting, but delves into theology of marriage as well.

    Sorry for the book in your combox - I really wanted to say: I agree!!!!!

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  8. I agree 100%! The term Natural Family Planning is very limiting and IMO, makes it difficult for people to see the benefits beyond achieving or postponing pregnancy. As an instructor, I see charting as a vital piece of information about a woman's health. At the heart of this is educating girls & women about their bodies and their dignity as temples of the Holy Spirit. Why would we withhold information from them about how they have been so wonderfully created?

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  9. Well said, Katie! I wholeheartedly agree with you. Maybe you guys can even add a tab of NFP for teens over at IuseNFP? (Not to give you one more thing!)

    As a teen my body did things I did not understand and when I told the ob/gyn he just put me on the pill. It wasn't until I learned NFP as an engaged 25 year old woman that I learned what my body was actually doing and that there were natural ways to fix the problems and make myself healthier. I actually felt angry that no one had told me these things before and I intend to teach my daughters so they can understand and appreciate their bodies and have healthy bodies.

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  10. Yes, yes, and yes! I would have LOVED charting when I was in high school. I was no where NEAR being sexually active then. Charting would have only brought enlightenment to my body and I fully intend to teach my children (boys and girls) about NFP. Toni Weschler actually has a book for teens called "Cycle Savvy".

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  11. I have never made a strong opinion on this matter because I just didn't have the information or words. This helped so much! Thank you:)

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  12. I think this is yet another reason why the term "Natural Family Planning" needs to be scrapped in favor of "fertility awareness".

    Many people–even many Catholics who use it-think of NFP as an updated "rhythm method", which was only (marginally) useful for family planning. Many of the concerns about NFP were legitimate concerns about the rhythm method, but make no sense today.

    But fertility awareness really is information every woman needs to know—part of "being a human 101." It's women's health. And guys could stand to learn a bit of the basics, too.

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  13. If someone had taught me to chart as a young teen, I might not be 28 and struggling to conceive!!! I'm right there with you and hope that talk opened some of their eyes.

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  14. I completely agree with you Katie. Fertility awareness should definitely be taught to young girls as soon as they hit puberty. I was also put on the pill in high school after I stopped getting my periods (which was due to an eating disorder, but of course the OB didn't investigate that...and then after 2 years of being on the pill, I told the OB I wanted to go off the pill, and with a smart ass smile on her face, she laughed and said "Why do you think going off the pill will make you get your period back?"..that was the last time I saw that OB.) Anyways... I didn't really understand my fertility and cycles until I got married. I am excited that I will be able to explain fertility and menstruation to my daughter in a positive way someday. All I was told as a young girl was "you are going to start bleeding from your vagina around age 11 or 12, it will happen for about one week per month,and when you do you need to learn how to use pads and tampons." Obviously I knew that sex caused pregnancy, but didn't really understand how. Until I got married, I thought sex at anytime could cause pregnancy. I am excited I will be able to talk to my daughter about this without embarrassment (my mom was very nervous and embarrassed to talk to me at first about my period.) Anyways..great post!!

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  15. My husband and I were just speaking about this, but in terms of myself and our relationship. Although I never had any intention of ever using contraception, I didn't start learning to chart until about 4-6 months before I was married. Even now, 10 years later, I wish I would have had some experience in understanding my body: what a typical cycle looks like for me, what the signs mean, and so on, before getting married and almost immediately pregnant where hormones go super crazy and cycles go on a long hiatus. Even after charting all this time, I feel like if I would have had the opportunity to chart sooner, I might have that much more confidence in practicing NFP. I also hope to teach my girls about it sooner than I learned.
    And, for what it's worth, I am all for what James B says about transitioning away from calling it Natural Family Planning and towards calling it Fertility Awareness.

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  16. I could not agree more Katie!

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  17. I think that we need to begin educating young people about their bodies sooner. With the puberty coming younger and younger, it is imperative that young girls (and boys) learn the mechanics of how the body works, in an age appropriate manner, from the beginning of their schooling.

    I'm not saying we need to teach 5 year olds about sex, mind you, but in the schools I work in most students do not get any anatomy or body system education until 7th grade, which is too late to begin. (Especially since many of the 5th graders are getting periods!) If we start by teaching basic anatomy in lower elementary school, by the time the girls are old enough to benefit from, fertility awareness it will just be a natural progression of the anatomy and physiology knowledge they have already started to build.

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  18. I've actually been thinking about this!! Thanks for clearing it up - everything you said made so much sense. NFP is definitely better than contraception, and I thinking teaching girls about their bodies & fertility will make them appreciate their sexuality more. I like that a lot.

    Jamie

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  19. I agree with you times 100!

    Rebecca, I'm impressed you teach to single women at a discounted rate.

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  20. I agree with your perspective, however, I think it's key that we clarify that with young girls, we're teaching the *basics* to give them knowledge about how their bodies work. The full instructions, I believe, are inappropriate for a teenager (I teach CrMS... there are a few instructions I don't even teach to couples until their wedding day is close because, well, there's *no* use for it until then and it could be inappropriate depending on the couple). I also feel that there are huge benefits to learning together as an engaged couple. NFP is really ideally used as a couple - both for effectiveness and for the health of the relationship. It's not the women's "job" only. So while I agree with this post, I think extra effort would need to be made to draw the men in when marriage prep becomes a reality if NFP instruction became the norm for teenage girls.

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  21. This was awesome, Katie! Those are such valuable points you shared! Thank you!

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  22. If NFP was ONLY used to prevent pregnancy, then I could understand not teaching young girls. But it's used to diagnose diseases and hormonal imbalances and teach them about their bodies, etc. and that should be available to every woman, including a 12 year old.

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  23. This was a great article! I'm glad I stumbled across it. There's a lot about cycles I wish I'd known when I was younger and still more I have to learn. I'm a single woman and marriage is a while off (if I'll be getting married at all). But I still want to know how my body works. Moreover, charting means I can monitor myself for diseases/conditions and, as you mention, be more prepared and comfortable should I get married and need to use NFP.

    Also I would LOVE some information about that seminar in the Kansas City area. Thanks in advance!

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