How effective is systematic NFP for avoiding pregnancy?
We have no doubt that married couples who are properly instructed and motivated can practice the cross-checking Sympto-Thermal Method at the 99% level of effectiveness for avoiding pregnancy. Various studies have shown that the “perfect use” of the method yields that result. That means that the couples in the studies followed the rules. A German study on the sympto-thermal method published in February 2007 showed an effectiveness of 99.6%. On the other hand, fertile spouses who do not follow the rules and engage in the marriage act during the fertile time are going to become pregnant sooner or later.
It is important to realize that contemporary systems differ significantly from the Calendar Rhythm that was developed and taught in the 1930s. Cars have advanced since that time, and so has systematic NFP.
Ecological Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing
Natural child spacing has been demonstrated in certain areas of the world where mothers at one time breastfed for an extended length of time. Among the Canadian Eskimos, traditional breastfeeding kept the Eskimo family small—three or four children. Conception occurred among the traditional breastfeeding Eskimo mothers at 20 to 30 months after childbirth. The use of the bottle among breastfeeding Eskimo mothers, however, reduced the frequency and duration of breastfeeding, and these mothers were conceiving 2 to 4 months after childbirth.
Mother-baby togetherness is important for natural child spacing. In a Rwanda study, breastfeeding mothers had different conception rates depending on their lifestyles, but the bottle-feeding mothers’ conception rates were the same, whether the mothers lived in the city or in the country. Why the difference in conception rates among the breastfeeding mothers? Seventy-five percent (75%) of the city breastfeeding mothers conceived between 6 and 15 months after childbirth, while 75% of the rural breastfeeding mothers conceived between 24 and 29 months after childbirth. According to the researchers, the reason the country mothers conceived much later was due to the amount of physical contact these mothers had with their babies. The country mothers remained with their babies while the city mothers were leaving their babies with others.
The frequency of breastfeeding, short intervals between feedings, and night feedings, — all these factors have been proven to be extremely important for natural child spacing. Because the research is so substantial, we believe that those involved with natural family planning, the family, the health of our nation, and the Church should teach the important health and baby-spacing benefits of ecological breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding for all these reasons should especially be promoted among the poor. As Dr. Ruth Lawrence says:
Breastfeeding is the most precious gift a mother can give her infant.
If there is illness or infection, it may be a life-saving gift.
If there is poverty, it may be the only gift.
Why do many nursing mothers have an early return of fertility?
The primary reason is that they do not follow the frequent nursing pattern [or the Seven Standards] of ecological breastfeeding. Many breastfeeding mothers offer early supplements and use pacifiers or bottles or baby sitters and strict feeding and/or sleep schedules; these practices have long been associated with an early return of fertility. (page 110 of the NFPI manual)
For a better understanding of what shortens breastfeeding and natural infertility, review pages 113 and 114 of the NFPI manual and Chapter Six. To achieve pregnancy, review pages 68-70 in Chapter 4 of the NFPI manual. For natural child spacing, read The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor.
John and Sheila Kippley
Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach