Using NFP in Challenging Times

My latest column at Amazing Catechists is entitled “Using NFP in Challenging Times.”

The postpartum (after having a baby) and pre-menopause (before menopause) times are two very challenging periods to use NFP. Even more challenging is when a couple decides to learn NFP during these times. It’s not impossible, but more difficult to use NFP and it often necessitates longer periods of abstinence if the couple is avoiding pregnancy.

Postpartum Period:
For the postpartum woman, it depends on the type of baby care as to whether her fertility will return immediately or up to a year or two afterwards.

The bottlefeeding mother will have an early return of fertility (which means that her periods and ovulation will start soon after birth). The part-time breastfeeding mom will generally have an earlier return of fertility. The totally breastfeeding mother will likely not see fertility until her baby begins to wean or begins to take solids. All these factors must be taken into account when using NFP in the postpartum period. Regardless of how a mother feeds her baby, fertility observations are essential in determining when fertility returns.

It is typical for the postpartum woman to have longer cycles initially, but eventually her cycles will return to the normal pre-pregnancy length. Fertility observations are extremely important in this transition period and sometimes there are long periods of abstinence depending on how serious a need the couple have.

Pre-menopause can be equally challenging. For the middle-aged couple who are avoiding pregnancy, periods of abstinence can be lengthy. Cycles can become irregular: they can be shorter or longer. As fertility drops, cycles can often be anovulatory (without ovulation), can include breakthrough bleeding and/or weak or lengthy luteal phases (the time from ovulation to menstruation).

Women approaching menopause may also have to deal with hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood swings, anxiety, depression, weight gain, sleep issues and problems with concentration and memory.

The Couple to Couple League has published two excellent books on both the Postpartum period and Pre-Menopause (CCL Store). They also offer supplemental classes for both postpartum and pre-menopause. (These classes are free for couples who have already taken the regular CCL NFP course). If interested in one of these courses, please contact the Couple to Couple League at their website:

copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach


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