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  • Mary Shivanandan

Why Can't a Woman Learn NPF from Her Doctor?

Updated: Sep 10, 2018

By Alice Knable.


As a convert to the Catholic Faith my journey to embracing the teaching of natural family planning (NFP), which is a method for both achieving and avoiding pregnancy, was a slow one, and without the insistence of the Church on its truth I doubt that I would ever have considered it or even known that it was an option. Thus my surprise and delight when I got into a conversation with a Protestant woman about her current pregnancy, her love of the Theology of the Body, and NFP.


My new friend remarked on her frustration at finding a doctor who supported her previous two pregnancies, let alone a doctor who supported her decision not to contracept. She described incident after incident of visiting different clinics in the area and having the physicians act with surprise when she, a young mother, wanted more children. Don’t you have a career? Aren’t two children enough? Are you sure you don’t want to contracept? Once she got past this barrage of questions, my friend noted how uneducated the physicians were on family planning options that did not involve contraceptive devices. This lack of knowledge in the medical community, while discouraging is not surprising. In most medical programs fertility is seen more as a disease to be combatted and controlled and the methods of NFP are quickly brushed asides as archaic and outmoded--if mentioned at all. This is a general reflection of the lack of understanding in our culture of the body and its relationship to love, specifically in the context of marriage.


Because sex has been separated from marriage and procreation, most people no longer see any logical connection between sex and the begetting of children. Furthermore, children are often seen as objects (no one will say this explicitly but it is implicit in action) and only accepted into the world when it is most convenient. In these two reductions the notion of person as gift is undermined. No longer is sex about fully giving oneself to another while receiving the other fully, fertility and the possibility of new life included. No longer are children seen as a gift to be received and welcomed into this world, even when they arrive unexpectedly.


How do we go forward from this, rather dismal, reality? I think it is through awakening people to the beauty of sex, rightly understood, and educating them about the options of NFP. The full truth and beauty of the sexual union and the procreation of children is not just for Catholics--everyone is yearning for the truth, if only that truth is made available to them. As a student of nursing and future midwife, the question of how to continue to educate medical professionals about methods of NFP is close to my heart. At the most basic level children must once again be understood as gift and fertility must no longer be understood as a disease to be combatted. For those in the medical profession it is a simple question of what healing really means and how true health and good science are intrinsic to NFP… But this will have to be a topic for another blog post!

Alice Knable is a 23 year old Catholic currently living in D.C. She has studied at Baylor University and The John Paul II Institute. She is passionate about medicine and faith and will be pursuing a degree as a nurse midwife.


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