I am so excited you brought this up! Regardless of whether you believe contraception is okay or not, I want to toot the horn of natural family planning (NFP). Personally, I understand the church’s teachings, but I follow them not because I believe contraception is evil (I don’t) but because, having used both, I think NFP is so much better.
My husband and I are using the sympto-thermal method (STM) of NFP with success. We decided to try NFP in part because of the Church’s teaching but mostly because I do not tolerate hormonal bc well AT ALL. I have been on myriad different kinds of pills, and the ring, and I dislike the way it makes me feel, the cost, and the environmental impact. We thought about condoms but my husband doesn’t like them and I don’t think they are effective enough when used alone.
NFP allows you to postpone having children until you are ready to take care of them and not have more than you can handle. When used correctly (which is NOT difficult), the STM is as effective as the contraceptive pill and more effective than condoms at preventing pregnancy (so, not totally perfect, but pretty close). If you would like some current, well-done research about STM effectiveness in particular, check out a big study published in the major reproductive sciences journal in Europe, Human Reproduction Today. This article talks about the findings.
Yes, it requires some abstinence if you don’t want kids (for me this is 10-11 days). An unexpected benefit for me was that it keeps you looking forward to sex—it’s like another honeymoon, every month. During the abstinent times you connect in ways other than sex; my husband gives me backrubs and I give him footrubs. Mmm, backrubs. Some couples do use condoms or diaphragms etc during the fertile window, which you could do too if you want to try NFP out but you’re not totally sure you can handle the abstinence aspect.
It takes a few months to really feel confident in using it. It doesn’t matter if you are regular, because it’s a real-time system. It does take diligence, self-control, and cooperation though. But it’s not difficult to understand or implement. It’s taught to women in third-world countries who do not have access to contraception as a way to help them plan their families, with great success.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Wechsler, and Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition, by Marilyn Shannon, are excellent books on the subject as well. If you want to talk more about it but in private, please pm me and I will email you or call you. I hope maybe some of you will be more interested in NFP now. 🙂