Q: I have to do natural family planning class but I am on the pill… any suggestions for that?
A: First of all, congratulations on your upcoming wedding! Marriage preparation can be a stressful time under any circumstance, and it is good that you are already thinking about the requirements of your parish (or diocese).
The good news is that you can fulfill the requirement to take natural family planning (NFP) classes, regardless of what medication you happen to be on. Being on the pill means that you will not have a natural menstrual cycle which is the whole basis for the practice of NFP, but it does not mean that you cannot learn the about a method of NFP. Basically, you can learn, you just won’t be able to practice.
My fiancé and I took a natural family planning class which met for one evening a month for several months, and before it was over I had to start the pill for health reasons. The instructor was remarkably helpful with enabling us to not only finish the class, but also to learn about more resources for my condition.
A few practical tips:
Understand your limitations. You will be able to learn a lot about NFP while on the pill, but you will not be able to get the same real-world charting experience as the other women with natural cycles. You can (and should) chart, but your chart will not be useful for tracking fertility, because the pill is suppressing your fertility. This could be frustrating but if you are determined and willing to do a little extra work, you should still be able to understand the material.
Be straightforward. Tell your instructor at the earliest appropriate time that you are on the pill. That way she will be able to understand not only where you are coming from, but also to have realistic expectations when looking at your practice charts.
Be open minded. This is a great time to learn about your body. NFP is centered on understanding and appreciating fertility–always a good thing. Even if you already know that NFP will not work for you right now, it is always possible that it will be exactly what you need in the future.
Be creative. If you do not absolutely have to be on the pill, consider taking a break from it for a while. Sometimes amid all of the stress of preparing for marriage, you really need some space to think about yourself and reassess what you need. This includes all areas of health, and certainly your reproductive health. One option is to go to your first NFP class while still on the pill, and ask the instructor for a referral for a gynecologist who can help you come up with alternatives.
Be respectful. And expect respect. No matter how stupid the requirements to get married in your chosen parish may seem, they exist for a reason. Sometimes the reason is that previous couples were stupid and ruined things for the rest of us. And sometimes the reason is that someone out there actually knows of something which could be really helpful for your marriage.
Respect the process and the people who often have no more control over the rules than you do. Your NFP teacher will probably be a volunteer who genuinely wants to help you learn about something which has helped her. If for some reason you run into an exception, politely remove yourself from the situation and call your diocese for suggestions on alternate ways to learn NFP.
Here’s to a happy and healthy marriage!