Not your grandmother's natural family planning

By 
  • December 23, 2010
ultrasoundTORONTO - Former mountain bike racer Leslie Greene isn’t your typical advocate for natural family planning. The United Church member is a natural family planning (NFP) practitioner with Toronto’s Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Centre who supports the Catholic Church’s teachings favouring natural methods of achieving or avoiding pregnancy, and is against birth control pills and artificial fertility treatments.

Greene prefers to steer clear of the NFP label. Instead, she says it’s more accurate to call it “fertility care,” a natural method of looking after a woman’s reproductive health.


“What we do is we look after your fertility,” said Greene, 44, a mother of two and former member of Canada’s national mountain biking team. “(NFP) brings up more negative connotations about systems that people don’t believe work.”

This rebranding is a trend that other centres which teach NFP methods are also emulating.

The new message is simple: This isn’t your grandmother’s NFP. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but modern fertility care is now more effective and has advanced to the point where it’s expanding to China, a country where sterilization and abortions are recommended because of the government’s one-child policy.

NFP is a natural practice that regulates pregnancy through different methods, such as the Billings or Creighton model, until the couple is ready for children.

Rosemary Heron, interim director of the Toronto-based Natural Family Planning Association, which teaches the Billings Ovulation Method, said the association’s representatives present “fertility awareness” talks in schools and parishes in Toronto.

The method requires observation of the symptoms of fertility and infertility, with the help of a doctor and NFP practitioner.

Over the years, NFP has had a negative public image because many couples only know of the outdated “rhythm method” and not the advanced fertility programs, Heron said. (The rhythm method was developed in the 1920s and focused on calculating a woman’s ovulation cycle. But it worked most effectively for women who had regular cycles.)

Greene explains that studies point to successful modern fertility techniques and that the Creighton model is about more than avoiding pregnancy through natural means. It is also about monitoring a woman’s health and patterns of fertility and infertility.

Developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, the model also teaches NaPro Technology which examines biological markers during a woman’s fertility cycle. The results are assessed by a doctor who can prescribe natural remedies such as vitamins or surgery to clear blockage, if necessary.  

In Greene’s case, she experienced early symptoms of premenstrual syndrome which affected her racing. Doctors corrected her hormonal imbalance with a natural progesterone. Ever since then, she’s been an advocate of the program.

Even with this new take on fertility care as a holistic alternative to artificial birth control and in-vitro fertilization, the Church’s teachings remain the same: the marital act has both a unitary and procreative purpose and sexuality is a gift from God.

“People (learn to) understand that their body is a temple of the Holy Spirit,” Heron said.

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