From Depo-Provera to Natural Family Planning

What I learned about sex, my body, and the rhythms of life.

As this series on contraception comes to a close, Emily Heady offers a Protestant perspective on Natural Family Planning.

When my husband and I married in 2001, we were graduate students with tiny salaries, tiny living quarters, and gargantuan workloads. It was not a good time for a baby. So a few months before our wedding, I showed up at Indiana University’s student health center and said I needed birth control. The nurse practitioner asked me if it was an emergency or if I needed a police referral. “No,” I said. “I’m getting married in a few months, and I want to be used to it by then.”

Although born and raised in church, I had a very anemic theology of conception. We just didn’t talk about it. I had been taught that sex before marriage was bad, but that was about it. Marital sexuality simply wasn’t discussed; neither was birth control or any other blush-worthy subject. As a pro-life evangelical, I hadn’t expected the student health center at the Big Secular School to serve as a complete and reliable guide to human sexuality, but I needed answers, and that was my best hope.

To her credit, the nurse practitioner heard my questions about the mechanisms various drugs used in controlling for birth, then recommended Depo-Provera. If it shut down my cycles altogether, she explained, that would mean that there was no egg to fertilize; if it didn’t, well, we could talk further. It turned out we didn’t have to: Depo did just what she had predicted.

The first time I engaged theologically with questions about married sexuality was as part of the requisite premarital counseling my Catholic spouse and I completed. The eminently practical priest explained that, …

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