NFP: What is "just reasoning" for postponing or limiting pregnancy?


To be fruitful or not to be fruitful, that is the question. In the very first chapter of Genesis we see that it is God’s intention for married couples to procreate when He says to Adam and Eve, “be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). Genesis also tells us that we are created in God’s Image (Gen 1:27). If we are to image God, then our love like God’s love is intended to be life giving. For a married couple, this new life is made evident in the form of children. This is an over simplified explanation, but it is the basis for why the Church teaches that contraception is a contradiction of God’s original plan for marriage, and why the Church is such a strong advocate for families. This message even shows up in the wedding vows when the priest asks the couple, “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up knowing the love of Christ and the community of Christ’s Church?” But to what extent should a married couple accept children? While a family with a dozen or so kids is an extraordinary sign of God’s blessing on a marriage, having such a large family without taking important factors into consideration wouldn’t exactly be responsible parenting. For this reason, the Church also teaches that when a married couple has just reasoning free from selfish motivation for spacing or avoiding future births, they may do so by using methods of Natural Family Planning, but what is “just reasoning?

My girlfriend and I have decided that we will practice Natural family planing when we get married, but we are finding some of the lines between right and wrong regarding NFP to be a bit blurry. My goal here is not to debate the morality of contraception. NFP is not a contraceptive. It is a method of understanding the fertility of a woman’s body as designed by God and respectfully using that knowledge to responsibly space and/or limit children by abstaining from marital intercourse during the fertile period of each month. My objective is to clarify some of my own thoughts, which have been racing through my head, regarding this topic and to gain some insight through the thoughts of others.

While part of me finds the prospect of supporting a significantly larger than average family a bit overwhelming, there is also a very big part of me that has a deep desire to do God’s will in my life. I believe that children are a gift from God and should be received openly. I suppose if God chooses to bless my future spouse and I with a large family, and we can not determine “just reasoning” to limit this blessing, then we must be open to that. However, I also believe that married couples have a responsibility to exercise their free will and their self control when it comes to determining the size and shape their family takes. Why else would the Church teach Natural Family Planning in the first place? I realize every marital act of love, even when accompanied by ideal fertile conditions, does not always necessarily result in pregnancy. Some couples try for months or even years to successfully procreate. I also realize that it is possible for pregnancy to result from a marital act of love that takes place during a time which was believed to be infertile. There are, however, still circumstances under which it is acceptable and even necessary for a couple to make a conscious effort to avoid a pregnancy by using the NFP method. Seeking guidance from Vatican II in his book Good News About Sex and Marriage, Christopher West quotes the following: “‘[Spouses should] thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born, and those that the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God’ (Gaudium, n. 50).” These guidelines are pretty difficult to decipher. So, I am curious: **What are your views on how a married couple should distinguish being open to God’s plan from becoming guilty of either: **

**A) having a number of children that surpasses the couple’s ability to meet the families’ material and spiritual needs, or **

B) setting a limit on the families’ size out of selfish motivation? Under what circumstances is it justifiable for a couple to consciously monitor the fruitfulness of their marriage by abstaining from marital intercourse during the fertile portion of each month?


It’s not really selfish if the couple continually sits down and discusses whether or not to postpone having children. Limiting family sizes can be a good thing in some instances.


And with good reason. There is no more personal decision, affected by a myriad of individual circumsatnces unique to each couple than the number and timing of children they will have (or not have). There is no magic formula or answer. It is a process of prayer, discernment and a conversation that begins even before marriage and continues for decades afterwards.


Be carefull about trying to understand your responsibilities from “sound bites.” Some will claim that you are obligated to have as many children as possible. While seemingly virtuous, it may not be. There are many threads on this subject and i suggest that you go search them out. There is much already said on the subject.

But the CCC says we are to be prudent in managing the business of the family. Some will say, you just trust in God to provide. God does provide. But He also is not instructing us to all be on welfare or working three jobs to pay the rent. Selfishness is the key. Can you tell when you are being selfish?

The basic questions you should ask yourself every month are What is our emotional state? Financial state? Medical state? Spiritual state? You will both be one. Do not force a desire on the other.

I’d like to add, IF there were an equation, someone would have come up with it already. We’re on our own to talk to and trust in God. And it’s not like you can plan today how many children you will have. Many things change on the road of life and the number changes based on fertility, health, finance, mental state, marital state, etc. There can’t be an equation, so there isn’t.

I’m glad you’ve read TGNAS&M by CW… Excellent, IMO!


Humanae vitae says: “If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances” – a married couple is given the discretion to determine what constitutes “well-grounded reasons” because this is not a one size fits all business. And one man’s “serious” can be another man’s “trivial.”


That’s the beauty of NFP: it is immediately reversible. You sit down with your spouse each and every month before the fertile time and decide if there is a reason to postpone or not. You do this through prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, and He will.


Thanks to everyone who has posted replies thus far. The comments you’ve made have been helpful. I guess I have trouble trusting God to provide what I need. Before my girlfriend and I started talking about it, I always thought that there was nothing wrong with a newly wed couple putting off pregnancy for a year or so to get there feet on the ground. I also didn’t think there was anything wrong with limiting the number of children strictly for financial reasons. But now I’m seeing that we are going to be planing the size and shape of our family on a month to month basis and I guess it has me a little worried even though I know it’s the only way to truly be open to God’s will.

I’m currently wondering/worrying about where the finances will come from for a ring, a wedding, a honeymoon, and a house. Then add to that the possibility of starting a family within the first year of marriage & avoiding any preconceived notions of how large that family is supposed to be and it all seems so incredibly daunting. I know I need to stop worrying so much and start praying a whole lot more, but I am human so it’s proving to be a challenge. Financial concerns isn’t our only reason for putting marriage off for a little longer, so we’ll continue to pray on it as a couple & as individuals and in the mean time do what ever it takes to save up our money.


Take one worry at a time and try not to jump ahead too much.
(easier said than done, right? :D)

Raising a child (in and of itself) isn’t a huge financial ordeal… weddings and houses can be MUCH bigger in comparison!

Don’t forget to pray together as a couple… and keep all options open… new jobs can open up… your girlfriend may be able to contribute financially, etc, etc…

And as others have said… financial concerns are not the only reasons that couples may feel drawn to using NFP… mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual concerns also apply… under prayerful consideration.

Good luck on your endeavor together… :slight_smile:


I understand… Relax. I think you are worrying too much. :wink: Think about what you two would be comfortable with, today, and rethink monthly based on what you are experiencing and where you are. IF one can honestly say to God… “God, we really don’t think we can afford a child this year” and be certain this is correct, then there should be no guilt. If one is saying, “God, I really want a boat instead of a child this year.” then what is one really asking? (I use this as an exagerated example. I’m not saying you would do this.) Raising a family these days is no small undertaking. Financially or otherwise.

How big a ring do you need? How exotic a honeymoon, how big a reception? We are called to be prudent of the things God gives us. Please, I am not trying to criticise anything that I don’t know about you… It’s hard to make these decisions. I know. I now have three living children. It is overwhelming for me sometimes. But it is not finacial. Others have no trouble with 10 kids. We’re not called to stress ourselves beyond what God provides us. God gives us so much. We sometimes underestimate it. He wants us to be a good stewards. Of our money, talents and fertility. If at the end of the day, we can honestly say we were, then IMO we can sleep well. If not, tomorrow is another opportunity.

Peace to you!


I agree with the posts that suggest you not to worry and to pray.

For us it was also difficult. At first after the first kids were born I thought well maybe we ought to use NFP now. In retrospect I see that my reasons for wanting to postpone another child were not very serious. Because our reasons were not serious it was very difficult to keep using the NFP and I found it stressful. I imagine that if the reasons were serious then it would not be stressful.

Now that we have 5 children and I have seen how God works in our lives I am much more comfortable with being open to life. Our priest has told us that serious reasons should be ongoing issues, not temporary. For example a shorter bout of low income is not the same as a year or more of very low income and not being able to provide for the basics. A shorter bout of health issues is not the same as serious on going health problems etc.

The best thing is to say to God: Hey!! You must let me know what you want!!!

Don’t be afraid and don’t listen to all the junk about over population.


Oh, and don’t make the mistake of thinking ‘The minute we stop NFP she’ll get pregnant’, that may not happen. I know plenty of people who don’t use NFP or anything else and STILL have long gaps between children, or only one or two, or none…


One thing that I think could be considered “just reasoning” for postponing or limiting a family is “how” your wife gives birth.

There are women who give birth with relative ease and recover quickly. These are the births you see on the TV shows–all beautiful and just a few minutes of pushing.

Then there are the women like me, who would have died a hundred years ago without the technology of C-sections. My pelvis is shaped like a funnel, and without a C, there ain’t no way a baby would have come through. It would have been a horrible, messy, screaming death for mom and baby.

About 19-25% of all women in the U.S. will end up with C-sections. I believe that many are unnecessary, done primarily out of fear of lawsuits. Others, like mine, are necessary.

For many women, a C-section is very difficult and takes a lot out of them. I know several women who were not able to breast-feed after their Cs. I’m not sure if it was psychological or physical, but it doesn’t matter–if you can’t do it, you can’t do it. Formula feeding adds a lot of expense to a baby’s upbringing.

Some women suffer a lot of pain after a C-section, and have a hard time getting around.

I was very lucky that I recovered quickly and had no trouble breastfeeding.

But what I’m trying to tell you is that if your wife has a very hard time, this may make her very reluctant to xperience pregnancies and births.

Another thing that can tip the boat is how your baby is once he/she is born. A “good” baby is a joy–a baby that takes naps and doesn’t have colic and eats well and is on schedule with the developmental milestones and is cute and fun and cuddly.

But then there are those babies who never stop crying for months after they are born, and only sleep in ten-minute snatches for months, and are unfriendly and don’t talk and don’t like to play and throw up anything they eat and only allow mom to hold them and constantly getting sick–well, you get the idea.

These babies are physically and psychologically exhausting, and may diminish your enthusiasm for having more babies. Everyone thinks they will be able to handle any kind of baby they get, but that’s not always the case. It can be very discouraging.

I’m not trying to scare you–I’m just trying to give you a little friendly “warning”–what you expect from pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and baby-tending BEFORE you are married is quite often NOT the way things turn out at all! You can handle it, but it may explain to you why so many Catholics limit the size of their families. Don’t judge them until you’ve walked (up and down the hall all night long!) in their house-slippers.


I agree with the other posters that said to just wait. I know it is tempting to want to plan…especially when you are starting out your new life! But life has to actually happen in order for you to decide.

You and your wife may be healthy and decide to have many children! Your wife may have trouble conceiving or a miscarriage and you may need time for medical evaluation. You may have a career change or health problems that will postpone children for a litle while. You might (as someone said) have either a high-maintence or low-maintenance child that will effect your prayerful decision as well.

For now just decide what you want to do right away after you are married. Keep God at the center of your marriage and he will show you what he wants for you. Congratulations and God bless!


What others have said so far is really good. Everyone’s ‘just reasons’ are different–the important thing is to be open to God’s will and to try to discern his will for your family every cycle.

All I can add is to share my own perspective…

FDH and I have been learning the Creighton Method since December, in preparation for our August wedding. We have decided to avoid pregnancy initially, probably for the first six months of marriage, or until one of us has secured long-term full-time employment. We both will still be undergrads when we are married, and will each have a semester left before we graduate. He’ll be a full time student, and I’ll be going part time, taking a couple of classes and working to support us.

We both really cannot wait to start our family, but we know that postponing initially will be the best way to provide for our children in the future.


Why else would the Church teach Natural Family Planning in the first place

Actually, the Church began to allow NFP as a means to lessen the evils of Onanism and Abortion. Remember it (NFP) is NOT a Church Teaching, with a capital T…one does not have to agree with it or follow it to be in good standing with the Church.

Having said that, I imagine that each couple using it would have to regularly ask, “What are our reasons for not wanting God to bless us with a child right now”…and then, they would have to be brutally honest with themselves to decide if those reasons were indeed reason enough to avoid having children.

I don’t think there’s really an answer to your question…each couple must answer to God…and each other.

Do you practice NFP?

When my husband and I first got married, we practiced NFP because he had gone back to college and could barely work part time and my job wasn’t that great. In fact, after a year, we had to move in with his parents.

At that time I was also suffering from heavy depression and could barely take care of myself, let alone a child. Plus, because I was the main source of income, (and my boss wouldn’t pay me maternity leave) I would have had to put my six week old in a daycare, we couldn’t have afforded.

After my husband graduated and found a job and we started to look for a home, we were more open to having a child.

For us to have purposely, gotten pregnant before this time, would have been unfair to that child and it would have put much strain on our marriage, and my mental health.

We are now pregnant with our second, and we are very worried about how we are going to handle it financially (I quit my job to be a stay at home mom), but we know that God will take care of us. Yet, to have 10 children, without a change in my husband’s career or to not come into some kind of money, would be imprudent of us because there is no way we would be able to care for them. And I don’t want to bring children into this world just so they can starve.

I agree with Cat. I was hoping to have a natural birth (vaginal and without drugs) but my baby was over 12 pounds and there wasn’t a doctor around who would let me try to deliver her naturally (due to my body and other health factors). I was very upset. Now pregnant with my second child, and because it will be less than 2 years since my last C-section, it would be dangerous for me to try to have a natural birth (regardless of the size of the baby). Anyway, my point is that it is considered unsafe (for both baby and mom) to have more than 4 c-sections, period. If we have 4 children (all by c-sections) than it will be very important to practice NFP to a T. Otherwise I could be risking my life and the baby’s.


My dh and I believe the same thing.This doesn’t mean we don’t trust God or have faith in him that he provides, but it means that we also at the same time don’t believe in putting him to the test.

We as parents have a moral obligation to provide the bare basics for the child(ren) you bring into this world.


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