Natural Family Planning: Nature's Way - God's Way

40. Programs in Latin America

1. Comparison of results

The need to count with results comparable to those of other programs, including the anti-birth programs, has led to the adoption of similar biostatistical methodology.

However the NFP Programs incorporate some characteristics that must be taken into account when analyzing the numerical data, and failure to do so would alter the meaning of the results.

For example the NFP programs include an educational component inherent to its design which has to be accounted for in the interpretation of acceptance and coverage data. This is due to the fact that a rather extensive period of time is required for training and motivating people on this approach before a stable change in attitudes and behaviour takes place.

For this reason the NFP programs show slow development in the initial stages. An evaluation of the quantitative results covering the first few years generally shows a limited or moderate number of participants. However, its educational aspect makes the program more likely to become permanent and to expand spontaneously and without cost once it has become established in a given community, because a core of couples knows and practices the natural methods without further help from outside the community, and practically at no cost.

Along range evaluation shows that the number of couples that have been influenced by the program is higher than the one expected.

2. Is it an NFP research program or a service program?

When the program is a research program it is generally complex in design and it has stricter norms.

Many couples can not be admitted to the research because they do not meet the needed requirements, for example due to the duration of the menstrual cycles or age; other couples leave the research program for reasons such as the wish to change from one NFP method to another, which is not allowed if there has been a random assignation of couples.

It is easier for couples to enter and remain in a service program than in a research program. That is the reason why the conclusions reached in a research program regarding the acceptation and length of stay of the couples cannot be extrapolated to service programs without due considerations.

3. Public opinion and the Natural Family Planning Programs

There are large sectors of the population who favor contraception in Latin America today. The people have been under the impact of some 20 years of intense neo-malthusian propagandistic action through all the media (radio, TV, newspapers, etc.).

In spite of that they mistrust sterilization and reject the legalization of abortion which a small group of anti-birth radicals are trying to impose. Even people recurring to abortion are conscious that killing the embryo is something evil in itself.

But said propaganda makes the initial acceptance of natural methods of fertility regulation difficult for a larger number of people.

On the other side there is a growing number of people looking for alternatives to contraception because of the unwanted or dangerous side effects which those methods have caused.

Other people are also looking for alternatives for cultural reasons or for their own criteria.

4. Influence of special groups on NFP

In the health sector it can be said that doctors, nurses and pharmacists are quite unaware of the natural methods of fertility regulation. As a result they almost always recommend contraceptives and surgical sterilization. And some of them, in spite of that ignorance, take a negative stand on natural methods because of personal prejudices.

Within the ecclesiastic sector we found that priests and members of religious orders know little about natural methods; several still believe that such methods are the Ogino calculation of probabilities.

It is imperative that schools of medicine, nursing, seminars, post graduate courses offer ample information on the human physiology area on which natural methods are based.

Moreover seminarians and priests must get a deeper understanding in Church doctrine in this respect because the differences of opinion confuse many couples.

5. Machismo and NFP

In Latin America today many men and women believe that any limitation in sexual relations may lead to upsets of the widest variety. And we know that natural methods require periodic abstinence.

Our experience has taught us that when a couple decides on using natural methods based on sound information and motivation they have a solid and sustained opportunity to better their reciprocal understanding and to overcome the machista culture pattern of dominance and subservience and to intensify their love.

In this new style of married life the sexual relations retain their wonderful meaning but are not the only way to express love.

There is a great need for deeper research on the psycho-sexual aspects of the couple.

by Armando Cifuentes, M.D.

Next Page: 41. Research in NFP
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