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

44. The Psychology and Psychopathology of Fertility

I. The Normal Situation

A. The normal development of love. A young couple become aware of their love; they decide to marry; they prepare themselves to receive the sacrament of matrimony.

B. After marriage they take up their sexual relations with joy and spontaneity.

C. The child is announced; the parents joyfully await his birth. A man who really loves his wife will accept without objection the periodic abstinence that may be necessary during the final weeks of pregnancy and in the immediate postpartum.

D. After the birth of the first child the situation changes. New parental tasks arise, and it is often difficult for the young mother to continue being a "wife"; she is inclined to be more a mother than a sexual partner. Her husband, on the other hand, must learn to be a father, although he prefers the role of husband. Fertility should now be brought under control, because the next child should come at a favorable time, a moment chosen by both spouses.

E. Regulation of conception. Parental responsibility now requires that they become acquainted with the biological methods and choose the right times for their sexual intercourse. The woman's fertile time becomes a time of abstinence, when intercourse is postponed. This way of living is sometimes difficult, but family planning by periodic abstinence, without use of artificial methods, is the only way worthy of man, especially of a Christian. In a dialogue of love, they decide how many children they can afford to take care of under their actual living conditions. They act in accordance with their own program, respecting the natural law (which is also God's law).

II. The Real Situation

III. The Influence of a Contraceptive Attitude

lV. Natural Methods of Family Planning as a Means of Curing Marital Neurosis

When a couple really understand human fertility, contraception becomes unnecessary for them, Since conception is possible only at a given time in each menstrual cycle. Contemporary man can consciously control his fertility; one might say that human fertility has become truly human only today, when it can be placed under the control of his intellect and will. But one must keep in mind the dangers inherent in hedonism, for without making efforts one cannot solve this problem. The man must - in the name of love - adapt himself to the woman's biological rhythm. The woman must give up her easy passivity in order to teach her husband chastity and tenderness. However, it is not the method but the couple's attitude that solves the problem.

There are two tendencies in the contemporary world: one favoring the child, the other opposing him. Sometimes, when parental responsibility requires the limitation of births, periodic abstinence is the only proper course of action. But many people do riot understand the true significance of periodic abstinence; they consider it "too difficult," "against nature," and so forth.

In reality, all couples practice abstinence for various reasons. The man's organism is not always disposed to perform the sexual act; every man has his own rhythm, depending on age, temperament, health, and other conditions. The woman's organism also needs some times of sexual silence. Most couples abandon intercourse during menstruation. Every somatic illness of the partners is an obstacle to intercourse, The child is just another factor that spouses must take into account. Thus, Catholic teaching presents nothing extraordinary, but is simply an orientation toward the child. There is no foundation for the claim that its requirement is too difficult.

Testimonies given by couples show that acceptance of periodic continence does not lead to neurosis, since it does not create ambivalence or fear. The partners are happy and peaceful in their intercourse, and during the phase of abstinence they are attentive to each other and show mutual tenderness. Abstinence does not destroy their harmony but strengthens their spousal and parental love.

When couples with conflicts freely decide to use periodic abstinence, after a while their marital neurosis disappears.

by Wanda Poltawska

M.D. Psychiatrist, Cracow, Poland

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