By Peter J. Smith

  HEIDELBERG, Germany, February 21, 2007 ( – A new study by German researchers shows that a method of natural family planning is statistically as effective as the contraceptive pill in delaying pregnancy.

  Researchers from the University of Heidelberg studied the statistical effectiveness of the symptothermal method (STM) to avoid achieving pregnancy. Unlike contraceptives that either suppress a woman’s natural fertility cycle or act as a barrier to conception, STM helps a woman to understand the natural signs of her fertility in order to achieve or temporarily delay pregnancy.

  The study involving 900 women was published in the journal, Human Reproduction, and found that the correct use of STM to delay pregnancy led to a rate of 0.4 pregnancies per 100 women per year. The lowest pregnancy rate was found among women who abstained from sex during their most fertile period identified through STM.

  In contrast, women who used a barrier method, such as a condom, had a pregnancy rate of .6 pregnancies per 100 women per year. Women who had sex (without contraception) during the fertile period had a pregnancy rate of only 7.5 pregnancies per 100 women per year, however researchers noted that this was a quarter of the rate one would usually expect.

  According to Lead researcher Dr Petra Frank-Herrmann: “The effectiveness of STM is comparable to the effectiveness of modern contraceptive methods such as oral contraceptives, and is an effective and acceptable method of family planning.”

  However, Vicki Braun, the assistant director for education at Couple to Couple League, an organisation teaching NFP techniques to married and engaged coupes since 1971, told LifeSiteNews that STM should not be regarded as a kind of “natural contraception”, a headline billed in many news reports.

“‘Natural’ and ‘contraception’ [against conception] are at totally opposite ends of the spectrum,” Braun said. “Natural family planning is really fertility awareness” explaining that STM by itself does nothing, but gives couples data on the natural signs of a woman’s fertility. The couple then discerns how they use the data of STM, whether to increase their chances of conceiving or to delay temporarily the conception of a child.

  The Catholic Church has taught NFP methods are legitimate means of family planning when a couple has openness to life and that they increase communication between a couple if used responsibly and in accord with Church guidelines. The divorce rate of couples using NFP is dramatically below the norm and is a mere 5%.

  Related LifeSiteNews coverage:

  The Difference between Artificial Contraception and Natural Family Planning