Natural Family Planning is "#Zeropercenteffective" - A Response

Blogger Jerrid Sebesta claims that Natural Family Planning is "zero percent effective" because he and his wife experienced an unplanned pregnancy after six months of use.

How on earth does an unplanned pregnancy after only six months of use mean that the method as a whole is zero percent effective? Any birth control method will fail with user error; it does not mean that the method itself is "zero percent effective." If his wife was on the Pill and forgot to take it one day, and she became pregnant, would he claim that the Pill is "#zeropercenteffective"? I'm guessing not.

Mr. Sebesta doesn't share which NFP method he and his wife were using (the notoriously unreliable calendar method, perhaps?), or if they had any formal training or classes, or how their charting and reading of fertility signs went wrong. He simply warns his male readers, "Guys, if your wife tells you 'I know my body'... don’t believe her."

Also, that line is so infuriating on so many levels. He's the one who is fertile 100% of the time, yet he (apparently) leaves 100% of the charting and interpretation to her. This is a common burden for women even with contraceptives; the vast majority place the burden of use on the woman, not the man. Pia de Solenni has an excellent article about that state of affairs. Of course, if an unplanned pregnancy occurs, many men are quick to blame the woman, despite the fact that it takes two to tango and no method of avoiding pregnancy is 100% effective. 

I have a hashtag for him: #you'redoingitwrong. He's a literate man; he can read her chart and then they can both decide, TOGETHER, if her signs indicate fertility or not, and make decisions about abstaining from intercourse from there. NFP encourages men and women to manage their combined fertility together; it shouldn't be all on one person as he seems to believe. 

Attitudes like his frankly frighten me, and here is one reason why:

Why, look, here's a handy dandy little device that men like Mr. Sebesta can pressure their wives into using. Then all he has to do his hide the remote from her, and he can turn her fertility on and off at his pleasure. After all, he can't trust her to know her body, so it's best that he controls it. For the good of their marriage, of course.

I'm amazed that feminist groups aren't screaming from the rooftops about the potential of abuse of this device.  For example, China could pass a law calling for all women to be forcibly implanted (with government officials in charge of all the remotes, of course). 

[Incidentally, why isn't NOW vociferously objecting to remote-controlled contraception that can be used and manipulated by abusive partners or governments? Oh, that's right, they are too busy calling nuns "dirty" and complaining about Hobby Lobby's refusal to pay for abortifacients to deal with an issue that is an actual threat to a woman's bodily autonomy and reproductive health.  #butIdigress]

Back to Mr. Sebesta: they either didn't follow the rules, misread or misinterpreted fertility signs, or decided to take a risk during a potentially fertile period -- or a combination thereof. (It's  possible, albeit very unlikely, that they experienced a genuine method failure, something that could happen with any method of birth control.) As I discussed above, a couple's user failure is not an accurate reflection of NFP's method's perfect use efficacy any more than someone who forgets their Pill is a reflection on the Pill's method use efficacy. 

My husband and I have been using NFP since 2003 to both achieve and avoid pregnancy (at first we used the SymptoThermal method, and since 2011 or so we've been using the Marquette Method). We've had seven pregnancies, and only one of those was "unplanned." I frankly admit it was due to user error -- I was charting very lazily (not recording all of my signs, waiting days after the fact to record my temperatures, when my memory wasn't very accurate) and so we weren't following the rules. NFP wasn't effective for us in that case because we weren't using NFP as it was meant to be used: correctly. Every time we've actually followed the rules, we've been able to successfully avoid or achieve, depending on our intention. 

I guess that makes my hashtag #100percenteffective. 


  1. I love this post! We've also received the snarky, "NFP, huh? So how's that working out for you guys?" after getting pregnant with my daughter (and she's our second baby). My response was, "well, we've successfully used NFP to avoid pregnancy for four years, and achieve pregnancy twice. So I'd say it's working pretty well! Thanks for asking!" Ugh.

  2. Jerrid is a well known former local news weatherman up here in the Twin Cities. He recently voluntarily resigned from KARE11 (without another job to go to) to move to a smaller town where they could raise their family and slow down. He was quite popular and will be missed. Just wanted to give a little context to who he is. I read the post a few days ago and knowing who he is and his sense of humor (from watching him many nights on the news), my first impression was "wow, that is awesome Jerrid and his wife actually were trying NFP and that is a really cute birth announcement". And good for them because also in that same post you linked to, I loved this line and it is so counter-cultural "Are we excited? Yes! Was it planned? Absolutely not! So, as of today, we are homeless, jobless, and knocked up. I literally laugh out loud when I think about it, life is so funny….not exactly the situation I foresaw at 35 years old. All joking aside, life is absolutely wonderful and I wouldn't change a thing. It's always comical to me how *our* plans rarely play out. But reality typically offers something different and many times way better."

    So, while "attitudes like his frankly frighten me" (and I know you were referring to the NFP effectiveness part) I will have to say that his attitude about his life is actually an inspiration to me. While yes, the post is not an endorsement for NFP…for all the great reasons you cited above (most likely because it was user error, not NFP), I took it more as them poking fun at themselves and light hearted way to make a pregnancy announcement.

    And I don't mean my comment to disregard all your great information above, because unfortunately, that mentality is very much prevalent in society. Just wanted to give a different perspective to how I reacted to one of our "local" guys. Keep up the great work Joanna!

    1. IMO, his good intentions really don't excuse his poor execution. Like I said in the post, if he and his wife had conceived their child while she was on the Pill, he probably wouldn't say that the Pill was zero percent effective. So it doesn't really make any logical sense to say that about NFP.

    2. We can agree to disagree. I guess because I view him as the "weatherman", I never would look to him as an expert on NFP anyway. But you are right, maybe his celebrity status (from a local perspective) could give people the wrong impression about NFP and he should have been more careful. All in all, until I read your post, I hadn't viewed it as anything more than a lighthearted attempt at humor, while still showing that they are very excited about the pregnancy and this new life.

      Because when it comes down to it, there are many other devout Catholics who outright bemoan even using NFP and frankly their posts give off a negative connotation (the exact opposite of what you are doing and what I thought Jerrid was doing), so I guess I enjoyed the humor. To be clear, I am not saying NFP isn't hard, because it can be, but oh…well, never mind, I don't want to open up that can of worms. :)

      Again, great post on your part and we don't disagree on the fundamentals of NFP.

    3. Oh and I should say, I have no idea if Jerrid is actually Catholic or not. Sorry if it came off like I did.

  3. This is just common sense logic that even us regular NFP people need to be reminded of. Great post!

  4. I agree. He didn't need to mention (and denigrate) their chosen method of family planning. He could have simply written a humorous post about how life throws you a curveball sometimes.


Please be respectful and courteous, and I will reciprocate.

Note to commenters: sometimes long comments, or comments that contain links, are sent to the comment moderation folder (or sometimes the spam folder). If you comment and it doesn't show up right away, chances are it went to comment moderation or spam. Rather than re-posting your comment, please e-mail me and ask me to check these folders. Thanks!

Welcome to The Catholic Working Mother

Click here to order The Catholic Working Mom’s Guide to Life , released May 28, 2019 by Our Sunday Visitor Press. My blog,  The Catholic ...