Thursday, August 29, 2013

ARW: Sex in Phase III

A reader writes:

After 7 children...I am one tired momma who needs a break from being pregnant or nursing! Because my cycles are so wacky, with double mucus patches and 40 day cycles some months, I have purposely avoided making love to my husband for months at a time (even a whole year once or twice)
I think I could go the rest of my life without sex, just so I wouldn't get pregnant! I love my children, but if I am 'blessed' again, I think my other kids will suffer because it's quite possible that I will end up in the looney bin!
I've tried the temperature, the mucus check, the cervix position, but I think the main problem is I can't stand sex when I am nonfertile! Phase III is the only time, right? Well, that's when I am the most tired, the crankiest, and don't want to be touched at all!!!
It has gotten so bad these past years, that even though we know it's morally wrong, we have gone ahead and had 'nonprocreational' sex during phase II, just so my husband and I don't start hating God & the Church on the stance of NFP!

Bless you, dear reader. Seven children! What a blessing, what a cross, what a path to sanctification. 

First off, let me offer a word of affirmation: it is completely understandable to feel tapped out and to still want to have an active sex life, while holding off on children. The Church affirms this need to care for your marriage and to exercise responsible parenthood by holding off on more children - possibly for now, possibly forever. 

So how do we get you enjoying your love-making, but not violating Church teaching? My greatest piece of advice is the work with an instructor! I realize that you have seven children, money may not be in generous supply. However, many many instructors will discount their rates - some even do it for free. Working with an instructor is the number one best help for women who are struggling with cycles - an instructor can help spot possible hormonal issues, treat the underlying symptoms for irregular cycles, etc. This will help you get the maximum number of nonfertile days, and on one of those days you may feel like the deed. If you need more specific help, contact your NFP method organization: CCL, Billings, Creighton, Marquette

The language you use is Couple to Couple League, from what I can tell; have you tried other methods? NFP methods are not one size fits all. Some people who track mucus using CCL do not understand it as well as they do when they use Creighton or Billings. 

I have known some women who have found the Marquette Method to be most helpful, because it uses a fertility monitor - the Clear Blue Easy Monitor. This, however, is an added cost. The monitor itself is $160 and then you have to buy the test strips. (I just obtained one myself; I am postpartum, still nursing, unsure if cycles have returned - I'll let you know about it's user-friendliness) 

However, all of this will take time - time to make phone calls, begin charting, figure things out. That is time that is precious. I encourage you to still make your marriage a priority and try to spend time together in other ways, while you figure this out. Go to confession together (even if you're conscious of no mortal sin) and maybe develop a relationship with a spiritual director, or get counseling from a trusted priest, together. This is a serious issue and a great cross for both of you; you must work hard to resolve the issue if at all possible and then pray very hard as well, because Satan will want to use this cross to harm your marriage and your love for the Church. Don't let him! Have faith that God will care for you in your time of need; God wants you to have a joyful sex life with your husband. 

Since you also seem to be a bit overwhelmed, and goodness knows who wouldn't be in your situation, see if you can glean some time to recharge your batteries. Do not be afraid to hire help, hire a sitter, a mother's helper, a lady to clean a few times a week. Take advantage of gym daycare, mommy's day out, or other programs. These costs can often be minimal, especially if you ask around the parish. Do not be afraid to take the time to care for yourself in the midst of concern for your children, your husband, your marriage. 

As for getting in the mood when you know you're not fertile, that can be tough and very specific to you. Have you ever enjoyed sex during Phase III? Can you think of what made it enjoyable? You mention tired and it possible for your husband to help more with the children, to hire that help especially during this time, maybe have a girlfriend or family member help so you feel a bit more rest? I have to admit, I am very blunt with my very best friend: "can you watch the baby tonight? My husband and I haven't made love in a while." Very blunt, but very effective. Maybe schedule your 'date night' for this time and make it a longer one - personally, my date 'night's start around 2pm and end at  or 8. I prefer them earlier in the day when I can get more hours with my sitter, and my husband generously takes off work that afternoon (which is easy to do since it's only once every six weeks or so). If you have a longer amount of time, then you might have the ability to have a nap, some deeper conversation about the state of your relationship, some good food and drink. Then perhaps you'll feel more in the mood? It does help me, even when it's not a time I am usually especially amorous. 

I realize these suggestions may seem abstract and not helpful. In the thick of it, sometimes we want a magic potion - concrete advice that we can implement immediately that will change the situation. Unfortunately, this is not usually readily available. It's easy to despair, but I urge you to have faith and courage. Help is out there and you can seek it out.  "Ask and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you." (Matthew 7:7)

If you do need further help getting started, or finding resources in your area, please feel free to email me. I would be honored to help. 

Readers, feel free to chime in as always. Any advice ? 


  1. Oh dear! My hubby and I are new at the whole "being real Catholics" - we were against the NFP thing for a good while until we realized the truth about things. Anyway, NFP scares me. Really and truly... Especially now that I am soon to be mommy to child #3. And I read HORROR stories about those who just stop having sex for months and even years because cycles are insane. I was SERIOUSLY very close to quitting NFP while in the postpartum phase and returning to it after I get back to whatever normal is for me.


    I found this website:

    And WOW! I am going to be using the Marquette Model. Sure, it is expensive, it worth my sanity?! YES!!!!!!! Is it worth me being able to be with my husband during the questionable infertile times? HECK YES!!!

    Go check that website out! Dustin and his wife have been using the Marquette Model and still only have one child at the moment. I read through the comment and I have a new hope for this "process" now. There are some people who have great sex lives WHILE in postpartum WHILE breastfeeding who have chosen to use this version instead.

    This is DEFINITELY the answer for us. I hope (and pray!) that this may be the answer for you.

    For a good while, I felt that we Catholics almost needed a Ph. D. just to get it on... Glad to hear that is not the case ;)

    Good luck!!

    1. I think lack of support is a huge barrier to Catholic couples using NFP. Most OB/GYNs can't spell NFP. (OB/GYNs are primarily surgeons and NFP is applied endocrinology.) Unfortunately, Catholic NFP groups have been spotty about having adequately trained instructors and getting PhD level support to couples who really do need PhD's to get it on.

      Overly complicated methods are a problem too. What we liked about Billings is that they done considerable research on training effectiveness and found that a people were more likely to effectively use a simple method.

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  3. We use Billings and from what my wife says, there is a HUGE difference between NFP methods. Creighton and CCL made absolutely no sense to her, but she says Billings is perfect for the CM. The Billings training is by far the best we've had. We did ours online from

    Other women have found Billings confusing and loved Creighton, so YMMV. Billings and Creighton charts are super easy to understand thanks to the colored baby stamps. (That makes a HUGE difference.) Family of the Americas is similar.

    CCL is a very thorough, but very complicated and very conservative method, especially if you learned before the 2007 updates. If you learned the old (Kippley) method and haven't taken the CCL refresher course, that may be a good place to start. I believe this is free for current members, but you'll have to check.

    Yes, you can mix and match. We still temp, even though that's not part of Billings. It helps confirm Peak.

    We have not used Marquette because we haven't needed it, but many couples rave about it, especially for postpartum. The focus of Marquette seems to be ease of use and real-world effectiveness.

    As for your cycles, odd cycles may be the sign of a hormone imbalance. Working with an instructor can help get to the underlying cause and hopefully fix them. Hormone imbalances may also be causing your lack of desire during Phase III. It is normal for desire to drop, it is not normal for it to completely disappear. If you are not currently postpartum or nursing, your description of long cycles, multiple mucus patches, and low libido could all be a sign of a possible nutritional deficiency or perhaps PCOS, so its definitely something to pay attention to and get help.

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