NFP effective, leads to happier marriages, local physician says

July 17, 2012

HOUSTON — Dr. Linda Holleran has been helping couples with Natural Family Planning for more than three decades. The Cypress-based family physician, who just completed a masters in theology from the University of St. Thomas, has one of the few medical practices in Texas that embraces and promotes the method. Based on the science of human reproduction, Natural Family Planning is an umbrella term used to refer to various methods of naturally achieving or avoiding pregnancy by observing the signs and symptoms of a woman’s fertility. Holleran, who for many years has worked closely with Joe and Cindy Devet, coordinators for the Archdiocesan Natural Family Planning program, said there is an enormous need for more doctors and nurse practitioners who support Natural Family Planning. “They would have booming practice because the demand is there,” she said. To commemorate the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, July 22 to 28, Halloran shared her unique perspective on the beauty and wisdom of Church teaching with regard to human sexuality.
TCH: What is involved in NFP consulting? Do you work with couples who are trying to get pregnant or avoid pregnancy? 

Holleran: I do a lot of the basic things. At some point, if they are trying to get pregnant and still having difficulties, they’ll have to go to see an infertility specialist. But they know if they come to me for their pap smears or consultations that I won’t criticize them or mock them for using NFP. I’m accepting of their beliefs because I believe them, too. Couples take classes offered through the diocese or in their parish, but if they are having difficulties charting fertility or something doesn’t make sense to them, that is when they come or are referred to me. 

TCH: What is the benefit you’ve seen among couples who practice NFP? 

Holleran: They have happy families. Women are proud of being moms in a really deep sense. It’s hard to explain the difference. I mean, moms are happy to be moms. With NFP moms, each child is chosen and cherished. It’s just a beautiful thing to see. There is a lot of closeness between the husbands and wives. It’s that kind of joy that comes from knowing you are walking in God’s will. It’s not as if it’s always easy. Some have special needs kids or their own challenges that they have to face but it doesn’t change what is inside. I see so many people and you can almost tell a person who practices NFP when they walk in the door. They are smiling and open and settled. I think it’s because sexuality gets down to the core and when you have that right in God’s eyes, it is a very special thing. 

TCH: In your practice, do you ever suggest to couples who may not practice NFP to try it? 

Holleran: All the time! Absolutely! It’s almost a joke in our office because I refer a lot of people. I’m sure many of them never follow through, but I feel like they ought to know that they have a choice. When you look at the dangers of artificial contraception, it’s fascinating to me that more women don’t get scared. When a young woman has never had a child and is on birth control pills, for example, the risk of complications down the line is significant. Birth control pills are not natural to the body. In every other part of medicine, there is this big movement towards the natural. People are always asking for natural alternatives and want to avoid taking medications, but when it comes to their sex life, they’re very willing to just take a pill. So, if I am working with a couple, I emphasize how natural it is. I emphasize that the knowledge, once they have it, can be used forever — for regular periods, irregular periods, after childbirth, at menopause. They know their body. I also point out that intimacy between husband and wife increases. The chances of making a successful marriage are definitely increased. And they can use NFP to get pregnant or not get pregnant. So, it’s a skill that works both ways. 

TCH: What do they say after trying it? 

Holleran: They are always happy. And for the ones that are not Catholic, I always wonder if that is going to pull them into the church. It’s when they find truth somewhere that they didn’t expect it that you wonder what else that could be changing besides their sex life. 

TCH: What do you think is so difficult about this teaching of the Church for most Catholics to accept? 

Holleran: That it works. I don’t think that most couples think that the Church teaching actually does work as the Church says it does. I don’t think they understand how it affects a couple’s relationship. They don’t realize that NFP is effective because they have never been taught. I don’t think that most people have faith that the Church knows what she is talking about. I’m not sure where Catholics get any correct teaching on contraception. I went to Catholic schools all my life, from first grade through college, and I never had anyone explains these truths to me. I never even read Humanae Vitae until I was in my mid 30s or early 40s and had my eyes opened to the beauty of this teaching.