Upholding Humanae Vitae in marriage and healthcare

by Natalie Aughinbaugh, DNP, FNP-C

Natalie Aughinbaugh, DNP, FNP-C

In 1968, Pope Paul VI authored a text titled Humanae Vitae that circulated the Catholic Church, affirming its teachings that married love is sacred, children are gifts from God, responsible parenthood is important, and that Natural Family Planning (NFP) should be implemented within marriage.

In the first sentence of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI writes, “the transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator.” His words emphasize union, procreation, and fertility appreciation. All are essential aspects within the marital act of intercourse and are a part of God’s design, an inseparable connection experienced between married partners. Its union aspect is love-giving and its procreative aspect is life-giving. Further, the act is total self-giving of one partner to the other that celebrates the marriage sacrament.

Humanae Vitae emphasizes natural fertility in its condemnation of artificial contraception and promotion of NFP. The practice of NFP allows couples to understand their fertility, create life, and remain faithful to God’s design for human sexuality. As Catholics, it is our responsibility to uphold these values and respect human life in the way God intended.

Not only has Humanae Vitae made an impact within the Catholic Church and within marriages, but it has also made an impact within the healthcare setting. Providers may utilize Humanae Vitae principles in their practice to promote moral reproductive care, to discourage contraceptive approaches within fertility care, and to demonstrate that the reproductive cycle is good, honorable, and natural.

In my practice as a healthcare provider, I often inform interested patients about the methods of NFP, which a couple can implement to manage their familial goal of achieving or avoiding pregnancy. Through NFP teachings, women and their spouses open themselves to fertility awareness to recognize hormonal and rhythmic changes within the female menstrual cycle, which allows them to understand their body, to identify health issues like reproductive disorders, subfertility, infertility, and to pinpoint fertile days in order to guide their family planning. This awareness, gained through charting interpretation, provides informative data that allows providers to assist couples as needed. A provider may offer guidance to optimize reproductive system functioning, enhance fertility rate, or recommend interventions to treat ailments or to correct an underlying problem revealed after the couples’ purposeful monitoring.

Within a healthcare setting, it’s important for providers to acknowledge that fertility is a gift, not a disease. Fertility is often viewed as a disease that needs to be treated or suppressed. However, education on how to monitor and interpret fertility can be an effective way for individuals to manage their reproductive functioning and their family planning intentions, while keeping the body in its natural, healthy, holy state.

Humanae Vitae is a gift to marriage and healthcare, and promoting its principles encourages respect for human life and appreciation for fertility as God intended.

Natalie is a Doctoral prepared Family Nurse Practitioner who is Natural Family Planning only, meaning she does not prescribe contraceptives. She works in the Family Medicine department at Essentia Health in Fargo. Natalie teaches the Marquette Method of NFP. She is married and has four sons.