Avoiding pregnancy with medical concerns


#1

Hi everyone! This is my first post and the reason I joined this group. I am currently struggling with what I feel is a moral dilemma. I suppose I already know the answer just from my religious teachings, but here goes...

I have been married to my husband for two years. We are very happy and very much in love. Sometimes I am amazed at his level of patience and concern for me even after years of being together and dealing with some of my issues. Basically, we have a very healthy, stable marriage.

I am Catholic, he is a convert to Judaism (born a Methodist). He has great respect for my faith and loves that I have strong beliefs and that I try to lead a life that reflects those beliefs.

Here is our problem. I am bipolar. I have been hospitalized (before we met) for a major depressive crisis where I was a danger to myself. I have recovered thanks to both medical science and much prayer, but I still struggle with my condition almost daily. I take a number of medications to control the disorder, several of which would lead to severe birth defects if I were to become pregnant without realizing it. I have tried many times to reduce my meds but the reality is I will likely be on psych drugs indefinitly. On top of that, last week I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia after spending every night for the past several weeks in extreme pain when I laid down to sleep. I am now on another med for that which is also teratogenic. I am 36 years old, my husband is 32.

I cannot** get pregnant accidentally. It would be incredibly unfair to an unborn child to be exposed to the medications I take in the earliest time of life before I even realized I was pregnant. Even if the baby survived, the risks of mental and physical birth defects would be very high. Also, it has been reported in psychiatric studies that bipolar women are not only at very high risk for postpartum depression (which is destructive to the maternal-child bond), but we are also at risk for pathologic episodes.

My husband loves me very much and completely agrees that children are just not in our near future, if at all. We accept this together as a couple, and it is my strong belief that God does not intend for everyone to be a parent. We have several nieces and nephews who we adore and give our love to. We work hard in our community to serve God through our vocations as a veterinarian (me) and a high school teacher in a low-income, high-need neighborhood (him). I feel that we try our best to be good people.

So it boils down to this. I need completely reliable birth control. I have been taking the pill since college--not because I was sexually active, but for very severe periods. My other meds decrease the efficacy of the birth control portion of the pill. NFP is great in theory, but frankly, a 92% success rate in the real world is just not good enough. We have decided along with my doctor that an IUD is really our best option. My husband and I have not had sexual intercourse in many months, mainly due to my worries about pregnancy. I fear the effects that abstinence could have on our relationship eventually, because I crave that connection with him, and he feels the same. I know that this goes against the principles of my faith, but I have prayed on this and do not feel I have another option. So, does this damn my soul? Will I be in constant violation of mortal sin? I know the short answer is "yes" but I hoped some of you may share your thoughts on this difficult matter. I feel like even a confession would be inadequate as the use of birth control would proceed afterward anyway.

Sorry for such a long post, but I wanted to make sure I got all of my feelings across. Thanks for your time and hopefully for your advice.

Amy
:(


#2

It sounds like you're caught between a rock and a hard place.

Put it this way - I'm sure you're aware that IUDs fail too.

According to this site - womeningoodhealth.com/iud.html - there is a 7% risk that the IUD will be naturally expelled within the first few months after insertion - and a chance that you won't even know it's happened and so will be unprotected. Sounds like a pretty big risk to me.

Then there's all the side effects. I note you've been on the pill for your periods. If you already experience heavy cramps or bleeding without the pill, the good news is with the IUD you will risk making those worse. If you look at the link I put above, there are all sorts of other side effects too.

And let me ask you a question. If a 92% success rate is not good enough for you, why is a 99% success rate (that's the most optimistic figure, by the way, as manufacturers and endorsers tend to be) good enough?

If you truly honestly don't want to get pregnant, you and your husband need to realise that there is only one way to absolutely ensure that, and that is abstinence. No amount of pills or devices can guarantee you no pregnancy.


#3

I am sorry you are going through these issues.

To add to what Lily said: an IUD is an abortifacient. That means the egg has already been been fertilized and the baby has been conceived, and it cannot implant and is expelled. You seem so worried about harming a child with all the medications you are taking, but the IUD would kill any child conceived, I would ask: how is that better?

I am again very sorry that you must carry this burden. You should look back into NFP in its most conservative form (only in phase three). I will pray for you.


#4

You seem to have 3 options:

1.) Abstinence for life (the only 100% effective method).

2.) If you believe that God can do anything, then obviously God could make a fetus grow up perfectly healthy despite any combination of incredibly toxic chemicals you put into your body. Go ahead and have sex without birth control, and if you get pregnant and have a baby with birth defects go through understanding that God could have prevented it and didn't, so He obviously wants you to have a baby with these problems.

3.) Change beliefs.

You're looking for a way out. The Catholic God is not a god of loopholes. Either follow the rules given to you by your religion, or, if you think you know better than what the religion teaches, then you need to be breaking away from that religion.


#5

I can't help you b/c I can't decide how to live your life. But it sounds like you've got a clear idea that having children when you have bipolar disorder and other issues is probably not a good idea.

I have bipolar also, as well as other problems, and it was hard realizing that there was no responsible way to raise children. Or to get pregnant. I understand what you are saying about the medications and the risk to the unborn child. Also as you say, you are at risk for postpartum depression and perhaps even postpartum psychosis, and the baby might inherit bipolar disorder, which makes parenting more difficult.

It seems to me that this is a lot to give up and you need to decide if you are willing to give up more by choosing abstinence. NFP is always possible but I'd advise serious consultations with your doctors, secular as well as religious, as well as NFP experts, before trying it. The reason is that I think you have good reason to fear pregnancy. NFP even if carefully practiced, that never results in pregnancy, can raise your anxiety levels each month as you chart your cycle and determine safe and unsafe times. The fear of making a mistake might be a real problem. If you think this would make you anxious, you might need to factor that in to your bipolar issues. Anxiety can really do a number on those of us with bipolar. In fact it can either trigger or worsen manic episodes. This is what I was told - there was a time when my anxiety was so high that my bipolar medications stopped working.

It seems to me that you and your husband's mental and physical health come first, and that includes knowing your limits. I don't think it's up to me to say what you should do. Part of the issue here is that your husband isn't Catholic, and he evidently felt strongly enough about Judaism to convert. Although I think some very religious Jews are also against the use of artificial birth control. Does your husband have an opinion on this?

edited to add: I am 41, turning 42 in September. I found it really hard to deal with not being a parent when I was in my 20s and early 30s. As time went on, it has gotten easier. My husband and I have been married for 14 years. It sounds like you have children in your life, which is a good thing. There are a lot of people who don't have kids due to illness/disability, although I think it's still kind of a taboo topic. If the issue of not having children upsets you now, it should get easier as you get older.


#6

Just as a previous poster mentioned, there are no contraceptive methods that are 100% effective. They ALL fail at times.

In your situation, I would feel much more confident using NFP, phase III only, confirmed with a temperature shift. Your chances of getting pregnant using phase III are near non-existent.

I would never, ever trust any form of hormonal contraception when the stakes are so high. There is just no way.


#7

[quote="masondoggy, post:6, topic:207037"]
J Your chances of getting pregnant using phase III are near non-existent.

[/quote]

Only if your body happens to meet and continues to meet (or you force it to meet through the use of hormones) the NFP model of fertility cycles rather than struggles along with a perpetual state of natural or pharmaceutical side effect induced pseudofertility.


#8

I hope this doesn't come across mean, but I am very thankful that my biological mother (who is bipolar) had me. I'm also thankful that my bipolar and ocd sil had her two children. Yes, she had stopped her medication during the pregnancies and had great swings in mood, but now is back on her meds and is back to where she was and frankly, her children are what motivate her to not only continue her meds when she isn't enjoying their side-effects but also seek and continue therapy. :thumbsup: Obviously you have to make your own choice, but I think it isn't impossible to be severely bipolar (which my sil is, she too has been hospitalized in the past) and to become pregnant. Again, I'm thankful that my bipolar biological mother had me, that her mother and father (he was bipolar) had her and my biological grandfather's mother (who was also bipolar) had him. I do not suffer from bipolar, my husband, who has some family members with bipolar - including three siblings, does not suffer from bipolar, but we are aware of the probability for our children. My sil has improved greatly, so life isn't over with that diagnosis.


#9

[quote="LJH1980, post:4, topic:207037"]
You seem to have 3 options:

1.) Abstinence for life (the only 100% effective method).

2.) If you believe that God can do anything, then obviously God could make a fetus grow up perfectly healthy despite any combination of incredibly toxic chemicals you put into your body. Go ahead and have sex without birth control, and if you get pregnant and have a baby with birth defects go through understanding that God could have prevented it and didn't, so He obviously wants you to have a baby with these problems.

3.) Change beliefs.

You're looking for a way out. The Catholic God is not a god of loopholes. Either follow the rules given to you by your religion, or, if you think you know better than what the religion teaches, then you need to be breaking away from that religion.

[/quote]

I agree with you wholeheartedly. I would follow #2. Have faith, God would not give you something you cannot handle. I'm 34, 211 pounds, and 5"3 and 34 weeks pregnant. We plan on using NFP so I can be healthier for our next child (after weight loss) but if I get pregnant before the weight comes off, it's God's plan and we will deal with what he gives us. (possible pregnancy health issues)


#10

[quote="gmarie21, post:8, topic:207037"]
I hope this doesn't come across mean, but I am very thankful that my biological mother (who is bipolar) had me. I'm also thankful that my bipolar and ocd sil had her two children. Yes, she had stopped her medication during the pregnancies and had great swings in mood, but now is back on her meds and is back to where she was and frankly, her children are what motivate her to not only continue her meds when she isn't enjoying their side-effects but also seek and continue therapy. :thumbsup: Obviously you have to make your own choice, but I think it isn't impossible to be severely bipolar (which my sil is, she too has been hospitalized in the past) and to become pregnant. Again, I'm thankful that my bipolar biological mother had me, that her mother and father (he was bipolar) had her and my biological grandfather's mother (who was also bipolar) had him. I do not suffer from bipolar, my husband, who has some family members with bipolar - including three siblings, does not suffer from bipolar, but we are aware of the probability for our children. My sil has improved greatly, so life isn't over with that diagnosis.

[/quote]

I am sorry if I came across as saying that no one with bipolar should ever have children. If you look at my post, I referenced other issues as well. The OP has been recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia and says she is in a lot of pain. I have issues with mild brain injury that have improved substantially but are still a problem in some ways.

My parents both have mental health issues and I'm glad they had me. But they did not also have physical health problems. To me it is the combination of those things that can make parenting extremely difficult. And by physical health problems, I mean stuff that would be considered an illness/disability on its own, without anything else in the picture.

Also, the fact that parenting is difficult doesn't mean I'm saying that the kids don't have a right to exist, or to be treated with the same dignity as everyone else.


#11

I think you have such a moral dilemma, that you should consult a priest. However, I must add that IUDs are horrible devices-- they cause abortions and life-threatening ectopic pregnancies. Outright sterilization would be better than an IUD.


#12

I appreciate all of the honest feedback I received today in response to my dilemma. I know there are no easy answers in life, and such is the case here.

My intention is not to come onto this board as a new member and immediately start causing trouble. However, there was a reply that I must take exception to.

Either follow the rules given to you by your religion, or, if you think you know better than what the religion teaches, then you need to be breaking away from that religion.

So basically what you are telling me is because I choose not to risk creating a life that may be plagued with severe** birth defects, I may as well abandon my whole religion because no woman who has an IUD is fit to consider herself a Catholic? Yes, maybe I am “looking for a loophole.” That’s why I am having such a hard time with this. Making inflammatory statements like this helps no one. I am not going to abandon my entire faith and turn away from Catholicism over this issue. And again, this is probably the wrong forum to pursue this any further (though I would be happy to follow up on a more appropriate forum), however, this is the exact attitude that has caused so many people who were raised Catholic to leave the Church in such numbers. The theory that if you cannot follow every single teaching of the church, you must think you are better than God and therefore a religious failure doomed to hell, causes good people to feel they cannot meet such standards so why bother even trying. I have very strong feelings about this but I will save them for another time and place.

To everyone with constructive criticisms, I thank you. I really have no one who I can discuss this with. As one poster mentioned, my husband was neither born nor raised Catholic so it is hard for him to understand the infallibility of our Church elders and our laws. My parents were both raised in the time when Latin masses were commonplace and no one questioned the Church, so I already know how they would feel (or at least how they would want to feel). And, as is now so common in this country, my social circle is largely agnostic or very casually Catholic who believe the theories of sin are flexible at best, so they don’t understand my dilemma in the first place. I have strongly considered speaking with a priest about my concerns, but ultimately I know what he is required to tell me according to the rules of our faith. I feel lost and alone.

As a doctor, I straddle that line between faith and science; between that which must be proved and that which must be believed with no proof. It is a struggle for me because I honestly do not believe as a medical professional that the health risks of an IUD are as much a reality as anti-contraceptive advocates claim. In actuality, the hormonal implant I am considering results in lighter, shorter, and less painful periods, has the added benefit of reducing the incidence of multiple forms of cancer, and can be checked regularly by a very simple method to ensure it remains properly placed. In addition, I know that the method mainly employed by an IUD is the prevention** of conception by making it very nearly impossible for the sperm and the egg to even begin to approach each other through the creation of a “hostile environment” in the uterus-- a so-called “snowstorm in the Himalayas” as my gyn dr. described it-- and not by acting as an abortifactant in almost every case. (I am a staunch pro-lifer, so that is certainly a major concern for me, adding another difficult layer to the situation.) And finally, knowing just how unbelievably strict the FDA is in controlling how a drug or medical device is allowed to make claims about efficacy and such, I do believe that considering the odds, an IUD is still the best, most reliable form of contraception available (ok, not counting abstinence, which, Catholic or not, is a ridiculous suggestion for a loving married couple in their 30’s). However, none of this means I am just trying to justify a sin. I am simply trying to work through this problem both spiritually and intelligently.

I again apologize for my incredibly long posts. As I mentioned, I feel I have no one to truly have an honest, back-and-forth discussion about this with. As in my original post, I do welcome anyone to share their stories and beliefs with me. Several people have mentioned that they are happy that their parents who are afflicted with mental illnesses still decided to go forward with having them, and I respect and understand that. I come from a family with a LONG history of depression, alcoholism, food addiction, and various other mental health issues that were never properly diagnosed or addressed in any way. Through no fault of their own, my family passed these genes on to me. They gave me intelligence, a strong conscience, compassion for all forms of life, and a heart filled with love for those who touch my life. And yes, they gave me a mental illness that nearly destroyed me. Am I sorry I was born? I guess I can’t answer that. I really don’t know. I know I could have a perfectly healthy child. I know he or she could be completely free of mental illness. I believe that if God wills it, maybe someday I will be able to come off my meds and remain stable and happy. However, that time is not now, and at my age, that time may not come. I am at peace with that. As I originally said, God did not intend for all of us to have children. It all comes down to this–I cannot allow myself to have an unplanned pregnancy. It is not fair to the child in so many ways.

Amy


#13

Joseph and Mary were a loving married couple. Admittedly we don't know his age, but given that he was around when Jesus was 12 it would seem he survived at least into his 30s, assuming that he was roughly Mary's age. Of course you may find the predominant tradition more plausible, that he was older and had been married before. In either event, he was a normal, non-Immaculate human being.

They were called to lifelong abstinence, and WERE abstinent througout their marriage. Mary was also a human being, albeit immaculately conceived, with all that entails.

Are you suggesting they were 'ridiculous' simply because they agreed to stay, and moreover successfully stayed, celibate throughout their marriage?


#14

The OP has made it clear that abstinence is not an option so I think we should just leave it at that.


#15

[quote="DrPooh, post:12, topic:207037"]
I really have no one who I can discuss this with.

[/quote]

Amy: You are in a difficult place, but not impossible! It is good that you are here, there are some lovely people in this forum who really reach out to help and befriend.

I don't have much time right now, but wanted you to know that NFP (Billings Ovulation Method) has been proven to be 99.9% effective (to avoid pregnancy) in several studies in India and China when the teaching has been thorough AND the couple is very motivated.

Stay on board, with your Faith, and your search for peace in this!


#16

I’ll repeat what I wanted to be the major point from what I said: I believe the physical and emotional health of you and your husband come first, and that I don’t think I have the right to tell you what to do.

It’s got to be hard not having people IRL to discuss this with. I found that dealing with bipolar was very difficult for a long time but it’s getting easier. The right balance of medications and psychotherapy helps. Also, in addition to facing the negative, appreciating the positive in my life, one of the most important things is my relationship with my husband.


#17

[quote="DrPooh, post:12, topic:207037"]

So basically what you are telling me is because I choose not to risk creating a life that may be plagued with severe** birth defects, I may as well abandon my whole religion because no woman who has an IUD is fit to consider herself a Catholic? Yes, maybe I am "looking for a loophole." That's why I am having such a hard time with this.

[/quote]

It has been my observation in life that parents and church present children with a certain rulebook. Of course they do. It's a necessary thing. It gives the child guidance and an idea of how to go about living life.

The downside of this, of course, because of the nature of childhood in this world, is that the child most often grows up regarding the parents, the church, and the rulebook as the stairway to heaven. One need only keep one's head down and focused on nothing but obedience to parents, church, and rulebook in order to leverage God into guaranteeing oneself a place in heaven....
It's Pavlov's dog.... do things right and you get a cookie.....
do things right and you get a cookie....
do things right and you get a cookie....

Basically what happens is that the parents, the church, and the rulebook end up supplanting God. The parents, the church, and the rulebook have become *the child's gods. No thought is required whatsoever. No growth of consciousness is required whatsoever. No growth of discernment and intention is required. Only blind obedience is required, and blind obedience is used to *leverage God.
do things right and you get a cookie....
do things right and you get a cookie....
do things right and you get a cookie...
Say enough novenas.....to buy yourself what you want in life.
Appeal to a saint...... to leverage God on your behalf!
Parents, church, and rulebook have become essentially and for all practical purposes in one's life........ God.

You see?

Above we see mention of "the Catholic God".... as though God were Catholic and marching along in a plaid school uniform behind parents, church, and rulebook just like all the other kids.
But God is not Catholic
God is God.

But what in life would ever make a child of God look up and ever bother try to see God at all in this universe.... when from birth he has been looking down at his feet blindly, simply marching along behind parents, church, and rulebook as though they were gods?

St. John of the Cross calls it "The Dark Night of the Soul"..... when there is no "right answer," when there is no good option, when everything you could possibly do conceivably is unworkable and you are left standing alone and forsaken by everyone with no support and no reassurance whatsoever....
and parents, church, and rulebook are no longer gods guaranteeing you get a cookie through blind obedience to them....
There is no more "right" answer.... and there is no more cookie....

Why on earth would God do such a thing?
Oh.... mostly so that you would have to look up, you would have to reach out, you would have to ask your own questions and find your own answers, you would have to live by what was most important to you in this world rather than what was most important to others....
you would have to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit yourself right here, right now instead of having to rely on somebody else trying to do it for you based on his interpretation of some other guy's interpretation of what somebody else wrote in the 14th century....
and begin to see God above and beyond all the false gods you were given on this earth.

Christ said it was only the pure of heart who see God....
You know what it takes to become "pure of heart"? You heart has to let go of everything other than what you value most in life....
and honey, the love you bear your husband such that you would not forsake him in this world, and the love you bear for children such that you would not forsake their health in this world....
because the sacredness of your own sacred butt means so much less to you than they do.....
is one of the most beautiful acts of love I've seen in a long long time.
Blessings!


#18

Wow. Thank you so much, former Catholic. That was a beautifully written response, and you gave me some inner peace. You sound like a very compassionate human being. Thank you :o


#19

[quote="masondoggy, post:14, topic:207037"]
The OP has made it clear that abstinence is not an option so I think we should just leave it at that.

[/quote]

She merely said she thought it was 'ridiculous' to even expect it of a young married couple and left it at that. I'm not getting any sense whatsoever that she actually even seriously thought about it as an option before saying so.

I'm not saying there aren't reasons why it would be difficult in her case. Far from it. I am, however, not going to simply let it be dismissed as 'ridiculous'.

It is in fact a genuine option for a loving married couple, just as it was for Joseph and Mary, and should be treated and carefully considered as such.


#20

[quote="former_Catholic, post:17, topic:207037"]
It has been my observation in life that parents and church present children with a certain rulebook. Of course they do. It's a necessary thing. It gives the child guidance and an idea of how to go about living life.

The downside of this, of course, because of the nature of childhood in this world, is that the child most often grows up regarding the parents, the church, and the rulebook as the stairway to heaven. One need only keep one's head down and focused on nothing but obedience to parents, church, and rulebook in order to leverage God into guaranteeing oneself a place in heaven....
It's Pavlov's dog.... do things right and you get a cookie.....
do things right and you get a cookie....
do things right and you get a cookie....

Basically what happens is that the parents, the church, and the rulebook end up supplanting God. The parents, the church, and the rulebook have become *the child's gods. No thought is required whatsoever. No growth of consciousness is required whatsoever. No growth of discernment and intention is required. Only blind obedience is required, and blind obedience is used to *leverage God.
do things right and you get a cookie....
do things right and you get a cookie....
do things right and you get a cookie...
Say enough novenas.....to buy yourself what you want in life.
Appeal to a saint...... to leverage God on your behalf!
Parents, church, and rulebook have become essentially and for all practical purposes in one's life........ God.

You see?
Above we see mention of "the Catholic God".... as though God were Catholic and marching along in a plaid school uniform behind parents, church, and rulebook just like all the other kids.
But God is not Catholic
God is God.

But what in life would ever make a child of God look up and ever bother try to see God at all in this universe.... when from birth he has been looking down at his feet blindly, simply marching along behind parents, church, and rulebook as though they were gods?

St. John of the Cross calls it "The Dark Night of the Soul"..... when there is no "right answer," when there is no good option, when everything you could possibly do conceivably is unworkable and you are left standing alone and forsaken by everyone with no support and no reassurance whatsoever....
and parents, church, and rulebook are no longer gods guaranteeing you get a cookie through blind obedience to them....
There is no more "right" answer.... and there is no more cookie....

Why on earth would God do such a thing?
Oh.... mostly so that you would have to look up, you would have to reach out, you would have to ask your own questions and find your own answers, you would have to live by what was most important to you in this world rather than what was most important to others....
you would have to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit yourself right here, right now instead of having to rely on somebody else trying to do it for you based on his interpretation of some other guy's interpretation of what somebody else wrote in the 14th century....
and begin to see God above and beyond all the false gods you were given on this earth.

Christ said it was only the pure of heart who see God....
You know what it takes to become "pure of heart"? You heart has to let go of everything other than what you value most in life....
and honey, the love you bear your husband such that you would not forsake him in this world, and the love you bear for children such that you would not forsake their health in this world....
because the sacredness of your own sacred butt means so much less to you than they do.....
is one of the most beautiful acts of love I've seen in a long long time.
Blessings!

[/quote]

God loves us, He has given us the Church to help us learn to do what is right. The Church has many years of wisdom and inspiration from the Holy Spirit. The Church is not a "false god", God Himself instituted the Church! When you love someone, you want to get to know them better and better and make them happy. You don't want to hurt them. The Church gives us guidance on how to do this for God. Its not about making up random rules, its about helping us see what is best, what leads us to be closer to God! We do need to form our conscience, learn more and more, to be able to choose the right choices. The devil is very smart, he knows how to trick people, especially through fleeting feelings, to do what is wrong. There are things that are so gravely wrong, that if done on purpose, with full knowledge/will, are like saying we don't care for God and His Will, and can lead to eternal separation from God. We need God, we need grace, we need guidance, we need Faith... Doing things that hurt God are never the right choice.


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