"Contraception" as medical treatment—A plea for clarity


Disclaimer: I will admit to being an overly-scrupulous person who is paranoid about the slightest infraction against the Church’s teaching. That being said, I would greatly appreciate any thoughts (provided they are rational, not emotional) on this issue.

My wife takes a low-level medication that is typically used for the purpose of contraception in order to cope with several medical issues. To reiterate: The purpose of the medication is to treat a medical condition, NOT to prevent pregnancy. The question I pose is this: Can a married woman taking medication that is typically prescribed to prevent pregnancy engage in sexual relations with her husband while she is taking that medication?

The default response on this forum (by several apologists, citing the medical reasons clause in Humanae Vitae seems to be that a married couple is not obligated to abstain if the wife is taking “birth control” pills to treat a medical condition. However, a search across the Internet reveals a plethora of opinions—some from respected sources, others from uneducated speculation—that both agree and disagree with the consensus on this forum. The apologists on this forum cite the principle of double effect to justify their response. Those who argue against allowing married couples in this circumstance to engage in sexual relations contend that double effect does not apply, or is being incorrectly applied by supporters.

I subtitled this post “A plea for clarity” because I am completely confused and frustrated. My confessor reassures me that my wife and I are not sinning, but I have also heard stories of priests arguing the opposite. In addition, I found a pamphlet online from the Diocese of Madison (WI) that states that a married couple MUST abstain if the wife is taking “birth control” pills because of the abortifacient nature of the drug. The apologists on this forum, however, contend that it is incorrect to call a terminated pregnancy in this circumstance an “abortion” because an abortion must be specifically intended; they call the potential loss of human life a “miscarriage.” Add to that the fact that miscarriages can be caused by any number of things (including other medications!) and I am at a complete loss. Not to mention the fact that a married couple is still obligated to pay the marital debt, according to Church teaching, so total abstention seems to run counter to Church teaching as well.

I apologize for the long, rambling post, but I am at my wit’s end trying to discern the Church’s teaching on this issue, considering that there is no official Church declaration on this specific manner. Any thoughts (please no arguing about whether or not the medication is even needed) that are reasonable and well-articulated would be greatly appreciated.


If you’ve read the answers from apologists on this site and opposing views from various other sources, you already know the positions held on this issue. There is no “official” Church position beyond that expressed in Humanae Vitae. I believe it is interpreted and explained well by the apologists here.

I will note the following:

*]IMO the section from HV directly implies that sexual relations may continue, as it would not make sense otherwise.

*]There is no Church document or teaching calling married couples in this circumstance to abstain.

*]Where there is no official teaching, Catholics enjoy a good degree of liberty in choosing their course of action, taking on board arguments either way from theologians and following their own conscience.

*]Related to this, your own confessor has told you this is not sinful. And you know that he is not contradicted by any direct Church teaching on this issue. Ad to that the strong voice of the apologists on this site and I don’t know what further advice could convince you.


Agreed! I take the word of a priest and a Pope over the internet any day! :thumbsup:


If used for a medical problem it’s ok. I took them once since the doctor thought I had a cyst and that would get rid of it. My sister even took them since the doctor thought she would be more fertile when she came off them, that was in the sixties so they probably weren’t as sure as today and that may not be called for now. ???

When my hubby was working for 2 OB/GYNS one said she prescribed BC for a Catholic girl’s medical problem and thought the Church would not like that----ha,ha, she was a fallen away Catholic. My hubby told her no, the Church has no problems if it is to cure a medical problem.

I did hear a Catholic doctor on Catholic Answers say that there may be other medicine besides BC to help those problems, so you might want to go to their web site and ask the same question.


Your confessor is correct.

The apologists you cite here are also correct. What you are presenting is a classic case, actually I can write that it is a text book example, in moral theology for the application of the principle of double effect.

One aspect of the work of a theologian is to apply the Church’s teachings to concrete situations, just such as you have presented – and that has been done for you by your confessor and it has been affirmed by the apologists, who are in agreement and concur with the confessor’s assessment.

Given that, I would counsel you to be at peace and to trust that the advice you have received for this situation really is in conformity with the mind of the Church.


Then you should be under the care of a competent spiritual director, not asking strangers on the internet questions about your personal situation.


So, you aren’t listening to those apologists, but instead coming here and hoping someone will give you a different answer so you can tear yourself up with doubt and guilt.

PULEEZ get off this forum for your moral guidance and into the care of a spiritual director.

Because… um… it’s the internet.

quite rightly.

So get off this forum for advice on this specific topic and obey your confessor. This is damaging your spiritual life. Stop it.

Listen to your confessor. Stop this now.


It’s really important that you follow your confessor’s direction and be at peace. It is very important that you stop trying to second guess your confessor by going to the internet and getting random opinions.

I looked up the document you referenced from the Madison diocese.

This is an OPINION of a person who wrote an FAQ document. There is no author listed. There is no Church documented sited to support this OPINION.

This is not a document of the Magesterium, or even of the Bishop.


I think that is all you need to know. Your confessor knows your situation better than any of us. Priests arguing the opposite probably did so because the situations were different.

If your doubts persist, I recommend talking to a doctor. I know very few complications that require contraceptives as treatments, and most/all of them have other treatment options (other hormones, different medication, etc). Maybe changing medication would help with your guilt?


As my boss likes to say, “If you’re not sure, ask.” God is merciful and loving but also wants us to know what His Church teaches.

Let’s start with Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI (1968):


Please see point 15. “Lawful Therapeutic Means”

Since different circumstances may require different treatments (there may be different chemical formulations involved), you can read the following (especially see last paragraph):


Or contact the National Catholic Bioethics Center for further advice and information:


Trying to please God is not even being a little paranoid.

Ed :slight_smile:


Guide with love. Not all our on the same path of faith and not all are at the same level of faith. God Bless you.


I’m not very educated but also have trouble with scrupulosity and am familiar with the Scupulous Anonymous group.

As I understand it, their rule for scupulous people is to obey your confessor. Maybe that is what you need to do here, as your confessor is not contradicting any offical teaching of the Church.

That’s my two cents. And, as always, pray to Christ through Mary for peace and guidance.


I agree with your advice. But as someone who has dealt with serious scupulosity, anxiety, and mental confusion, I can testify that it’s very easy to get confused sometimes through anxiety.


I concur with the apologists and similar responses, in general.

Personally, I believe the person taking the medication ought to feel some obligation to:

  • prefer if possible medications that are neither contraceptive nor abortifacients, so as to do ones best to minimise adverse consequences;
  • have regard to the seriousness or otherwise of the medical condition when choosing or selecting medication options (in light of their consequences). To embark on decades of medication with a contraceptive effect in order to improve a mild skin disorder would be questionable.


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