Contraception exceptions



I am a Catholic and I have never been an advocate of using contraception, however I would like to ask for some help in making a difficult decision whether our situation would be considered a possible exception.

I have a 17-year old daughter who may be on a career path toward professional ballet. She has always been slightly underweight - not by choice, but likely due to a naturally high metabolism - she actually has a good appetite! Due to the intense daily training required for the full-time ballet program, her body weight has remained low and this has now affected and postponed her natural cycles. We considered this abnormal and so we took her to our doctor especially because of her low weight. Our doctor prescribed hormone replacement therapy (birth control pills/contraceptives) as a means of increasing her estrogen hormones that will, in turn, build up her weight. The doctor said the stress and physical exertion of dance may be a risk factor on her skeletal system especially before she is fully developed as an adult.

Would this be considered good reason for her to start taking contraceptives? I am aware of the negative side-effects especially the increased risk of breast cancer before the child-bearing years.

Or should we re-evaluate and encourage her to re-consider her career path in that perhaps dance is not a natural avenue for her? That would be difficult because she has a passion for dance. However, she is a hard working person who excels at anything she does.

I am open to any assistance that would help us with this decision.

Thank you.


Since your daughter is not engaged in sexual relations (right???) there is no problem for her to take these drugs. Since she is still rather young, I would keep a close eye on her health for the next few years and make sure there are no long term side effects.


Since your daughter will not be using the medication for contraception, there is no sin.


while its not being used as a contraceptive, I would question why they would prescribe artificial hormones when there are bio identical hormones out there that could be used instead. I would also find out if maybe there are any other underlying problems, too.

If she ends up having to be on this for years, it could cause problems later when she’s ready to marry and start a family (too many years on the pill can cause infertility).


CAF is not a place to solicit or offer medical diagnoses or advice. But we can safely say that there is no moral issue whatsoever in taking contraceptive pills if they are prescribed for a medical condition.


I wish I had £1 for every time this query comes up. It’s quite worrying how much misunderstanding of the Church’s position there is ‘out there’.

And if this is the case among Catholics, what must be the level of knowledge among non-Catholics?

Are there priests or Catholic commentators spreading wrong information and condemning hormonal treatment regardless of the circumstances (and commonsense) ? That seems to be the only explanation sometimes.


There is no such thing as a “contraception exception”. contraception is an intrinsic evil and always wrong.

What you describe is not contraception. It is a person taking a medication prescribed by a physician for a medical condition unrelated to preventing pregnancy that has an unintended side effect. this would fall under the Principle of Double Effect, which I suggest you take a look at by visiting Catholic ethics websites.

whether this is a wise course of treatment is beyond what we are allowed to discuss here, so be sure to get a second opinion.


Thank you everyone for all these helpful points of view you have shared with me. I needed some affirmation we were stepping in the right direction. My daughter would definitely only be using the contraceptives for the medical reasons as outlined above and I know this because she lives with us in our family and she doesn’t have a boyfriend and she also is a strong Catholic. She would be using the contraceptives only as a hormone replacement.

I know one member above mentioned there might be another artificial hormone drug that is not a birth control drug - I will check into this, but as another member above added: that’s really the expertise of the doctor to recommend. I do have my doubts about the existence of such a drug because my doctor would have mentioned such an option - but I will check into - thank you for this. These are all really good points and I am so thankful to you all for your generous replies. The people on this forum have been really kind and thoughtful.

Yes, I am aware that the question I have asked might seem rather obvious and perhaps already answered in other posts regarding the acceptability of using contraceptives for medical reasons only, but this question is slightly different in that there was another natural option to take to avoid the dilemma completely. And that was/is to change careers. Is it right/natural to continue a career where, in order to succeed, you must take unnatural drugs? Isn’t this a sign that perhaps your specific body type that needs this medication to succeed in this profession was not naturally meant for this type of activity/career? Are we pushing ourselves to do things we were not meant to do?

Perhaps it is ethical in our case because my daughter has been dancing for more than 10 years and we originally had no idea this would become a problem until now and it’s a little late, or at least very difficult, to change career paths. (In ballet, dancers must start their career and training at such a young age.)

It is also noteworthy to mention that a good percentage (approximately one third perhaps?) of the young female ballet dancers in this professional program have this same problem (low weight and postponed monthly cycles) and their doctors also have prescribed contraceptives. It seems to be a standard practice in the field of dance. I was surprised to learn this.

I am not going to use this information to challenge any of the ballet companies but it does make one notice and then wonder how modern drug technologies have opened up the scope of dance to more dancers who otherwise would not have had the natural body-type to succeed.

I have placed myself in an awkward position bringing this issue to light being the proud father of a dancer while looking critically at the career itself. I am proud of my daughter’s accomplishments as a dancer and yet at the same time I wonder if this was ever the right path.

This has become more of an ethics question rather than a question about contraceptives.

I don’t really expect any responses - you have already been so helpful - but I just thought I would share my thoughts as a concerned father. Maybe someone else might benefit from this post.

God loves you and may God bless you all.


I didn’t notice 1ke’s last post until I posted my reply. Thank you 1ke for your suggestion to use “the principle of double effect”. I was not familiar with this principle and with my first reading of its ideas, it seems to be very helpful. I need to read it through again carefully.


I think you should also consider that you keep referring to your daughter as not having a “natural body type” for dance. NO ONE has a natural body type required for dance, gymnastics, marathon running, modeling, and other extreme sports and occupations that focus on being extremely thin and/or exercising in extreme ways (stress also contributes and highly competitive environments focused on weight don’t help). Anorexics and bulimics also experience amennorhea.

It is not the body type, but rather being so drastically underweight, that causes amenorrhea. The hormones simply mask the problem while allowing the woman to continue in the unhealthy lifestyle.


Using the birth control pill for a medical reason unrelated to contraception is considered licit by the Church. However, there are alternatives.



Well said 1ke. I totally agree. And also, we will work on the core problem and not ignore it.

1ke, your suggestion to explore “The Principle of Double Effect” has been a genuine help in our situation. Thank you. The reason why it has helped me was because initially I was trying to precisely balance the good and bad effects in order to determine exactly what was greater. This became impossible and was only resolved when I read that in The Principle of Double Effect as long as the good and bad effects are “approximately the same”, the conditions are met. This enabled me to make my decision rather than become held up attempting to calculate results without any accurate data.

It has helped me to balance the good and bad factors in a rational manner to arrive at a decision.

In addition to the health benefit of using the hormone replacement/contraceptive drug to increase weight and bone mass to proper levels for a child her age in her current underweight condition, we especially could not ignore the damaging phycological disappointment/devastation? that would occur if she had to completely stop dancing which would end her aspirations and potentially perhaps a career in dance. With all these factors in mind it becomes clear using the principle of double effect that it is OK to use a hormone replacement/contraceptive drug for these intended good purposes.

As the principal states, if the bad effects are nearly equivalent (in our case they now seem to be less) than the good effects, the conditions have been met.

Thank you 1ke for leading me to the use of this helpful principal.

edwest2, thank you also for the link to the alternatives. I will have a look but at first glance it appears these solutions are for women with painful cramps rather than for situations such as in our case where my daughter has no cycle at all and therefore no cramps at all. I also do have to listen to the advice of our professional advisor, our doctor, and she already had all the data presented to her and gave us her best advice. I am not a doctor but I can look at this from an ethical and rational perspective and thats the best I can do.


If she is not having sexual relations then it’s fine for her to take them.




I agree with this. No one posessed the “natural body type” for ballet. That which is required of the body to become a professional ballet dancer is the definition of “UNnatural”.


I’m an NFP teacher with the Couple to Couple League. Off the top of my head, I’d say that contraceptives are not appropriate therapy for this situation.

Many young women, especially just into puberty, have problems with irregularity and amenorrhea, and the standard medical treatment is to put them on pills so they “bleed on time”, then segue into their reproductive (or non-reproductive ) years, then right into HRT at menopause. The emphasis is regular office visits coupled with continued use of drugs, all profiting the doctors and drug companies. What’s wrong with this picture?

The amenorrhea is normal. When her body is exercising excessively and not building up estrogen through body fat, her cycle shuts down, conserves iron, and is unavailable for reproduction. Taking artificial hormones does not treat this or “regulate” her cycles.

There are numerous side effects of the pill, some dangerous or long-term or even permanent (like, loss of cervical function). The only possible beneficial effect would be decreased libido :shrug: .

She need not worry about future fertility if she quits the pill and deals with the amenorrhea now. Proper nutrition and appropriate exercise will restore it if she is normal otherwise. Odds are, though, that as she ages and slows down she will be fine.


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