Experience with NFP for medical reasons?

Hi. I apologise if this is in the wrong forum. A bit of background: I have epilepsy and have been on anti-convulsant medication since I was 8 (I’m now 22). The drug I was on for 14 years stopped being effective around August last year and my meds were changed. I have had 4 seizures since then, mostly recently two days ago. I’ll be changing to a different drug now.

Now, while I won’t be having children in the immediate future (my boyfriend and I have only been dating for 1.25 years), I’m starting to think that because of my medical condition I perhaps shouldn’t be pursuing the vocation of marriage at all. I fully agree with Church teachings on contraception, so would never use it, but with the defects that my medication can cause in a developing child in the womb, I’m not supposed to get pregnant unexpectedly. It would have to be something carefully discussed beforehand with my neurologist and an obgyn.

I guess I was just wondering if other people have had success spacing pregnancy for medical reasons (no need to disclose specifics). I guess one of my main concerns is that I feel bad that my medical condition would mean my potential future husband would not be having as frequent sex as he would perhaps like. I used to think being a mother and wife was my calling and what I wanted more than almost anything, but now I’m thinking I should discern becoming a nun. I do feel called to help people, but I suppose there are multiple ways to do that.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. :slight_smile:

One thing you could do now to get a general idea would be to go ahead and chart if you don’t already and see what kind of “green light” days you get. Your condition and how it would affect your intimate life would be something to discuss with a potential spouse (not on a first date, but you’ve been dating your boyfriend long enough that it would be appropriate, I think.)

The fact that you greatly desire to become a wife and mother would point toward marriage being your vocation. Do you actually want to be a religious sister, or does it feel more like a fallback since you’re not sure marriage will work out?

I wouldn’t rule out marriage based on just having epilepsy. I had seizures from the time I was 12 to when I was 23. I was on a variety of different medications throughout that time. Out of curiosity, what meds are you on?

In the end the seizures were so bad that I took the option of having brain surgery to remove the section of the brain responsible. I’ve been seizure free now for five years.
Has the option of brain surgery been explored by your neurologist? I know some people can’t have it but it’s definitely worth looking into. The success rate is high.

There is also the fact that epilepsy research is one of the areas that a lot of money is being put into. There are new and better drugs coming on the market all the time. There is also a new brain implant that I read about that counteracts the electronic impulses of seizure activity and basically suppresses seizures as they begin. I think the FDA approved this technology in 2013.

In terms of having a family, that is something that you need to discuss with a (catholic preferably) doctor, and your future spouse.

You think you might be a nun because you are sick? OK, Indeed the bulkhead of many teaching orders I am familiar with. (Only kidding. You know me.) Not the seed of a vocation. If you are really considering marriage with your boyfriend, or when you do down the track, talk him through it. He knows your condition. If he loves you he will compromise; the backbone of marriage.
I believe that this would just require very careful timing and with the development of new drugs every day, including specific brain surgery in some highly successful cases, this may not be a problem forever.
I would start praying to our holy Mother, as she, of all people, would understand and is in a very good position to do something about it. Explain to your specialists your religious issues with certain treatments. They may well have a solution.
Do not give up hope. In doing the will of the Lord demand He comes to the party. God bless you in your courage.

Definitely talk to your boyfriend and pray about it. Also, epilepsy affects 65 million people worldwide, there are bound to be other women experiencing the same issues. You should connect with them and see how they deal with this. You should start a thread/group here to discuss issues specifically related to epilepsy and pregnancy.

There are a couple of posters on here who have used NFP for close to two decades (maybe more now) to avoid pregnancy due to life threatening issues,

I can’t say I’ve seen the around much lately, but you can do a search of their prior posts- crohnie4life and rayne89 are their screen names.

I would check out Jennifer Fulwiler. She is a catholic convert who has a life threatening clotting issue and could very well die if she gets pregnant again. However, she uses NFP and it has been successful. I encourage you to read this blog post of hers. God Bless! jenniferfulwiler.com/2013/05/never-say-never-and-other-thoughts-on-having-more-kids/

Thanks for all the advice.

I haven’t begun properly charting fertility symptoms yet but have just started trying to become familiar with them, mainly mucus.

My doctors have never discussed the possibility of brain surgery. It’s my right front temporal lobe that is the issue. I have no idea if it can be operated on. I was originally on Tegretol for 14 years, the since January have been on Keppra. But since that seems to be worsening my anxiety and not preventing seizures, I’m now changing to Lactimal.

I will definitely pray on this.


I can add a little info.

  1. 1.25? That’s oddly specific. Cmon girl it’s time to put a ring on it!
  2. Nfp is an acceptable way to avoid.
  3. It most likely will be hard, and a source of frustration in your marriage. (There are exceptions)
  4. You show incredible maturity asking about this now, even your question about frequency is insightful. Good for you!
  5. Don’t let others convince you if you should or should not have s baby. That is between God, your husband and you. But you should be open to life.
  6. With the med it would be a good idea to take a pregnancy test every month. They are 1.00 at the dollar store. Just make it a habit.
  7. Charting now will make everything easier. Really this is probably the most important thing. A year or so (your engagement :wink: ) of charting will give you a real handle on your fertility and allow you to find what nfp method works best.
  8. My wife has to take Coumadin as a blood thinner and that is not good for pregnancies. We were advised to take a pregnancy test and then switch meds if preg. you will want to discuss this with your doctor.
  9. You and your husband need to talk about this now. If you permanently cannot have kids then that is something you need to really work through now. Because as you age you change. So will he. So be honest and fair now. Realize that no matter your intent you might have children. Be prepared for that reality.

I had exactly the same type of epilepsy. I had a front temporal lobectomy. I don’t want to get your hopes up. It differs from person to person and some people can’t have it removed as it can affect speech and memory functions. But it’s definitely worth discussing with your doctors. I would strongly recommend exploring that avenue of treatment as much as is possible.

  1. Well, I was actually being generous saying 1.25. It’s probably closer to 1.125 years haha. But more seriously, I don’t see engagement happening any time soon as I don’t yet have a full-time job, he’s not yet finished his Master’s degree, and there are some cultural difference issues (he’s Indian-born) with his parents and their expectations. But thanks for the encouragement. I’d say yes if he asked.
  2. Yeah, I thought my situation may be serious enough to use NFP to space pregnancy.
  3. I feel bad because I personally wouldn’t mind frequently having to abstain, but I don’t want to be a burden and source of frustration. My boyfriend is well aware of my condition, but doesn’t seem to see it as a burden, so…I’m not sure he fully understands the risks, but…
  4. Thanks. I want more than anything to be open to life and intimacy with my future spouse, but my condition also warrants the use of prudential judgement and I don’t want to be a burden.
  5. Thanks. Yeah, I do realise that part of any pregnancy will come down to trusting in God.
  6. After marriage, right?
  7. Are there any free charting guides available? Ive read a bit on discharge, but not so much on charting temperature. Would you recommend a certain method?
  8. At the moment my doctor is mainly concerned with finding a drug that works. The one I’m currently weaning off is great for pregnancy, but negatively affects my anxiety and stress levels. I’ll have to tell my doctor my about opposition to the contraceptive pill but haven’t so far because I’m not even engaged yet and it didn’t seem like an immediate concern. But maybe I should inform her sooner rather than later.
  9. I don’t think I’m permanently incapable of having kids.my doctor tells me plenty of epileptics have successful pregnancies. It’ll just require more caution and planning.

Thanks for all the advice! :slight_smile:

Fertilityfriend.com and the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility are great resources for learning how to chart. Your diocese may also offer classes, especially if there is a Catholic hospital.

The advice about taking a pregnancy test every month is pretty smart. I will be keeping that in mind for friends in the future. I kind of know what you’re going through. My husband and I have been married for 12 years. We have two beautiful children, both of whom were diagnosed with a genetic condition called Fanconi Anemia. It is incurable, and has caused my son to have a bone marrow transplant. Now our daughter is in bone marrow failure. I rarely say this out loud, but we don’t know if we Wil ever have grandchildren, or if our children will die before us. It is an extremely heavy cross for all of us. I was petrified of getting pregnant again, but I can say that both my kids were planned, and NFP did work for us. Before we were catholic we dint know that what we were doing was called NFP, we just knew that bc pills are not good for a woman’s body and didn’t want to have me on them. I won’t lie. Until I had my hysterectomy a couple of months ago, it was always an anxious time leading up to my period, and always a relief when it came. And it wasn’t always easy to abstain, and I will admit to both of us being in the confessional over it more than once. Something that no one tells you is that over time you and your husband kind of sync to one another. When I was ovulating it was like sending out a hormonal beacon to him. We could have done better, but we are not perfect. I tell you this not to discourage, but to arm you with knowledge that could help you avoid that pitfall. I sometimes felt that the church hadn’t considered people like us when the rules were set, and that was another source of frustration and hurt. I will admit that I was angry for a while over it. I know your situation is complex, but it surely could be worse. If switching medication were an option for us we would have had more. Don’t mistake that for me minimizing what you’re going through, it is meant to give you hope. Another thing that struck me is if your boyfriend/fiancee is going to have a serious issue with abstaining for a few days a month then you need to reconsider choosing that person. I think now is the time to find the opportunity to have a serious discussion with your boyfriend about the risks involved and make sure he understands everything very clearly. Talk to your doctor now about the possibility of switching meds should an unexpected pregnancy occur. Knowledge is power. As a side note, please consider getting on the bone marrow registry at marrow.org. A stranger saved my son’s life, and will save my daughter’s. Please keep Gage and Stella in your prayers, and the doctors researching this disease. Thank you.

That’s because it didn’t! It’s black and white, our way or the highway. The church is not set up for the hard issues, leaving people in our positions stuck while others around us, who are not in bad situations and have zero idea what it’s like to play with fire, to tell us what too do, while they go ahead, have sex and lots of children. At least until they find themselves in a tough situation, then they are forced to practice what they preach. Either that or they don’t care and keep having kids. I just read of a family who had 3 children with Epidermolysis bullosa (EB) aka Butterfly syndrome, THREE! Talk about selfish and irresponsible!

You will always feel this frustration and hurt if you continue to view the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality as “rules they set”. this simply isn’t the case.

First, they aren’t rules, rules can change. Second the Church didn’t “set” them. God did. God gives us the commandments and misuse of our sexual faculties is grave matter against the sixth commandment.

The Church’s role is to teach us God’s law. To provide guidance and pastoral care. It is not within the Church’s power to change what God has commanded.

Yes, it can be difficult to embrace God’s law on marriage and sexual relations within marriage. Abstaining is difficult.

I am sure fear and stress played a role in your decision for sterilization. I urge you to discuss this with your pastor in confession. It is grave matter.

From my understanding God made the 10 commandments and Jesus established a church (but there is no way to prove what that church really is, for all we know the true church he designed was lost long ago) but the Catholic church rules and traditions are man made and result via mans interpretation. Who is too say over the years books were not manipulated or removed from the bible to help the church manipulate and control the lay people. After all, history does reflect that (ex. Extermination of Cathars, Irish woman who were pregnant out of wedlock are locked in convents and there baby’s taken and given up for adoption without there consent). Also, how does anyone really know what happened between Jesus death and the first bible and churches were officially created? And nowhere in the bible does it mention birth control of any kind, that priests must be celibate (in fact that was created to prevent the priests families from inheriting church land), that the Pope is infallible ( which wasn’t created until the 1800s), no where does it say people can’t eat meat on Friday’s during Lent or that they must give up something otherwise it is a sin. Also a person does not get to heaven via only works, that’s by Gods grace and a relationship with Him, not by following strict tradition or saying I went to church every week, prayed the rosary everyday, went to confession every week, etc… Even though I didn’t want too I did it anyway because that’s what the church says I have too do to get too heaven.

I think if you examine and study the origins of Church Doctrine honestly, you’ll find very good reasons for all the church teachings. The Church isn’t about a bunch of guys sitting around trying to manipulate and control women. The teachings of the Church are all about what is good for the human person. The Church has determined that the proper end of human sexuality is that it be expressed in the context of marriage, and that contraception is a grave moral evil because it seeks to use the sexual faculty without openness to life. This doesn’t mean that you have to be popping out kids every 10 months. It does rule out artificial methods of contraception/sterilisation, on the grounds that they render the conjugal act not open to life. There is a rich teaching on the reasons for this and the reasons that this is good for the human person.

Also, as an Irish Catholic, I suggest that you seek out the full facts before slamming the Irish Church for what happened in mother and baby homes. Yes, there was abuses that occurred, however the Church was, most of the time, stepping in to help women who society had rejected. The Irish State was funding the homes. So I wouldn’t be so quick to criticise the Church for that.

Ok well maybe I could have worded it differently. But I believe most people in my situation would have felt the same, especially as I am entering perimenopause and my cycle wasn’t as regular as it used to be. To have 2 sick children is one thing. To have 3, after knowing the risks, is another. To have 2 sick kids and one healthy one, how do you explain that to the sick ones? As I said, I had a hysterectomy a couple of months ago for urgent reasons so it is a non issue. I have done a whole lot of talking with priests from Alabama to NYC trying to figure this whole thing out, and truly no one had an answer. I mean what do you say to people like us? I wouldn’t have known what to say either. I was only telling my story so that others can know some of the things we dealt with, and that NFP can work even if it is nerve wracking at times. Perhaps they can avoid those feelings and situations if they know about them ahead of time.

This is one of the ugliest statements I’ve read on caf.

Maybe it was a harsh way to put it. I can say that if we had gone on to have another child knowing what we know now, and if the child had inherited the genes for FA, we would have felt horrible and guilt stricken. My prayers go out to that family. Butterfly syndrome is terrible. At least my kids can play and do normal activities. There is always someone that has it worse than you.

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