Hysterectomy & Avoiding Fatal Pregnancies


If a married woman is told by her doctors that there is NO WAY that she can carry a baby to term without having serious, probably fatal, complications for both mother and baby, is it then permissible to have a hysterectomy or some other form of permanent birth prevention?

I realise NFP can become fairly reliable, even to as much as 98%, and I realise that in principle the marital act should always be open to procreation, but we are also not supposed to do anything that puts us or others (i.e. an unborn baby) at risk. If it was already known that the procreative good was defective in this case, and would lead to an increase of death, not life, surely it would be irresponsible and perhaps even sinful to engage in it.

If it’s not permissible to do this, then a married couple in that situation have only 3 options:
a) celebacy, which, by definition, isn’t proper to marriage.
b) the constant guilt of knowing that they have sinned in cutting off the procreative good.
c) the constant fear of not knowing whether NFP will fail at some point, and the risk that every time they make love the husband may be killing his wife and unborn child.

Of course, miracles can happen, and doctors can be wrong, but I don’t drive around without my seat-belt on just because God could send a miracle to save my life in a crash.

If I had an incurable problem with my hand so that every time I moved it the disease could kill me, I’d have the right to have the hand amputated, to avoid the risk of ever moving it. Surely this is the same? Does the doctrine of double effect apply?

After all, there are other ways that a married couple can express the creative good of their union, such as by adopting or becoming foster carers.


No way can the woman undergo surgery to induce sterility in order to avoid preganancy. It may be an acceptable unintended side effect of surgery undertaken to resolve another medical condition–cancer etc., but cannot be done for that purpose alone. Bear in mind that the conditions that would render a pregnancy fatal for a woman are severely limited nowdays, and for many of those conditions hysterectomy may actually prove to be the preferred treatment anyhow. If the marital act or possibility of conception is truly life threatening, then the couple must abstain from the marital act, either until such time as the condition is resolved, until natural menopause, or periodically assisted by NFP methods. We just had this discussion a couple of weeks ago, please do a search on the topic.

A marriage that does not have a deep enough love that it can survice periods of abstinence has some troubles that must be resolved in any case.





Here is some info from Rome:



Amen Amen!


In this case, the period of abstinence would need to be from the age of 25 until the menopause. I honestly don’t believe that any marriage can survive that.


the person should in any case seek a second and third medical opinion for a diagnosis such as that. Yes, many marriages can and have survived it.


If one spouse were rendered unable to have relations due to an auto accident resulting in loss of function - would the marriage not survive? God pours out graces on those who suffer.


I am in just such a situation and I use NFP. I do not live in constant fear, I trust in God. A 2-3% chance of failure should not make anyone live in constant fear, you have a higher risk of getting cancer or heart disease. Contraception in any form including surgery to make the woman steril is not permitted. As long as the couple takes a course in NFP and follows the conserative guidelines there should be no constant fear. If I become pregnant despite using NFP (which I haven’t so far in 10 years) then God’s Will be done -it’s His plan not mine.


We have close friends (parents of my best friend) whose marriage only ended with the death of the husband a couple of years ago, a man I have known since age 5 whom I can truly describe as a saint. His wife contracted polio when their youngest was a newborn, and her condition was such that even after she recovered and came home, she was wheel-chair bound or bedridden for the rest of her life, and the marital intimacy was no longer possible. We know some of the details that ordinarily would remain private because this couple served as sponsor couples in our home parish for several years in marriage prep, and their testimony of fidelity and love inspired many of us. yes, a marriage built on genuine self-giving love can survive any challeng.

I think also of the beautiful wintess of Christopher Reeve and his wife, and I personally know several such couples who lived in a similar situation for decades, with remarkable, inspirational love, intimacy and fidelity.

The husband in the first example told us, in our pre-cana session, our wedding night would have been enough to bind us for life, even if we never were able to be together again. They actually married on the eve of his deployment to the Navy in the Pacific, were separated for 4 years, and began their family after the war.


Instead of asking here where everyone portrays the strictest standards to try and one up the other ask your priest or bishop.
I relize everyone here is well intentioned for the most part but they do not know everything even though they throw new found verses etc at you, and appear to be in the know, if they were so in the know and so holy they would be within the church as nuns,priests, bishops etc… dont get me wrong some on here actually are but talk to your own priest , or bishop thats what they are there for If nothing else they can give you some more direct answers and approaches so you have both confidence and clean mind.


I agree with the previous poster. This is a life or death issue. I would have her talk to a priest about it. (or maybe a few to get different comfort from different priests, etc.)



A marriage that does not have a deep enough love that it can survice[sic] periods of abstinence has some troubles that must be resolved in any case.

considering that for that situation we would not be talking about “periods” of abstinence, I find that suggestion ridiculous personally
lots of marriages are not perfect, it doesn’t mean we should precipitate crises in order to diagnose this - why put unnecessary strain on a relationship?
a marriage without the physical side is more like a friendship than a marriage



I offer this again for those of you who object to explain why you do obejct.


While I understand, appreciate and honor the reasoning behind the rules established by the Church on this topic, it does, in these extreme cases of life threatening illness, require perfect obedience, perfect exercise of will, perfect self-restraint, perfect timing, perfect charitable love to execute what the church expects. I think very few of us, frankly, are capable of this day to day, month to month, much less day in, day out for a quarter century. I also agree that marriage stripped of physical intimacy is profoundly degraded. Those couples who can make this sacrifice no doubt have heroic character, fortitude and faith and receive many blessings for their efforts. But the message to the rest of us mere mortals is that anything less than perfection = death/damnation. Not much of an alternative.


God did not say “don’t sin unless it too hard not to… then it’s ok”

The OP asked for the church’s teaching, and this was stated accurately. Contraception is always gravely wrong.

If the OP were to fall into sin, this particular one or ANY sin, then of course Reconciliation is available, which is the solution to damnation.


You are absolutely right–I am offering an opinion, not Church teachings nor advocating breaching them–just empathizing with the struggle. Another example why Catholicism is not for sissies!


Thank you very much for your posts. I appreciate the doctine of the Church requires obedience, even if, like Christ, it is obedience unto death. I accept this for myself, but it is harder when another person has to suffer too. There is also the complication that we are at present only engaged, so might not even have the consolation of our wedding night to bind us, though we could take a risk with that.

There is also the issue that sexual morality cannot be considered in isolation from other aspects of Christian morality. When I asked for his permission to marry, I promised my fiancee’s non-Catholic father that I’d take good care of her and make her happy. That’s also a promise I can’t fail to keep, and an evangelistic witness to him too.

There are other complicating factors that I don’t want to enter into in a public forum, but it’s good to know both what the Church teaches and that there is acceptance that it is a very hard path, a path of living martyrdom no less.


The thought of prolonged abstinence can be daunting, but I venture to guess that nobody ever died from lack of sex. I know it can be done because I was in a marriage that included prolonged periods of abstinence (we are talking years not days). Is it fun? Nope! But it is survivable! Yep! To go to the extreme of trying to get a hysterectomy to avoid pregnancy is not only sinful but also damaging to the unity of the marriage as well. How about trusting in God? Many times people find that this sort of thing strengthens not only the marriage, but the ill person as well. Trust that God can work miracles… because he does! Look below at my ticker… I was told I couldn’t have children by a doctor, yet I am on #6 and miracle of miracles… I am 43 yo.


Please run, don’t walk, to your pastor and have a long talk with him. This is a bigger issue than originally posted. A marriage must be consummated and you cannot enter into a valid Catholic marriage with the intent to permanently exclude children.

In your original post you indicated that it was a married woman who was told by her doctors not to get pregnant. This is a very different scenario than an unmarried woman being given the same advice.

Also, get second and third medical opinions. Every pregnancy can be called life-threatening or health-threatening by someone. That is why the laws restricting abortion are so toothless.

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