Is sterilization ok if a future pregnancy could end up with the death of a mother?


Hi there, I am a Mum with 3 children. My eldest is 6 and when I was giving birth to him I had an epidural. My body reacted badly to it and my blood pressure halved and my son’s heart stopped so I had an emergency C-section to get my son out as quick as possible. My second child is 2 years old. I had a second C-Section with him and with the spinal block they give you, my blood pressure was affected so much the anaesthetist said he had never seen anyone like this, but he managed to control my reaction to the drugs for the duration of the C-Section. My third baby is 1 years old. When I had my daughter I again reacted to the spinal block but this time I started to have what is termed a “medical heart attack” reacting to the drugs to numb you. Luckily my daughter was out of the womb and they stopped the operation to stabilize my heart.
Every time my reaction to the anaesthetic has worsened. The doctors told me that there is a large amount of scar tissue and should I have a 4th C-Section it will take about 1 hour to get the baby out and about 1 hour to sew me back up. There is a strong chance I will have another heart attack reacting to the anaesthetic especially since the drugs will be needed to be in my system for such a long time. If the baby is not out and they have to stabilise my heart, the baby could be at risk. If they get the baby out first to avoid the risk, which is what I would want ( I wouldn’t want a dead baby) I could die as they may not be in time to stabilize my heart if they wait for the baby to be born.
There would be a big risk that either one would die. I have discussed with the doctors whether general anaesthetic would be safer but they would not want to do that as it is dangerous for the baby and also I would not be able to tell them when I feel my heart “crush”.

My husband and I have learnt the Creighton Model of NFP which has been difficult as I am still breastfeeding. But this method is not 100% effective and indeed my NFP teacher told me that one of her ladies got pregnant recently on a “safe dry day”

If I have another baby I could die and leave my husband with 4 children and no mother. That would be irresponsible of me. The effect would devastate my family and would ruin the family faith if it happened.

I am 28 years old, married with 3 children. I cannot live a chaste marriage until the menopause. What type of marriage is that? I think it would destroy our marriage. We would be best of friends but not husband and wife anymore. We would loose that bond. I think it is impossible to expect anyone to do that, what no sexual relationship with your husband for maybe 25 years?!

Due to the effect of the anaesthetic I can’t get sterilized but my husband could have a vasectomy and we could aviod any risks. My husband when to our priest. He is not our local priest because we find that most priests are liberal and the churches are empty. We travel to a parish that has a traditional priest and every Mass the Church is overflowing. We have been going there for years. Anyway my husband spoke to Father and he said that under the circumstances, for him to be sterilized, would be fine, there was nothing wrong as the circumstances were exceptional and there was a grave reason for doing it.

But is this what the Church teaches? I understand that if we were to proceed with this we could go to Hell! But on the other hand to expect us to be chaste for the next 25years, is this what a loving God would want and expect? And if we were to fall pregnant and I risk my life what about the responsibility to my family and children?? I have been a traditional Catholic all my life but this teaching flies in the face of reason and is incomprehensible with a loving God.

What should we do?? Any ideas?? Many thanks


May God bless you for your earnest quest for the truth!

The first thing that comes to my mind is whether you have gotten a second opinion regarding the dire prognosis you’ve been given by your primary doctor?

Secondly, try the Pope Paul VI website. I understand they are well versed in dealing with situations exactly like your’s while still maintaining the teachings of the Church.

I know you will get many more replies as there are quite a few members here who have had similar experiences. You will be in my prayers.


I am so sorry that you are going through this type of struggle. I will try to be brief in my response, but I may get long-winded as I am passionate about it. Firstly, no, sterilization is not the answer either morally or medically. If a priest has told you it is, please get another priest. If a doctor has told you it is, please get another doctor.

Vasectomy is a mutilation of your husband’s body, from a moral point of view. From a medical POV it will give you a false sense of security. It damages his body and is not 100%. From a purely medical POV it bothers me that your doctors kept giving you c-sections and causing more troubles from the anesthesia. While an epidural can be such an easy way to give birth, it bothers me that they didn’t allow a VBAC without drugs in your case. If anesthesia is the problem, why would they set you up for the problem again?

My mom gave birth to 2 of hers without any drugs in the late 60s and early 70s. It just seems like your doctors might be in the “c-section happy” camp that is all too popular in the US. I read a study on it, but I don’t have the link so I don’t want to dwell too much. Basically it said that c-section was far more common in the US than in Europe. The direct link suspected was the high rate of malpractice suits in the US were causing US doctors to default to c-section to “cover their backsides.” Even though they were aware that c-section made subsequent births more dangerous.

In a nutshell, charting will give you far more peace of mind than sterilization. I would suggest contacting the Pope Paul VI institute for addressing your particulars. Dr. Hilgers developed the Creighton model of NFP. He knows his fertility issues very well.

I just went to preview my long response and realized that blessedtoo was saying the same thing only much more succinctly. Please know you will be prayed for in earnest. Seek out a doctor who knows NFP and hopefully also knows true Catholic teaching. The Church doesn’t want you to die from this, yet none of us “knows the hour.” Look to the Truth not the secular world who wants procreation to be a root cause of our problems.

God bless you!!


Don’t you have other options of drugs to use during birth? At the hospital where I had my dd, there were two options (one being morphine) during the delivery. Also, had one not been on a medication (epidural) and an emergency C-Section was needed, they would simply knock a delivering mom out with the same medicine used for a normal surgery. I know that happened to my sil, she didn’t see my nephew until she woke up from surgery about 3 hours later.

Also, I would agree with the advice of everyone else about finding a new doctor. If a doctor told you that you had cancer, you’d go find a doctor for a second opinion. Well, your ob/gyn is telling you equally fatal news, why would you not go for a second opinion?


No one has directly answered the question regarding sterilization so I will:

No, your husband cannot get a vasectomy. You are correct regarding church teaching: it is always mortally sinful.

Creighton is effective, especially if you take the time and abstinence required to understand your cycle very well. I use Creighton. I am never in doubt on fertile/infertile days. You may have more initial abstinence due to your breastfeeding, but I don’t see total abstinence as necessary once you know it.

But, if total abstinence were to be necessary then I would do that. You ask if a “loving God” would require this of you? Well, yes.

Your soul is more important than your fleshly desires. God asks us to be faithful to him, no matter what. God does not ask us to be faithful only when it’s convenient and fun. I don’t think Jesus was too thrilled to have nails pounded through his hands and feet, but he did it for love of us. Can’t you do this for love of **Him **if it’s necessary?


1ke is right. By having a sterilization, you are being presumptious–both in assuming that God can’t work a miracle and presuming that God will forgive a grave sin like this.

This is a heavy cross, I know. Perhaps you should switch to another system. Or, maybe you should abstain during breastfeeding. Or, maybe you should wean your baby, so your signs will be more consistent.

I had a friend who abstained completely for nine months. Then, they went to one day a month, then one week, then just phase three.


I had a vasectomy. My wife was in danger during both deliveries of our kids. I talked to our Priest about it. I love my wife and am not being selfish at all. I refused to hurt her anymore. I am responsible for my choice. Our priest said under the circumstances that it was ok. I prayed about this a great deal. I was not about to let my wife go through anymore hell. Some people appear rather self-righteous. I would do it again. I was not willing to risk my wife’s health and life. I can’t imagine not having relations with my wife for years. I can’t imagine Our Lord sending me to hell for trying to save my wife for my kids. The Church has to recognize there are certain circumstances in order to save a life.


Your priest led you into mortal sin. I am sorry he did this to you.

Please study the Church’s teaching on this. You are mistaken.

No, it doesn’t. Sterilization is always wrong.

Abstinence is the way the Church “recognizes” a solution to a serious reason to not have another child.


Here are a few replies from the CAF apologists that I found helpful:
Is a vasectomy permissible if you have ten kids?

Are there exceptions to the ban on sterilization?

Should I have been sterilized for medical reasons?

Can I get a vasectomy?

What is the scriptural basis for the ban on birth control?

My wife has high-risk pregnancies, my doctor advised me to get a vasectomy…what do I do?

Must a couple reverse permanent contraception?


God bless!


Thanks everyone for your replies so far.

I had three separate medical opinions on this and all the doctors said the same. Don’t get pregnant, the risk of having to choose the baby or you would be too high…

My husband and I abstained for 6 months while my cycles settled down due to breastfeeding so we could chart properly, and we are using the Creighton Model. But it was our NFP teacher that told us a few weeks ago that one of her ladies got pregnant using the Creighton Model at the end of the 4th dry safe day and she suggested that sterlization may be safer.

You see, I always believed in a loving God, one like a Father who had compassion and love for us. These rules puts us into a harsh position. I can’t accept God would want us to celibate for years and years of our marriage. Months ok, we have done that, (and we argued like anything!! :slight_smile: ) but not years. Jesus bent the rules, He healed the sick on the sabbath, ate with tax collectors…You see this rule that sterlization is totally morally wrong in all circumstances seem to fly in the face of the loving God I believe in.

I mean, war is morally wrong but there are exceptions to this rule…there are just wars… why can’t there be extreme and grave reasons that make exceptions to the rules on sterlization?

And is there anything in the Bible that discusses sterlization??
What would Jesus say???

Thanks everyone !!


You totally misunderstand what Jesus was doing if you think he was “bending the rules”.

Keep my commandments.


And is there anything in the Bible that discusses sterlization??

From AAA:

Scripture also condemns sterilization in Deuteronomy 23:1:

“He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.”

What would Jesus say???

Jesus has spoken through His Church.

I’ll keep you in my prayers!


I am in the same place as you. I have congenital heart defects and am in heart failure. Another pregnancy will kill me barring a miracle from God. I use the sympto-thermal method of NFP and have for 10 years without pregnancy. I like it because I see my temps rise when I ovulate and to me it not something open to interpretation like cervical muscus which makes me feel more confident about using it.
If breast feeding is what is stopping you from being able to use NFP effectively and abstinance is too difficult then you may have to switch to formula. I understand breast feeding is best but using formula is not a mortal sin getting a vasectomy is.
There are no exceptions -even though some misguided priests may tell you otherwise.
I understand how scary and difficult this feels at times. I will keep you in my prayers.


He does not expect you to be celebate for years. He expects you to trust in him and use the methods the church provides for couples like us. He will bless you tremendously, do not be afraid.


Thank you Rayne89, that is really helpful and a kind reply…Maybe we just have to trust in God, I mean He hasn’t let our family down yet, everytime something happens that is bad for us, something gets sorted that is even better that before!


cheerfulcherub, I know it can be scary but we need to trust in God. I know its easy for us to say it and much harder to live it but it is so very important for all of us to do so. Although I cannot tell you of any personal experiance, I can tell you of my aunt who actually “died” and was “revived” in her last delivery. Doctors told her next time she would not make it. Dr’s tried to persuade her otherwise but she has been using NFP (very conservatively and carefully) for 13-14 years and has never been pregnant again. She has been around to take care of her 5 kids (well, they are in their teens and twenties now, but were young back then). I’m just telling you this story in hopes that it will help ease your fears to know of others in similar situations.

BTW, even if that other woman became says she became pregnant on a “safe” day we do not know if maybe she misread some signs, etc, or if it was conservative, careful usage, we don’t know why God decided to allow her to get pregnant in such a seemingly impossible manner. He had His reasons and plans for her and He has His reasons and plans for you. Also, although this is not the reason why a vasectomy would be a bad idea, I was wondering if you were aware that vasectomies are not 100% effective anyways:
"NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The risk of pregnancy after vasectomy is “small but real,” U.S. researchers report in the
May issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, adding that couples considering this method of sterilization should be informed of the risk.

One year after vasectomy, the cumulative probability of failure per 1,000 vasectomy procedures was 9.4.

According to the U.S. Collaborative Review of Sterilization (CREST) Working Group, among a group of 540 women aged
18 to 44 whose husbands underwent vasectomy, 6 became pregnant 6 to 72 weeks after vasectomy."


A friend of mine was told she could get her tubes tied because another pregnancy would have killed her, too. She had already had six children.
She was given the “dispensation” (for lack of a better word) from a very devout, holy priest who I would trust with my life. I think what made it okay was that they were always, and would always, be open to life, and they were not trying to avoid pregnancy for the sake of avoiding pregnancy, it was to save her life. Kind of like treating an eptopic pregnancy, I guess. The goal is not to kill the baby, but it is a sad consequence of treating the mother.
Perhaps if you are led in the direction of vasectomy (and I’m not saying you definitely should) perhaps you could be very sure that you still practice NFP throughout your marriage, as you would if pregnancy were a risk.


Um… there is no such thing as a “dispensation” to be sterilized. This priest did her a grave wrong by telling her it was OK to commit an act that is always gravely wrong.

There are no exceptions. **WHY **is it so hard to believe what the Church teaches , when the truth is in black & white for anyone to read in the Catechism?

Why are people trying to tell this woman it is OK to do this mortally sinful act because they “heard” about a priest who “let” someone become sterilized? That priest sinned gravely. It’s wrong to lead someone else to commit a gravely wrong act.


Hi 1ke,
Maybe some priests who give out these “dispensations forgeries” choose to leave the penitent in their ignorance because they suspect that the penitent would otherwise proceed into formal mortal sin with full knowledge. That technique seems to assume the worst of many Catholics, but Church documents do give some legitimacy to it. I recently re-read the Vademecum for Confessors to find a quote for another thread. This highlighted part struck me as it might explain some of the apparent “bad advice” people say they received in confessionals:

  1. The principle according to which it is preferable to let penitents remain in good faith in cases of error due to subjectively invincible ignorance, is certainly to be considered always valid, even in matters of conjugal chastity. And this applies whenever it is foreseen that the penitent, although oriented towards living within the bounds of a life of faith, would not be prepared to change his own conduct but rather would begin formally to sin. Nonetheless in these cases, the confessor must try to bring such penitents ever closer to accepting God’s plan in their own lives, even in these demands, by means of prayer, admonition and exhorting them to form their consciences, and by the teaching of the Church.

Sometimes Catholics encounter circumstances that make another pregnancy difficult and their trust in God falters. Such people can at that point embrace their cross and achieve great virtue. Others abandon their cross and commit great sin. Objectively sterilization is always a grave sin, but ignorance lessons the culpability.

”That’s not fair!” we may cry. That’s right, God is not fair; He is merciful and just. His mercy is perfect, and His justice is perfect. Is it fair that some now suffer the consequence of permanent sterility because a priest thought them to spiritually weak to handle the truth? The document also goes on to say much more, including “to presume to make one’s own weakness the criterion of moral truth is unacceptable.” (Point 10)

I bring this up because I found it enlightening. You presume such priests commit grave sin. Maybe not always. Priests are accountable to God for the souls in their care. God knows if they were trying to lead someone into grave error or merely trying to prevent someone from committing grave error with full knowledge.


This may seem completely off topic, but…it’s not.

The problem the OP had is not with pregnancy or even with birth. It’s with anesthesia and unnecessary medical intervention in birth.

Babies, the vast majority of them safe and healthy, have been born for millions of years without anesthesia. The OP’s story shows us the dangers of introducing these powerful drugs into a natural process that has no need of them. What women need in labor is compassionate, knowledgeable, loving support. When it comes from another experienced woman, it has been clinically proven to make a huge difference. When given this human support, vastly fewer women request pain medication.

Babies have a right not to be born drugged. Studies have shown that all anesthesia used during birth presents serious extra risk into the process and affects newborn behavior in measurable ways, sometimes for weeks afterward. It can depress their nervous systems, depress their ability to breathe, and affect their ability to suckle. All extremely important for the newly born baby…

There is nothing that can be done now to change the OP’s situation. But I know of many women who have pursued VBAC after three or more cesareans. It can be done, and it can be done drug free. It seems the only reason the OP had a c-section in the first place was because of the bad effects of the epidural.

I know some may find this post offensive, but I thought this needed to be said.

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