Moral dilemma: going on the pill for medicinal purposes?

Ok, essentially, I have a problem that means my fertility and whole menstrual cycle is screwed up. One of the options I was debating about, was whether to go on on the Pill, purely to aid my medical issues.

Would I have to come off it when I decided to get married? And is it still ok to go on the Pill in full knowledge that it will help my condition, but I wasn’t going to use for contraception?

I see two different issues here. One is moral and the other medical.

On the medical side I would say that the pill might not be the optimal solution even if it appears to be the easier one. I would encourage you to search quite in detail about the cons of using the pill even for medical reasons and to consider other solutions too.

On the moral side there is nothing wrong with taking the pill while you are a single person, because you are not having relationships. However, once you get married the use of the pill becomes immoral.

Hi poetpeace,

It is morally acceptable to take the pill for medical reasons.

God Bless!

Doctors are humans like the rest of us, and subject to prejudice, ignorance or bias. Some have alleged that certain doctors use the pill as an ‘easy out’ to mask symptoms of an underlying problem instead of healing the real problem.

There are doctors specifically interested in helping people identify and permanently resolve those problems (if possible). Here’s a good way to find such doctors: Don’t be fooled by the link name, you can pick your own state once you are there.


This came up on ask an apologist a while back. I don’t know anything about this myself, so I’ll just post a link:

As to the moral issue I am no expert, but as the side effects of it I can say it caused more to aggravate than alleviate. It reigns in one issue but creates 3 or 4 others in its place.:slight_smile:

You don’t have to stop when you get married if it is necessary for medical reasons. The Church does state that if you are using it though, you should make sure that any sex you do have while on it is not done in an attempt to take advantage of the contraceptive effects of the pill. I’d talk to a priest about how exactly this all plays out and what you should do to make sure you are not taking advantage of its effects. I can see a possible solution being to have sex as if one was using NFP, and there by abstaining for 7-12 days per month? Probably good for a marriage anyways and you would gain some of the indirect benefits of using NFP. Thats just my two cents though :smiley:

Well, Ive already had one operation to deal with this issue now, and Ive been told that really, my options are a selection of pills, the Pill, or another repeat of the operation - and I really do not like hospitals.

I’m pretty sure that it’s okay to use the Birth Control Pill for medicinal reasons as long as one abstains from sexual relations during the period of time that they are using it.

I confess this is one of those teachings (at least as I’m given to understand it based on posts here on CAF) that I have to strenuously disagree with the Church.

A while back someone asked about the Pill’s use as an abortifacient, specifically asking if she would be required to abstain from sex while taking it for legitimate medical reasons. Father Serpa’s response was:


This is a very important matter that is widely misunderstood:

The Church considers a miscarriage to be a physical evil. Since abortion DELIBERATELY causes a miscarriage, it is therefore also a MORAL evil. The Church sees an UNintended miscarriage as only a physical evil since it is not deliberately caused by the couple.

The use of the pill for medical reasons may cause an UNintended miscarriage. Women often have unintended miscarriages—sometimes without even knowing it. It is only miscarriages that are INTENDED that the Church considers immoral. The Church never allows the pill to be used as an abortifacient. But it does allow the use of the pill for medical reasons with the possiblity of producing an unintended miscarriage—without obliging the couple to abstain from sexual relations during that time.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

This reads to me like a dispensation to kill one’s unborn child so that one can be free of hormonal migraines (or whatever the symptoms are being treated by the Pill) and still enjoy marital sex.

I understand in that case that the killing isn’t willed, but it’s certainly known in advance. And good intentions cannot justify morally illicit acts, only, at best, morally neutral ones.

Color me confused.

One is not required to abstain from sexual relations in these circumstances.

When the pill is used in this case, it is being used for medicinal purpose, NOT birth control. In fact, I believe it would be improper to refer to the pills as “birth control pills,” since that is not their purpose.

It is true that sometime doctors overmedicate, but there are plenty of instances where they may be necessary, at least short term. My ex was such an example. She bled some much that she would actually faint, and the pills actually stopped that from occurring. She eventually outgrew this situation.

You lost me there. How can you take the pill and have sex without taking advantage of the contraceptive effects of the pill? the pill does have contraceptive effects, so if you have sex while being on the pill for whetver reasons, you have sex without being ‘open to conception.’

I can see a possible solution being to have sex as if one was using NFP, and there by abstaining for 7-12 days per month?

So a kind of symbolic abstinence. I thought the main purpôse of NFP was to have sex while always leaving opne the possibility of conceiving by reducuing the chance of conception but not completely removing it. So, while the sex-free period may be ‘good’ for your marriage’ this has nothing to do with this issue. Sex during this 7day peried is just as closed to conception as in any other period, and yoiu would always be taking advantage of the contraceptive effects of the pill.

Take a look at the Principle of Double Effect. As long as the contraceptive effect is an unintended effect, then the act is not immoral. An effect can be foreseen and yet still be unintended.

I think that a lot of people use the following reference to justify the use of the pill in specific conditions.

“the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever (19)” (HV 15).

The caveat is that the quote refers to a speech by Pope Pius XII to a congress of physicians well before the pill was available. I have been looking for that specific document in the last year but to no avail; however, my impression was that Pius XII was addressing the procedure of hysterectomy.

(19) See Pius XII, Address to 26th Congress of Italian Association of Urology: AAS 45 (1953), 674-675; to Society of Hematology: AAS 50 (1958), 734-735 [TPS VI, 394-395]

Personally, I cannot see how the principle of double effect would justify continued sexual practice while on the Pill for noncontraceptive reasons. From Wikipedia, the criteria for judging whether or not the principle of double effect can legitimize an action:

the nature of the act is itself good, or at least morally neutral;
the agent intends the good effect and not the bad either as a means to the good or as an end itself;
the good effect outweighs the bad effect in circumstances sufficiently grave to justify causing the bad effect and the agent exercises due diligence to minimize the harm. (Double-Effect Reasoning: Doing Good and Avoiding Evil, p.36, Oxford: Clarendon Press, T. A. Cavanaugh)

The good effect, in this case, is the mitigation of troublesome symptoms and the ability to continue practicing marital sex; the bad effect is, potentially, the destruction of one’s unborn child.

The good effect clearly does not outweight the bad there. And the agent can exercise due diligence to minimize harm by remaining abstinent and thus avoiding the potentially abortifacient effect of the Pill entirely.

Thus it seems to me that to continue sexual practice while on the Pill is not in fact justifiable even by good intentions.

I actually agree with you here. Hypothetically, if there were a pill that were guaranteed to not kill the baby in the event that it failed to prevent contraception, then I would hold such a pill could be morally permissible for medical reasons.

The point I was trying to raise was the difference between an act itself and the effects of the given act. In the case of contraception, these are often confused.

Yeah as I said my take on it what the Church has said. I’d be curious as to there recommendation on how to play this out. smichhertz seems to know more about it though.

This one strikes close to home. My 16 year old daughter was having dibilitating pain associated with ovarian cysts (could hardly stand up for days each month). Doc recommended the pill, explaining that her fertility would be at risk due to a high probability of developing endomitriosis (ironic, take the pill so that you will be able to get pregnant!). At this point, her monthlies occurred on-time, every month.

So, after checking with our pastor to confirm that it was permissable, she was put on a low dose version of the pill (Doc said it wasn’t a high enough dose to effectively prevent pregnancy). This normalised her cycle & mollified the discomfort associated with her monthlies.

3 months into it now, and we’re back at the doctor. She’s 2 weeks late for her period. All tests so far (including a pregnancy test!) negative. Awaiting results from an ultrasound examination. So… our pill experience started off well, but now it appears that we’ve got complications to deal with. Doc said it “wasn’t unusual” for the cycle to be messed up because of the pill (which is strange, since the original claim was that taking the pill would normalize her cycle!).

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