Newlyweds and the 3 letter S word

I’m new here, and I wanted to throw out my story and see if anyone has any advice.

My husband I were married this summer (yay!) About 2 months later, I was diagnosed with a painful bladder condition. It’s embarrassing to talk about bladders; really it just makes my whole pelvic area hurt. A lot. Which makes activities like sex hurt.

I’m getting help, on pain medication, going to therapy, going to doctors and doctors and doctors.

My thing is: I’m having trouble with some Catholic teachings. I was on birth control for the “wrong reasons,” and I went off of it because it was giving me migraines. That’s when my pain went THROUGH. THE. ROOF. It has been all but completely debilitating. I even considered dropping out of grad school at one point.

The other piece is, my therapist is recommending non-goal oriented intimacy. (Not to be too graphic) but things like oral sex. I know it goes against Catholic teaching, but a lot of times its like, A) okay we can still be intimate and not have intercourse, or B) not have it all. So to me, if option B is just not to do it, I don’t see option A as “worse.”

I know its okay to use BC as medication, but I get tired of hearing people say “there are other options out there” or “doctors are lying about it, its really an abortificant.”

I also am having trouble with the therapist’s suggestions about having a sex life outside of intercourse. It’s not that I disagree with her, and I do think its a much healthier/safer option for us, but does that count as an “exception” like birth control for problems?

(1) Doctors AREN’T lying about it. Hormonal contraceptives ARE an abortifacient and any doctor worth her salt will freely admit that. (My doctor did not try to hide it from me, anyway.)

(2) There probably are other options. You shouldn’t have to choose between a migraine and debilitating pelvic pain. If your doctor isn’t offering to try anything other than hormonal contraceptives, shop around for another doctor. A few years ago, I discovered that I have a blood condition that would prevent me from being on hormonal birth control–I find it hard to believe a doctor would just give up on me and refuse to find another treatment option if I had the same bladder condition you have.

(3) I don’t think I have the SAME condition you have, but I have a history of chronic bladder problems. The bladder issues persisted for most of my life (coincidentally, my bladder issues magically went away I discontinued using hormonal birth control.) I do know how miserable sex can be while suffering bladder pain, but I also know from my personal experience that manual/oral stimulation for the wife is not pleasurable while she endures that type of pain. Is your therapist honestly suggesting that you and your husband’s sex life consist solely of you performing oral sex on him? I’m not squeamish about using oral sex as foreplay (and there are no moral issues with that, for the record) but I really do not believe that a marital union is strengthened by the wife pleasuring her husband while she suffers throbbing pelvic pain. That sounds absolutely horrible. Even if you had no Catholic morals to govern your sexual relationship, I’m absolutely shocked that anyone would suggest this would create a healthy balanced sex life between you and your new husband.

(4) It’s my belief that “all sins are equal.” I don’t think one should choose the “lesser of two evils,” especially when there is a third perfectly moral option. It is my opinion that you and your husband need to find a moral solution to your dilemma.

(5) Yes, if the ONLY way for you to manage your pelvic pain is through hormonal birth control, there would be no moral objections to you using it. However, you shouldn’t purposely remain ignorant of other pain management options…especially since birth control causes migraines. I’m not a doctor, but I have faith that the medical community can provide another way to manage your pain without pumping you full of hormones that cause migraines, increase your risk of cancer, and reduce your libido.

While I am a little confused by your topic, I can say that foreplay before intercourse is morally permissible as long as neither of you climax outside of intercourse. If the plan is to use foreplay without climax and not have intercourse, it seems to me like you are putting yourself in the near occasion of sin and so it should be avoided because there is no plan to have intercourse after the foreplay. The sin being lust and the drive to finish when you aren’t having intercourse. I am not aware of a teaching that says foreplay is acceptable without planned intercourse afterward.

In terms of ABC, I do not know what you are saying here as ABC is only permissible for medication if nothing else is available and it is only acceptable under the “double effect”. Meaning, if you had a medical condition that could not be corrected by any other means outside of an ABC and the condition was such that you could not function without it. Irregular periods are not one of these conditions so people who take ABC and try to fit it into the double effect principle are being too liberal with its application. I will likely get hammered for this but I do not plan on justifying Catholic teaching just stating it.

It seems like you need to abstain until your condition that results in pain during intercourse goes away. ABC is not going to make the pain go away, so it shouldn’t be entering into the conversation. If there is a medication for the bladder condition that has a side effect of sterilization, you could argue that it fits into the double effect principle and is therefore permissible. Even then, you should abstain during the “fertile” time of your cycle.

Long of the short, foreplay with or without climax when intercourse is not following is not really allowed because of the near occasion of sin. Foreplay is never allowed if it is going to result in climax outside of intercourse. ABC does not seem to be a legitimate solution as it does not fit with your medical condition (ABC will not be prescribed for a bladder condition).

To clarify, while many ABCs are abortificant, not all are. Condoms for example. They are still not morally permissable so even if the doctor is correct and the chemical ABC is not an abortificant, it is still not acceptable. This is because ABC restrictions do not stand or fall only on the concept of potential murder of a newly conceived child.

God Bless!

I’m not sure, from this description, what Catholic teaching you are having trouble with.

Not having sex is morally neutral. Engaging in disordered sex is morally grave matter-- a mortal sin. So, yes, (a) is worse than (b) spiritually. And, God being the author of sexuality knows when things are bad for us emotionally too, therefore he gives us guidance on properly using our sexuality.

For many conditions, there are other options available. And, hormonal contraception can be abortifacient. Both of these statements are true. Whether or not it is an appropriate medical intervention in your case, no one here can say. The best advice is to talk to your doctor about your situation-- why would being on hormonal contraceptives, or not, have anything to do with a *bladder *condition? Perhaps more exhasutive testing to get to the bottom of it.

No, you cannot engage in disordered sexual activities-- oral sex outside intercourse, etc. You need to get a new therapist, one who is Catholic or follows Catholic teaching in their practice. What does a therapist have to do with a bladder condition?

When someone in a position of supposed authority is encouraging you to do things that harm your soul, it is time to go elsewhere.

Hi Friend:

Congratulations on your new marriage!

So sorry to hear about your bladder problems. I am sure with good medical treatment you can be fixed! Worse come to worse, my ex boyfriend’s mom, (from years ago) has a plastic bladder and is doing just wonderful!

Don;t really want to go into anything more personal here with you, other than to say, I’m sure your medical problems should not interfere with your love you have and share with your beloved. I wish you many years of happiness!


Well, first of all, engaging in oral sex without intercourse would be against Catholic teaching; there is no “exception” in this case. As a woman, I would think that any stimulation of the pelvic area would be uncomfortable for you–oral or otherwise. It doesn’t seem that it would encourage a loving and healthy sex life for a husband to experience sexual pleasure when it’s physically painful for his wife.

Yes, it’s okay to use something like the pill if it’s actually treating your condition. I wouldn’t think that hormonal birth control would have much to do with a bladder problem. It could be that it’s helping with one of the symptoms (the pain) but I believe that the pill would not be morally acceptable for that reason alone. (Because it’s just taking care of a symptom, not actually treating the cause of the problem.) I would encourage you to maybe get a second opinion on your bladder condition. If it’s causing you this much pain and your doctor hasn’t been able to find a solution for you, it really can’t hurt to see what another doctor might think about it.

I am going to tell you a little story and I hope it gives you some hope and direction. (How many times can you use hope in a short sentence.)

I was dealing with dysmenorrhea (painful periods) and I also wanted to get a ligation that I had done before I was Catholic and knew the truth about life and the teachings. Well I went through the research and I am a patient under the Department of Veterans Affairs - so I have to get my treatment through them - but because they cover sterilizations - they cover reversals - it is their way of being apolitical. So I ended up getting a voucher to see a doctor on the outside for the consult and the surgery.

Meanwhile I found the gynecologists that I was dealing with (there are only two) to be very uninformed on these issues. Without a single exam or test they both told me I could go on the Pill or I could choose to stop my period medically or surgically. Those were my choices. They looked down on my choice for the reversal. They did tell me if I found any other options I was welcome to bring them in.

I have since been collecting information to bring in for these doctors as well as speaking to the coordinator of women’s health to try to bring awareness and respect for those of patients that have chosen this way.

Now - as far as the reversal - I went on the diocese website and found an NFP coordinator that worked at a Catholic Medical Center. I explained the situation and she found a doctor for me that was willing to take the fee basis voucher and skilled in NaPro techniques. On my first with him he did an exam and found I had endometriosis. He told me if I had taken the pill not only would I have gone against my conscience but only would have masked the symptoms. He also told me as part of restoring my fertility he will cleaning that issue out when I go in for surgery at no extra cost to VA. All it cost me was sticking to my conscience and allowing the Holy Spirit to work on other people.

I hope this did something for you. Pax et Bonum.

The forum doesn’t allow specific medical advice other than, perhaps, seek a second opinion from a doctor that shows interest in resolving the problem instead of simply long term masking the symptoms.

(Thank goodness for forum anonymity…) My wife had a history of urinary tract infections, and problems with yeast as well. We found that using a ‘personal lubricant’ that is glyceride free helped a lot. She also got into the habit of peeing right afterwards (which sounds weird, but DOES tend to flush things out). Also make sure hubby practices good hygiene in general and especially if he isn’t circumcized.

Yes and definetly take any medical advice as manualman said with a grain of salt -

But you should contact the Pope Paul VI Institute or Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill Pennsylvania - they will help you find a doctor more sensitive to your religious beliefs as well.

Yeah, I guess I should clarify - I am not interested in medical advice. And I am getting a 6th opinion, not just 2nd. So I know why some people might think that a hormonal birth control pill wouldn’t do anything for a “bladder problem”…I have interstitial cystitis and possible endometriosis of the bladder wall. So if you want to do the research, that’s fine, but I’m not asking for medical advice!

I guess I just can’t figure out why it’s better for me to deny my husband intimacy (and myself) because we can’t always have intercourse. Either way we aren’t getting pregnant. I know what Catholic teaching is, how oral sex is a “selfish” act, and its not unitive, and its not being open to life. But well, neither is sitting on the couch watching the news. So if someone could explain why it’s better to deny ourselves completely than to take part in non-intercourse intimate activities, that would be helpful.

God is the author of our sexuality and he tells us how we may and may not use it. Any time we come together as husband and wife, the act must be a completed act of intercourse. You cannot substitute other acts to achieve orgasm apart from the marital embrace.

It is not the end result that is the problem, it is the means by which it is arrived at. I can work or I can steal, and the end result is money to feed my family. One is moral, one is not.

Watching the news is not a sex act.

Well for starters, mortal sin separates us from God and can lead us to Hell. That’s a good reason.

Again, God is the author of our sexuality and he has established how we may and may not use this gift.

So the best option for our relationship is to remain celibate? Completely celibate?
I get that’s the teaching, but I fail to see how that’s loving.

Celibate means unmarried. I think the word you are looking for is continence or abstinence.

Yes, this may be your option until your medical problem is resolved and you can once again engage in intercourse.

Oh, I forgot to mention. It’s chronic. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel.

You may think that you are merely “stating” Catholic teaching, but I think you’re putting an interpretation of your own on it. Official church teaching does not say such a thing as “only permissible…if nothing else is available”. I think each person with a trusted doctor should consider the medical options available for the given condition, but if hormonal therapy (which may have a contraceptive effect) is considered the best option, even if not the only option, I find nothing in church teaching that says it’s inapproriate.

I’m still a little confused. How are you able to endure the pain long enough to give and receive manual and oral sex, but not long enough to actually have sex?

I’m not good at explaining the intricacies of the Catholic Church’s teaching on sex, but I would encourage you to either (1) read Theology of the Body to better understand it yourself (it’s highly recommended by dozens of people at this forum, I myself have not yet read it) or (2) have faith that God Himself wouldn’t give you bad marriage advice, and have faith that the Catholic Church is better equipped to translate God’s message than you are. :o

I really think you need to answer if you have seen a NaPro doctor. I know when I contacted the Pope Paul VI institute by email and when I saw the doc in person I was given the same answer even after being told the pill was my only option. The pill does not cure endometriosis. It may mask the pain but when you want to get pregnant again you will hae the same problem if not worse. The only real treatment for endometriosis is surgery which if you would like it done with minimal scarring so as not to risk interfering with fertility later you should see a doctor that is trained in NaPro techniques.

Have you seen a doctor that is specifically a NaPro doctor? Just because they are Catholic does not mean they are NaPro!

I don’t have any advice for the pain but this is my advice for the sex.

Do lots and lots of foreplay and then at the very last minute finish vaginally. That way you get to finish before the pain starts, and he finishes almost immediately after intercourse so you only feel uncomfortable for a minute (or less).

Have you looked at diet as a help for interstitial cystitis? There can be certain triggering foods that can make it worse (I had chronic UTIs and thought at one point I had it, so I’ve done a lot of research). If you have endometriosis of the bladder wall, it makes perfect sense that hormonal contraception masked the symptoms (as an earlier poster said).

Yes, abstinence an suck. But it is a total blessing to your marriage - seriously. You will be open to so much grace. I know this sounds ridiculous - but it’s true.

Doesn’t this leave out a crucial aspect – that being what is in the heart of the woman in question? For example, I have some GYN problems/symptoms that could easily be assuaged by the Pill. My doctor recommended it. I said no thanks, it’s not so bad that I can’t live with it, at least for now. I do continue to have some very unpleasant and painful symptoms, but I just can’t justify using the Pill for them.

However, if I were looking for a “loophole” to use ABC, I could have jumped right on the bandwagon and then comforted myself with the thought that “Well, I’m only taking it for medical reasons, but what a bonus! No worrying about an unplanned pregnancy!!!”

Now, that’s not to say that other women don’t have legit reasons to take the Pill, and may even have regret in the hearts about it. But what I’m saying is that there is more to it than “If the MD says it’s appropriate, than you’re in the clear morally.”

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