NFP & Contraception


#1

I’ve got an issue I’m really struggling with right now with my girlfriend. Actually, it’s more like I’m forcing her to struggle with it, and I’m looking for some guidance.

My girlfriend had a serious car accident some years back in which she sufferred a brain injury. She’s pretty much a perfectly normal functioning person who you could never tell has any abnormality. But she struggles with some issues because of the injury such as fatigue, needing a lot of sleep, and some emotional issues because her brain apparently stopped or greatly reduced production of a certain chemical. I don’t have a full, 100% understanding of all of the medical specifics of this. Because of this situation, she takes a birth control pill along with an anti-depressant for her brain injury.

We’re not married so for now there is no emergency issue. But this is something that we will have to deal with when we get married, which we are both hoping for. Well, the birth control pill presents an obvious problem, but she’s terrified of ever going off of it. She apparently had to go through four different pills to finally find this one which works for her, and without it she apparently gets pretty sick and emotionally messed up. She went through a very difficult time as her doctor tried to find something that worked. So at first she didn’t even want to entertain the idea of ever going off of it (save for when she has kids), which we have discussed only a few times. It’s an obvious problem for me, but I have no clue what I could do to help her avoid all the negatives associated with going off that pill save for providing a lot of support and prayer. She was pretty upset just because the thought of going off that pill terrifies her. (She recently cried at her pharmacy because her perscription ran out and she couldn’t a new one from her doctor for a few days. It really upsets her to think about not having it. So they gave her enough to get through the weekend.)

I think we’ve made some progress, though. She acknowledged that if someone were to theoretically tell her we could get married as long as she went off that pill, then it would be a no-brainer. But she said that when faced with that situation in reality, that’s when it gets tough. I totally understand that, and I haven’t by any means explicity given her an ultimatum like that. She said that it might just be a matter of time for her to become more comfortable with this scary thought and that the problem is probably in part due to the fact that we’ve been covering several very drastic, huge issues like this in a short period of time. Nonetheless, because of her brain injury, this is going to be a really tough one.

So I’m trying to be as comforting and supporting as possible but at the same time I can’t really compromise on the pill issue. Because of these Catholic rules we follow, which were all pretty much initiated by me in this relationship, and with which there can’t really be any compromise, it comes across as me being a bit controlling at times. I’ve worried about that for some time and my girlfriend confirmed this. She’s also very intelligent, though. So she also acknowledged that even though it seems that way at times she knows that’s not how it is and that I’m just trying to do the right thing.

So I’ll do whatever it takes to make all of these issues as easy as I possibly can. Unfortunately, living a Catholic life is never going to be easy. But this pill issue is a definite big one. The other thing is we talked about maybe going to see a priest to counsel us through this in the near future. But there’s a serious risk with that - we’re liable to get a typical neo Catholic who doesn’t worry about following God’s laws to the letter. (I had a priest last year try to claim that I was wrong for thinking that pre-marrital sex is a violation of Cannon Law.) I can’t have some priest undermine our adherence to the Faith. It could be far too damaging and confusing for someone like my girlfriend who is still learning about a lot of these things. I would need a priest who we could trust.

I worry about these things and I just hope I can do enough and comfort her enough to get her through these fears and at least make these kinds of sacrifices bearable. I wish there were a way for me to just be able to take on these burdens all for myself so my girlfriend wouldn’t have to struggle as much. But I can’t. Sorry for rambling.


#2

Well, here are a couple of things to consider.

Perhaps she should consult her doctor about the brain injury and alternatives to taking these hormone pills. Perhaps there are other hormone replacement options that will not impact her fertility. Perhaps there are other options now, or maybe if she went off these hormones she would find they are no longer necessary. These are all things to discuss with the doctor. I mean-- did the doctor ever talk to her about what would be done if she wanted to have children? Clearly she’d have to be off these hormones for an extended period of time. What was the doctor’s take on this? And, what exactly are these hormones doing for her and why are they needed? It seems a little bizarre that birth control pills would be needed to treat a brain injury.

But, regardless, if it is determined that these particular combinations of hormones are needed-- then you must stop looking at this treatment as “contraception”. *It is not. *Contraception is taking a deliberate act to prevent conception. This is a *medical treatment *for a brain injury and resulting hormone imbalance. The secondary, unintended effect is sterility. This is no different from taking chemotherapy for cancer-- the treatment makes you sterile but that’s not its purpose. The Church clearly teaches these types of treatments are allowed.


#3

PRAY, PRAY and then PRAY some more. I actually started the novena for pentecost. It asks for the 7 gifts of the holy spirit.

  1. Wisdom
  2. Understanding
  3. Counsel
  4. Fortitude
  5. Knowledge
  6. Piety
  7. Fear.

…I also think she needs to keep searching for a doctor that can offer her new and better medicine for her condition, it wont be easy but it must be done. as long as she is on the pill she will not be able to have children so regardless she needs to find alternative medication. also, just because the pill solves helps her condition does not mean it is the right medicine.

I am sorry you had a priest tell you that pre-marital sex is OK. The devil seems to fool too many. Anyhow, maybe you can try meeting with a priest first (without her) and then as you are comfortable, then start bringing her into the sessions

Remember…no one said that doing God’s will would be easy but we all have to be strong. Maybe you will have to be strong in letting this relationship come to an end.

Best of luck! My thoughts and prayers are with you both.


#4

As others have said, if there is really no alternative to her taking the birth control pill to deal with her other medical issues, and you as a married couple engaging in marital relations with her use of the pill for medical reasons poses no moral issues. It is definitely something that requires a lot of discussion and thought as I am sure you wish to have children. Hopefully you can have children (should you get married) at some point.


#5

Thanks for the responses. The prescription of this particular pill has something to do with keeping her hormones regulated following the brain injury. She’s noticed negative effects from not being on it that I mentioned before and she’s even noticed skin problems when she’s not on it. I am hopeful that there would be some kind of alternative, but the barrier here is the fear she has of how terrible it will be to come off and then begin a lengthy search of finding a new medication. Again, she went through a lot just trying to find this one.

I don’t know all of the specifics about everything the doctor told her, but she is definitely aware that she will have to go off the pill in order to have kids. But I think she looks at that as being acceptable because a woman’s hormones are supposed to be out of whack throughout a pregnancy. She doesn’t want to endure these problems at all periods for the rest of her life, however.

I guess the main issue I have with talking to a doctor is that I don’t think we can trust his input. If we went to ask him about alternatives, I could probably get him to agree that it was a medical necessity, or I could also get him to agree that there might be hope for an alternative. His input won’t be the input of someone trying to practice the Faith. How could we in good faith enter into a marriage with a birth control pill being used out of medical necessity when the person making that determination doesn’t have the same respect for the Faith as we do? And even if this could be done, can you have sexual relations in a marriage in which the woman has to be on birth control out of medical necessity?


#6

Well, that is what second opinions are for. Go to a specialist dealing with both brain injuries and indocrinology. I don’t think that doctors lack respect for Faith, especially when you take time to explain things AND be persistent.

Regardless, there is already the acknowledgement of wanting to have children-- so clearly it’s not completely necessary to be on these pills or the doctor would not make allowances for going off of them.

Now, most of this seems to reside in your girlfriend’s head regarding being off the hormones and dealing with issues. The idea that it will be “ok” when pregnant because she’s "supposed’ to be hormonal is a little off-base. The primary concern should be her health and that of a baby.

Long term use of birth control pills can be damaging to a woman’s health. Just talk to the doctor and ask him if there are other alternatives b/c long term pill use is NOT the solution. She can’t take them forever.

Yes.


#7

I would suggest she find a pro-nfp Catholic doc to consult.


#8

You might try to find a doctor through the Pope Paul VI Institute. They are pro-life, non-ABC doctors. They might be able to give you referrals to doctors who can treat her brain injury and its effects while respecting the Catholic faith.


#9

[quote=1ke;3643823.
]It is not.
[/quote]

Contraception is taking a deliberate act to prevent conception. This is a *medical treatment *for a brain injury and resulting hormone imbalance. The secondary, unintended effect is sterility. This is no different from taking chemotherapy for cancer-- the treatment makes you sterile but that’s not its purpose. The Church clearly teaches these types of treatments are allowed.

I totally agree with this.
This is a medical problem.
The question is, can you get off her back and be with her through this trial and have sexual unions with her filled with only love and self-giving when you get married even though she needs this medicine?
You have to beware lest you have a distorted view on this problem. She needs your love… not your panic… okay :thumbsup:


#10

I again sincerely appreciate all the input on this. This statement in particular is what worries me:

I know that one of her main reasons for planning on stopping the medication during pregnancy is for the health of the baby. However, I think I will have to more thoroughly discuss with her how exactly she plans to be able to stop taking this medication in order to have children. I believe she probably hasn’t thought about this very much and has decided to worry about this when the time comes, again, probably as a result of how difficult this issue is for her to deal with. It is a very touchy subject and it’s very difficult to discuss because it upsets her so much. Another part of the problem is that the idea of seeing doctors and looking into alternatives for this not only scares her but stirs up bad thoughts about the accident she had and her brain injury. But she has acknowledged that we need to discuss these things even if they are difficult. So I guess more discussion is definitely in order and I need to figure out a way to approach this and work through it while helping her feel as comfortable as possible. Very tough indeed.


#11

In your discussion, it would be wise to engage a good and holy Priest.


#12

Thanks so much for all the help. I’m heading to see my girlfriend this weekend to try to work through some of these issues.

My mother brought up another possibility last night, but I’m not sure how viable it is. She brought up the idea that perhaps my girlfriend could morally stay on this birth control pill out of medical necessity but still be able to go off of it to have children and while pregnant seeing as pregnancy has a hormone-regulating/manipulating effect of its own that could substitute for the pill during these periods. In this way, she wonders whether it couldn’t still be considered medically necessary to be on that pill during the periods of time when she’s not pregnant or not trying to get pregnant. So it’s perhaps a possibility, but I don’t know enough about these things and I fear it’s wishful thinking. Plus, it sounds just too easy. Would any couple really be able to have this kind of benefit in a moral marriage? Doesn’t sound possible, at least not unless we had to suffer some other kind of hardship in its place.

I hope we can work these things out. This is incredibly difficult.


#13

And even if this could be done, can you have sexual relations in a marriage in which the woman has to be on birth control out of medical necessity?

Yes. Just do your best to seek out alternative medical treatment. For help there contact the Paul the VI folks to get recommendations. If it is decided that there is none then yes you may have sexual relations.

Contact the Catholic National Bioethics Center to get your own answer on the morality.
ncbcenter.org/

I’m sending you a pm. I recently did contact them on a variation on this pill issue and received a response. I did not get permission to make it public so I’ going to give it to you in a PM.


#14

I’ve said a prayer that the journey of sorting out the medication will not be a long or difficult one. I’m also prescribed and taking a bcp (Yaz) out of medical necessity for a very different condition. But maybe this information will help as another possible option. I’m also going to likely be switching my hormone replacement therapy at some point soon to something that’s not a bcp.

My fiancee and I will be married in about two months, and will after this of course be hoping and wanting to see if it’s in God’s plan to bless us with a miracle baby. One that will beat the odds to be here, just as I did. So, in preparation for this, I’ve been talking to my doctor about what to take that won’t prevent any ovulation, no matter how unlikely one might be for me. One of her suggestions was a pill called Angeliq. It’s a combination estrogen/progesterone pill that’s not birth control because it’s a quarter of the dose of something like Yaz. So it wouldn’t prevent ovulation. Normally it’s prescribed as hormone replacement therapy or to relieve menopause symptoms. It might just have enough of the hormones your girlfriend needs to remain stable, just as she is on her current hormone replacement (the bcp). It might be another idea to talk with her doctor about when she’s figuring out what she should be taking.

Again, my prayers are with the two of you!


#15

I would like to point out that simply because the pill does not suppress ovulation it does not overcome all the moral issues with it. In fact it might make it WORSE…turning it into an abortifacent.

That is because simply because you might ovulate with the pill, does not mean your body is prepared to handle the pregnancy. These Pills also work by preventing implantation. What that means is you might get pregnant…ie the egg and the sperm meet and join. But as the newly conceived baby moves down the fallopian tube to the uterus and tries to implant…it can’t because the lining isn’t formed to support it. Therefore you have a very early miscarrage.

This is the MAIN reason I have a lot of issues with the pill form of bcp. All forms I’m against, but this is acting as an abortifacent. If you MUST take bc you should really consider whether this is the best moral option.

Also I’d strongly suggest you talk to a pro-life or Catholic doctor about a different option. BCP are synthetic hormones. If you take nfp and know your cycle, you could pinpoint the times your body is low on those hormones and take supplementation that will NOT hinder your ability to have children. I’d strongly suggest this.

And in saying all this I’m just trying to explain the many issues most people are not aware of with bcp. If your intention is completely a health issue, the secondary issue of contraception is null (according to the church). However, I think if that is the case you should make sure it is a pill that supresses ovulation. Otherwise you may end up having several miscarrages you aren’t even aware of.


#16

Thank you for your suggestions, Footprints! I never would have heard that some pills work by thinning the lining of the uterus. Objectively, I am hopefully building up at least some lining now that I do shed once a month in a period brought on by the hormones. Though it’s hard to know what’s remaining afterwards to build up the lining in comparison to what was happening naturally way back when I was getting my periods on my own (10 + years ago).

At any rate, my lining is a definite concern, as an endometrial biopsy back in January (before starting on hormone replacement) revealed that I had none whatsoever due to premature ovarian failure caused by a genetic issue, Turner’s Syndrome. I definitely will be looking into some sort of oral hormones that will enable me to build up my lining to support a potential pregnancy when the time comes (should I be so blessed as to be able to achieve one). Thanks again, and I will find out what I can about Angelique (which again is not a bcp but a lower dose of estrogen/progestrone), and most definitely will not take it if it prevents the buildup of a lining or is unsafe to continue to take in order to maintain a pregnancy. I’m not sure if my Reproductive Endocrinologist is Catholic or not, but when I’m in there tomorrow for an appointment, I’ll find out what I can if there is the opportunity to meet with her. I’ll also look into what natural options there are for oral estrogen and progestrone, and will go that route.


#17

I’m so glad I could be of some help! This area is SO difficult to work with doctors…believe me I know because I have some issues myself (PCOS…polycystic ovaries). And I’ve had to say over and over again to doctors that I won’t take bcp. That being said, it is because there were other ways to work with my problem…and we are still trying to figure some things out. My wedding isn’t until 12-12-09, so hopefully with the year+ worth of cycles, something will come with it.

Anyways, if there is something I can help you with as far as support let me know :slight_smile: Any medical suggestions you may have to send me a private msg since I remembered more specific medical suggestions aren’t necessarily allowed on the boards. But our conversation about the morality of things should be perfectly fine from what I understand :slight_smile:

But good luck, and I hope you get some answers! Glad I could offer a little something :slight_smile:

God bless!


#18

You really were of help! So sorry to hear that you’re dealling with PCOS. Hopefully with the right treatment, things will be stabilized for you and all set by your wedding.

Oh, and I did a little research online and discovered that there’s a combination pharmacy nearby that should be able to puit together capsules for me of natural estrogen and progesterone if my RE will prescribe it for me. Hopefully this won’t be considered talking about specific medical suggestions, but in general the idea of taking natural hormones :slight_smile:


#19

As for my girlfriend, I discovered that her use of a birth control pill is not currently related to her brain injury. It was initially, but she had stopped using it for a period of time prior to going back on it again due to problems with her cycle, hormones, etc. At this time, she went through several different grueling trials with several different pills before finally finding this one that works. So now, she doesn’t take it for help with her brain injury, nor for contraception, but for these other issues.

Well, now we have a problem. There is no way for me to urge her to stop taking the pill prior to marriage without seeming a little controlling. She also has some type of attachment to the pill that isn’t really explainable and to which I can’t relate as a man. But the gist of it seems to be that this is a very personal and intimate issue for her, and for her to make a choice like this for me, it somehow would cause her to give up or turn over her own “power”, control, or something. This is probably an oversimplification and the issue is obviously a very huge one for her. I’ll put it this way: she is okay with making other sacrifices such as not having premarital sex and following the other sexual rules we have to follow within marriage. These are some very challenging rules. She was also hoping for someone who would be a spiritual leader in a relationship, which I guess you could say I am. But on this issue, she has a major problem. So obviously, I am unable to put myself in her shoes and understand the ramifications of this issue for her.

Another thing she has told me is that she is open to eventually going off of the pill, but it would have to be on her terms. She also thinks that she might not be ready to go off the pill until after marriage (which obviously doesn’t work). She thinks that by us being sexually intimate, that could help her with this issue, but she’s not getting that kind of intimacy from me now. There’s also the issue that for her to have to go off of the pill in order for us to get married, that is effectively an ultimatum. I haven’t given that ultimatum by making this demand, but it presents an obstacle we have to find a way around to pursue a future together. Some of the influences in her life certainly don’t help either, such as the older female executive in her line of work who told her she should break up with me immediately, that this issue had absolutely nothing to do with me, that I am completely out of line for even insinuating that I have any say in this, etc. Fortunately my girlfriend is smart enough to think for herself, but these corrupt influences don’t help.

So I’m in the position where I have to try to stay true to the Faith while pursuing a future with my girlfriend, but doing it without coming across as controlling or having it seem like she would make some of these choices for me. What a rough spot! I’m trying to be as supportive as possible with this girl but you can’t really make up for deep, moral, core issues like this by being loving and caring in other ways. The positive thing is that it looks like she’ll be willing to go with me to consult a priest or Catholic counselor. I don’t know where that will lead us, but hopefully it will help somewhat. Otherwise, we’ll just keep coming back to this same obstacle. I doubt she will go to see a Catholic doctor, at least not right now, as that would again put her in the boat where she is somehow giving away her own “control” by compromising on this perceived personally intimate medical issue by bringing me into the process.

This is an amazing girl and she is an extremely good person. I can’t help but think that if I can’t bring someone like my girlfriend into the Faith, then I can’t do it with anyone who’s not already there.


#20

I feel for you, but I can understand your girlfriend’s position too. I’m a non-Catholic in a relationship with a Catholic man. I, like your girlfriend, am taking birth control pills for medical reasons. Not life-threatening reasons, but (TMI WARNING) very heavy and painful periods. I don’t want to experience them again, and the bcp helped that. On the other hand, my boyfriend feels very strongly that I should stop taking the bcp before we get married, so it has time to leave my system and we won’t risk a miscarriage.

Academically, I can agree with his ideas. Logically, I can see that it would be the wise thing to do. Emotionally, I’m not sure what it’ll take to take that step. There’s a LOT of fear involved in stopping medication. I admit I have trouble trusting my body to react in a positive way, and I’m not that fond of doctors either. Add to that the fact that I’m in Korea where it’s hard enough to find a doctor who speaks English, let alone one who listens to you and is supportive of NFP, and I just can’t bring myself to go off the pill yet, even though I want to. We’re not planning to get married for another year yet, give or take, so I can wait… and wait…

I don’t know what kind of medical problems your girlfriend has, but all the emotional support in the world doesn’t take away the fear of the unknown in this area. It might help, though, if you ask her to spell out her fears exactly - what is the worst case scenario? If you can reassure her that even in the worst case scenario she will be able to handle it with your support, you might just be able to convince her that she can do it - but it has to come from within. It’s probably not a religious issue as much as a fear issue that’s coming up because of your religious beliefs.

The truth is, she’ll have to go off the pill at some point anyway. Isn’t it much better now, when she can safely experiment with other drugs without worrying about being sexually active and damaging a potential baby? She can’t just go off the pill when she’s trying to conceive and get back on it again after she has the baby - it doesn’t work like that. It can take months to conceive, especially after taking the pill. Will she be hormonally out-of-whack for months, while going through the sometimes heart-wrenching process of trying to get pregnant? That’s not a good idea. Better to quit it now and find a pregnancy-friendly alternative treatment before she has a chance of getting pregnant than go through all of this with the added stress of trying to conceive.

Now I just need to swallow my fear and take my own advice.


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