Sticky Situation


#1

Hi Everyone, it’s nice to be here. It’s only been a day since I’ve signed up and I’ve already learned so much, just reading the threads.

As you can see from my username, I’m currently in RCIA. I’m enjoying it immensely and am looking forward with expectation to my confirmation this Easter. I can see from the knowledge shared in this forum that there is still MUCH I will need to learn and internalize on this faith journey!

I am 37 years old, married to a non-practising, basically irreligious cradle Catholic who otherwise has a sterling character, and mother to two perfect children, a daughter who will soon be 3 and a 14 month old son. The question I have for you all, or basically the advice I need relates to the common issue of family planning. I have endometriosis, which is a condition where the uterine lining crops up in places outside the uterus, creating adhesions, scarring and cysts (plus a lot of pain, heavy bleeding and it’s the most common cause of infertility, IIRC). I’ve had surgery to remove cysts before, the largest being a 12 cm grapefruit attached to my right ovary and a golf ball on the left (thankfully I had a wonderfully skillful and compassionate surgeon who was able to excise the cysts while leaving enough of the ovaries to produce my wonderful children). Now the only way to treat endometriosis is to essentially stop menstruation, or at least make it as infrequent as possible, which means that I was on the pill for quite a while. I know now that the pill is a big no-no, and I agree with the Catholic views on the unitive and procreative purpose of married sexuality. But what I’m wondering is whether it’s still a mortal sin to treat a medical condition whose main side effect is the cessation of ovulation? I haven’t been on the pill since conceiving my daughter, but my husband doesn’t want any more children, so when my son is weaned I’ll be starting up my cycles again, starting NFP and will most likely end up with more cysts…another worry is, would the insurance company deny surgical cyst removal because of my refusal of treatment?

Adding to the dilemma is the issue of my back – I have a ruptured, degenerative disc between the L4-L5 vertebrae which is pushing on my sciatic nerve. It developed during the pregnancy of my son, from the strain of carrying him while tending to my daughter and the fact that I have scoliosis and therefor my spine is never in alignment. I’ve been through over a year of physical therapy to no avail, and now am receiving steroid shots into the spine, as well as having the nerves of my facet joints cauterized. These procedures require the use of a continuous x-ray flouroscope, which would be devastating to a fetus’ development. Anyway, the sciatic nerve issue could get a lot worse with continued compression of the disc, leading to loss of use of the leg (not total, but enough to really hobble me). Already there is some numbness in my thigh. The pain is bad enough, though. I spend the first half of the day hobbling around at an angle, usually can’t stand up straight till noonish, I wake up so stiff and sore. So, to make a long story longer I do indeed have selfish reasons myself to not want any more children. I am terrified of the pain getting worse and my ability to care for my two children being further compromised. Another pregnancy would really, really damage my mobility and mental/emotional wellbeing. As far as tending to my children goes, here is a list of things I am not supposed to do: sitting, bending over, lifting things. So you can see how practical this has been for my current situation (NOT!).

My marital situation has deteriorated quite a bit. Since the conception of my son, we’ve only had relations once…that’s within a two-year period! Although he doesn’t complain and doesn’t make demands, I know he’s resentful. But of course I worry about how he may be dealing with this drought. He’s a workaholic and works late/weekends allllll the time, that would certainly make a good cover for, er, other outlets…but the fact of the matter is I am drained physically, and terrified of getting pregnant again, and until I stop breastfeeding and resume my cycles to where I can monitor my fertility, I don’t want to take the chance. The one time we were together, I had to postpone my back injections almost a month to be sure I got an accurate result on the pregnancy test. I’m actually sleeping in a twin bed at the foot of our bed right now! Partly because our bed is bad for my back and partly because I feel the need to have this space between us. And of course he wants me to resume the pill.

Thank you to anyone who’s read through this. It’s partly a plea for help, and of course I’m just looking for excuses to use ABC as treatment for a legitimate condition but with side effects that are illegitimate. Do I have an out? Are we to remain a celibate couple or do we carry on with our marital debts, and I just bear the burden of these things? I would love more children, I was so sad at the birth of my first because I realized how much of my life I had wasted in sin and uselessness and how I’d missed out on that much love for so long. But I know I would be crushed under the physical strain and would not be any kind of mother or wife if I was in constant worse extreme pain and weakness. And at the age of 37 I know my chances of flubbing up the NFP at some point in my life is probably pretty good. It’s a long time between now and menopause. As a Catholic newbie I’m not well versed in these things and would appreciate any help you all have to offer!


#2

I'm not going to try to offer advice apart from this. Visit this site and see if there is anything on there that might help direct your decision.

ncbcenter.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=183

One thing I would want you to be aware of though, particularly as it pertains to the pill is that the pill can act as an abortificiant, preventing implantation, rather than conception.


#3

I am NOT an expert on this under any circumstances! So here's a grain of salt, and I have a few jugs of salt in the back if you need more.

That said, I think that endometriosis is one of those weird, rare diseases where you pretty much don't have a choice but to do something drastic to prevent complications. Like, if you were unmarried and not sexually active at all, you'd still want to go on the pill for the sake of preventing the golf balls and grapefruits, correct?

In that case, you're stopping your cycles specifically to stop your body from hurting itselfy. That's not the same as saying, "Well, I don't want anymore kids, so I'm going on the pill now." They're two totally different ideas, you see?

Now, here is what I am an expert on - Before you do anything at all, go talk to your priest!

Find a good confessor, one who is knowledgable, and tell him the entire story. He will be able to help you decide if going on the pill is necessary enough to warrent it not being considered a sin.

I'm a single, 32-year-old virgin myself, I have no place in telling you 100% yes or no, you can or can't use the pill in this case, so as I said, please take everything (except the part about finding a good priest) with a grain of salt.

On another note...

:hug1: It's hard to deal with these kinds of issues. I hope you've been well and that you're not feeling awful. You have our love and welcome to the boards!


#4

You may find this helpful, it is a posting from one of the apologetics on this site concering the use of birth control pills for medical conditions:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=15756


#5

Thank you all so much for your advice and well wishes. I love how the Church is such a family!

I've been thinking this through all morning, and I'm kind of coming to the conclusion that I'm out of luck. Even though I'm not at all well-versed in Catholic dogma concerning this, from just a logical standpoint it would seem that if, in order to treat endometriosis one must cease ovulation, and pregnancy ceases ovulation, then the only acceptable method to do so would be through continuous pregnancy.

My current OB GYN insists that the pill is NOT an abortificiant, I asked him about that specifically and he said it (or at least the one he prescribed for me) did nothing to destabilize the uterine lining or prevent implantation, that that was just a layperson's myth. So, who to believe? I certainly don't want to take any chances with an unwitting abortion, that's for sure! Can one combine the use of the pill with other NFP methods to make extra sure one isn't ovulating?

The ruptured disc issue should be completely irrelevant except for the fact that it gives me a desire to use the contraceptives for other than related medical treatment. Which invalidates it as an option, no?

Ugh, yes, I need to see a priest! And find a Catholic OB GYN! :(


#6

I have not seen any one give you the advice to at least consult with the Pope Paul VI institute and their NaPro technology.

I can tell you that NFP, any form, and the pill are not compatible.

Your OB may be correct in that the pill he/she prescribed for you does not destabilize the uterine wall so if it should "fail" and you conceive the baby has a good chance of attaching to the wall of the uterus. I am not familiar enough with all the newer BC pills. The older ones were abortifacients, the doctors/nurses at the Pope Paul VI institute should be able to answer this question better. popepaulvi.com/

Talk to your doctor and see if he/she will consult with the NaPro/Pope Paul VI institute doctors.

Please note this is not medical advice, just a way to seek it better.

Brenda V.


#7

[quote="InRCIA, post:1, topic:182802"]
...But what I'm wondering is whether it's still a mortal sin to treat a medical condition whose main side effect is the cessation of ovulation?...

[/quote]

It is not a mortal sin to treat a medical condition even if that treatment has an unwanted side-effect. Mswood earlier linked an "Ask an Apologist" Q&A and the AAA response included a quote from Humanae Vitae that's worth repeating here: 15. The Church, on the contrary, does not at all consider illicit the use of those therapeutic means truly necessary to cure diseases of the organism, even if an impediment to procreation, which may be foreseen, should result therefore, provided such impediment is not, for whatever motive, directly willed.[19] ewtn.com/library/ENCYC/P6HUMANA.HTM

...Even though I'm not at all well-versed in Catholic dogma concerning this, from just a logical standpoint it would seem that if, in order to treat endometriosis one must cease ovulation, and pregnancy ceases ovulation, then the only acceptable method to do so would be through continuous pregnancy.

I'm not a logic expert or an expert on Catholic dogma either, but I think something's not 100% right with your logic. I believe there may be other acceptable ways to treat endometriosis within Catholic teachings beyond "continual pregnancy". (Not that there's anything wrong with being continually pregnant...some might use that phrase to describe me.:))

While we are not suppose to give medical advice, you might want to check previous threads on endometriosis. I know that there are others here who suffer from endometrisis. Some of those people use NFP and have come to learn more about their bodies and somehow manage to get by without either continual pregnancy or artificial hormones. But I'm also fairly certain that even if there are other ways to treat endometriosis beyond artificial hormones (aka "the pill"), if taken for the purpose of curing a disease, it is acceptable within Church teachings to take them.

FYI, Here's an article I just read today discussing women turning to NFP and away from "the pill". It doesn't relate directly to your questions but it might be of interest to you. lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/jan/10011207.html

You seem a bit torn, both wanting more children but also not wanting the complications you face with pregnancy, plus having the problem of endometriosis. Your plan to talk to both a priest and a Catholic OB GYN seems like a good idea. God bless you and welcome to the Catholic Church.


#8

The pill is a is a big no-go when you are using it to prevent conception. The Church allows women in your situation to be on the pill, because for you it would be like medication. Talk to your priest about this.

Or for that matter just search the Ask An Apologist forum here where experts answer these questions. This question is frequently asked by people in your situation.


#9

[quote="InRCIA, post:5, topic:182802"]
Thank you all so much for your advice and well wishes. I love how the Church is such a family!

I've been thinking this through all morning, and I'm kind of coming to the conclusion that I'm out of luck. Even though I'm not at all well-versed in Catholic dogma concerning this, from just a logical standpoint it would seem that if, in order to treat endometriosis one must cease ovulation, and pregnancy ceases ovulation, then the only acceptable method to do so would be through continuous pregnancy.

My current OB GYN insists that the pill is NOT an abortificiant, I asked him about that specifically and he said it (or at least the one he prescribed for me) did nothing to destabilize the uterine lining or prevent implantation, that that was just a layperson's myth. So, who to believe? I certainly don't want to take any chances with an unwitting abortion, that's for sure! Can one combine the use of the pill with other NFP methods to make extra sure one isn't ovulating?

The ruptured disc issue should be completely irrelevant except for the fact that it gives me a desire to use the contraceptives for other than related medical treatment. Which invalidates it as an option, no?

Ugh, yes, I need to see a priest! And find a Catholic OB GYN! :(

[/quote]

Yes, please see a priest! :)

My understanding (which you must not take as "Gospel") is that if the unfortunate side-effect of your necessary medical treatment is that you become infertile, this is not a problem for the Church; what is a problem for the Church is when an otherwise-healthy individual causes himself or herself to become infertile, for the primary purpose of being able to have sex without having children.

There is a world of difference between those two scenarios, even though the means to get there is identical, in this case.


#10

Here, I did it for you, these are the answers of Apologists:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=15756

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=18736


#11

[quote="InRCIA, post:5, topic:182802"]

My current OB GYN insists that the pill is NOT an abortificiant, I asked him about that specifically and he said it (or at least the one he prescribed for me) did nothing to destabilize the uterine lining or prevent implantation, that that was just a layperson's myth. So, who to believe? I certainly don't want to take any chances with an unwitting abortion, that's for sure! Can one combine the use of the pill with other NFP methods to make extra sure one isn't ovulating?

[/quote]

Take the package insert to your doctor and ask him WHY the drug company would print a "layperson's myth".

NFP works.

Google the Pope Paul VI institute and find a pro life doc who will treat your disease, not just smack a pill on you.


#12

It seems that with your endometriosis, the pill option would be acceptable. Your trouble comes with the fact that, for you, infertility is not exactly an unwanted side effect. That’s the part you need to speak to the priest about. It could very well be OK, but, for your own peace of mind, you do need to consult a priest.

Betsy


#13

[quote="baltobetsy, post:12, topic:182802"]
It seems that with your endometriosis, the pill option would be acceptable. Your trouble comes with the fact that, for you, infertility is not exactly an unwanted side effect. That's the part you need to speak to the priest about. It could very well be OK, but, for your own peace of mind, you do need to consult a priest.

Betsy

[/quote]

It doesn't matter if it's wanted or unwanted, what matters is the reason she intends to use the pill to begin with, and whether the "real" motivation for the pill is contraception which is not the case in the OP's situation. People can't control what they want or don't want.


#14

I have no advice but I just want to give you a big hug!

After my first miscarriage, I was so terrified fo getting pregnant again and going throuhg the heartache again, that I cut my husband off, sexually, for almost six months. It was a VERY rough point for us, and it really didnt help our relationship at all. I think, in retrospect, I should have been in grief counseling to help me deal with my emotions from losing the baby, and that might have helped.

My second miscarraige was an ectopic pregnancy, and the doctors wanted to give me methotrexate to “get rid of it”, which, naturally, is against the church’s teachings as well. I had to wait, for three days, until the baby died of malnourishment (placent attached to my tube, so no nutrition was getting to him), before I could take the injection to dissolve the placenta. It was TRAUMATIC. but it was the right thing to do.

What would have really helped me in BOTH situations was if my doctor had been a prolife doctor. Since these instances, I’ve found a pro life OBGYN. If you specifically consult a pro life OBGYN they may be able to offer you options that are not contradictory to the church’s teachings.

Obstetrical and gynecological science is really REALLY hard to do in conjuction with the church. So few doctors know what the church teaches, or even care, frankly. I really think finding a Catholic doctor will help solve at least some of your problems, and will help you and your husband get closer!

Big hugs for you, friend! Its a tough situation to go through! It’s also going to be emotional going forward if you face infertility. The door slamming shut is a hard thing to deal with-- let yourself grieve your fertility if you lose it! Theres nothing wrong with that.


#15

Thank you all so much for the kind words and advice. I really appreciate it. I'll talk to my RCIA sponsor about a Catholic OBGYN (she's beyond her childbearing years but her very nice DIL who also attends our church may be able to point me in the right direction).

The big irony of endometriosis is that, left untreated by temporarily-induced infertility, it most often leads to actual infertility! So I am hopeful that I can deal with this in such a way that if my back issues are resolved one way or another (eventual healing over time, or even spinal fusion) there may be another child in the future for us (my husband actually gave a "maybe" on that one tonight! :heart:).


#16

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