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Catholic Life | Tag Archive | NFP
Tag Archives: NFP

Another NFP Question

What is the longest that you have known of a childless couple to use NFP to avoid pregnancy? What is the average length of time that childless couples of your acquaintance used NFP to avoid pregnancy?

As always, feel free to comment anonymously.

How long did you seriously use NFP to avoid pregnancy while childless? What is the longest that you know of among your friends/acquaintances?

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Fertile Math

People don’t understand Natural Family Planning. One of the reasons that I wish more would follow Cardinal Sean and use the term Fertility Awareness is that “Fertility Awareness” combined with abstinence is not only a more intuitive way to understand the Church’s teaching, it is also helpful with understanding the reality of how NFP actually works.

Have you ever thought “NFP= surprise babies” or said something like “NFP was the best mistake I ever made?”

Or are you one of those who worries that NFP is misused, used with a contraceptive mentality, too effective at avoiding pregnancy, or over-taught to young couples who have no reason to use it?

If so, have you considered that perhaps you do not understand how NFP actually works? Yes, there can be the occasional purely miraculous surprise pregnancy with NFP. Yes some couples may struggle with separate (I cannot say “unrelated” because all of our life is interrelated) sins of selfishness while practicing periodic abstinence for the sake of avoiding pregnancy. But NFP itself inherently avoids both problems. How? Math.

The effectiveness of NFP is very closely matched to the determination of the couple to avoid pregnancy.

If one is very strongly motivated to avoid pregnancy, then it is likely that one will be willing not only to observe and faithfully chart multiple fertility signs, one will also be willing to accept significant abstinence.

If one desires to avoid pregnancy, but is somewhat less motivated, then one can skip charting in favor of methods that don’t require good records, chart poorly (noting observations on some, but not all days), track fewer fertility signs, or, the most classic of all: abstain less.

There are some people who are simply misinformed. They may mistakenly expect NFP to be 99% reliable for avoiding pregnancy without following the rules that allow for such a rate. Some examples:

The woman who is shocked to be pregnant when she thought she was being so conservative with NFP, even though she was not charting was probably either using the rhythm method or two-day method, or intuition, and while all of those are methods of NFP in the strictest sense, they are all methods where a “surprise” pregnancy shouldn’t be shocking.

The woman who is new to NFP and says that she “ovulated early” and was “not supposed to ovulate until 3 days later” than she did In reality, one has to chart cycles for 12 months before one can say anything about when one as an individual woman is “supposed” to ovulate. The whole “day 14″ thing is just a generalization. If one is depending on a theoretical view of when women generally ovulate,  then one is using the classic rhythm method and should expect a pregnancy within about 5 years of using it faithfully.

The woman who “must have ovulated twice, or something” This is the reason God invented thermometers. And cervixes. And patience. And fertility monitors. And diligent following of the rules of the BOM-based method if that is really what one wants to use. Though, if this is an issue for you then I can’t imagine why a woman with access to computers would want to only use one sign of fertility and ignore all the rest. But that is another issue.

The woman who carefully follows her 96% effective method only to find herself in the 4% who become pregnant This may be the result of starting  a method that assumes infertility for the first 6 days, and being one of the rare women who has cycles so short that this rule is inapplicable. Or it could be only making external observations of cervical fluid when you are a woman who really needs internal observations. Or it could be counting as infertile days prior to ovulation where there is no cervical fluid, even though it will start an hour later. These are not precisely the same as the previous cases, but the couples who choose to follow these methods need to be aware of the likelihood that they may indeed be the reasonable exceptions.

The man who does not know what rules were being followed, or even anything about his wife’s fertility cycles, he just knows that they were “using NFP to avoid” and she got pregnant These are always sad cases because they indicate the fact that, while NFP is never contraceptive, men can experience it in the same way that they experience contraceptive methods which are simply left to the wife to take care of. Men, for practical purposes, if you don’t understand the logic of where your wife is in her fertility cycle and why conception is unlikely, you should assume that it is likely.

Now, if you were one of the people on the other side, you should now have a slight inkling about what it is you were missing when it comes to assuming that NFP is selfishly overused. NFP requires a lot of dedication. In order for NFP to be used as an extremely effective tool for avoiding pregnancy, a couple must be willing to abstain a lot. Yes, NFP may be a good tool for avoiding pregnancy without a lot of work or abstinance for a few women for a few cycles, but eventually it takes both serious dedication to observing and charting fertility signs and significant abstinence.

If a couple does not have a good reason to avoid pregnancy, then it is highly unlikely that they will be willing to put in the diligent effort that it takes to practice NFP in a way that is highly effective. Not only is God always in charge of conception (or the lack thereof), fertility awareness + abstinence for avoiding pregnancy is specifically orientated toward being ineffective for those who do not have a serious reason to avoid pregnancy.

Ultimately the NFP equation of fertility awareness + abstinence =no pregnancy means that NFP is incredibly scalable in its effectiveness for avoiding pregnancy. Those who are seriously motivated to learn rigorous forms of NFP, and then continue to be motivated to chart faithfully and abstain as much as is necessary are incredibly unlikely to experience a surprise pregnancy. But those who are not willing to put forth the dedication and self-control will find NFP significantly less than “very effective” for avoiding pregnancy.

This is why it is incorrect to see NFP as either inherently ineffective or easy to misuse. NFP is both effective and challenging. And that is precisely why it is such a wonderful tool for a couple who seeks to follow the Church’s guidance in determining the number of children that is appropriate for their family.

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Family Planning, Money, and Health

Some of the comments on my recent post on family planning reminded me of how differently I think from a “typical” American–whomever that is. I completely understand the idea of discounting money when having a child because there is never enough money. But perhaps my parents trained me so well in this regard that applying this logic to myself would lead to the sins of self-indulgence and irresponsible parenting.

In my mind one does not have enough money to have a child (in the US) if one does not have enough money to pay for nutritious food for the child, and more immediately for the pregnant mother.

For me it would seem incredibly virtuous and self-sacrificial for a couple to delay children under such a circumstance, even if it did mean never having children.

It is sometimes a challenge for me to remember that the rest of the (good, conservative) Catholic world (in the United States) views children so very differently than I do. I view children as a supreme gift from God, and in many cases the greatest blessing of marriage.

Others seem to view children primarily as an obligation which can only be avoided for grave reason. And so, while I am inclined to think of what I need to do in order to be adequately prepared for the awesome privileged of being a parent, others are inclined to think of whether they have a good enough reason to get out of being a parent.

I am sure that all of my dear readers are now judging me as judgmental (and I’ll post more about that another time) so I feel the need to explain that I do not presume to know enough about others to have any idea of how they make their actual choices (talk, especially online, does not necessarily correspond that closely to behavior in reality). All I know is the implications based on what they say to me, and the tremendous sins into which I would fall if I accepted their counsel. This is, as usual, all about how I think.

For me, it seems that sex is so connected to procreation that it is irresponsible to engage in sexual intercourse without first considering whether one has sufficiently prepared for the likelihood of conception following from that act. It seems to me that basic justice would dictate that if one has not taken basic steps needed for responsible parenthood, then one should abstain from the act which would lead to the conception of a child who would be hurt by one’s lack of responsibility.

We are not currently able to fully eradicate miscarriage or congenital disorders. But we can take the basic steps necessary to dramatically reduce them. To me it would be basic responsibility to ask myself whether I have been able to take care of my body (and my spouse’s) for the last few months in order to do what is reasonably possible to reduce harm to any child who might be conceived. If the answer was that no and I had not been able to get adequate nutrients (particularly in the past several weeks–think of the importance of folate etc. preconception), or that my husband has not (months ago) been able to consume the nutrients that we know are necessary for preventing miscarriage, then I would consider myself obligated to abstain from sex if it were at all likely to result in conception.

Because of my understanding of responsibility, and justice, it is difficult for me to see how others can think of engaging in conjugal intercourse as nothing more than an issue of generosity. It is certainly an issue of generosity, but for those of us who believe that sexual intercourse must irrevocably be tied to procreation, it is about so very much more than simply having sex when we like and generously accepting whatever God happens to throw our way.

I know that for many of us simply having a child is the best way for us to mature to the point of loving self-sacrificially. But I do not think that that means that we need to ignore the reality of the ideals of justice and responsibility and hold up thoughtless sexual activity as the standard of generosity.

So, while I can appreciate the idea of not expecting a perfect moment for a baby (and certainly letting go of the idea that one needs to have the next 18+ years paid for!), I do not find the counsel to ignore finances to be universally sound advice.

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Let’s Talk About Fertility

I have a nice long post sitting around about Fertility Awareness/NFP and how it requires a lot of work/abstinence. But over the past few years I have become aware of the fact that others have a very different view of this than I do. It has also been 3-5 years since I was reading NFP studies and I am beginning to realize that I don’t remember as much as I’d like to think I do. So, this is a call for help.

In your experience, how many days in a typical cycle would you identify as fertile for the purpose of avoiding pregnancy? And by “identify as fertile” I mean abstain from sex on the day in question, not which days you’d guess were actually fertile once you were looking back on the completed chart after the cycle was over.

The second request is for you to provide studies that show how effective your method is for avoiding conception.

For instance, CCL cites a study that indicates a 99.6% method effectiveness for avoiding pregnancy. And when you look at the actual study you see that there was an average of 13 days per cycle that were identified as fertile and required abstinence.

Based on my understanding of NFP, there are 6 days per cycle that could really be fertile (sperm life + egg life), and an additional 3 days (to account for the possibility of double ovulation and to confirm that it was indeed ovulation– not merely a disturbance in temperature or cervical fluid building up to ovulation but then stopping without ovulation). That means that unless one is either counting on lower fertility (for instance, assuming that a woman will only have a few days of fertile cervical fluid so the sperm could only survive 2-3 days) or else taking chances with not really confirming ovulation, the minimum number of days a (blessedly healthy) woman can expect to identify as fertile is 9.

I recently re-read through the instruction manual for the method that Josh and I learned while engaged (the Cross-Check Method: think STM flirts with Marquette) with the goal of figuring out the least amount of abstinence possible for a healthy woman who was seriously determined to avoid pregnancy. After playing around with the various rules, the shortest that I could come up with was 10 days. A quick review of our practice charts (theoretical, not my body’s data) revealed that the shortest was, in fact, 10 days.

And I am just focusing in on the shortest possible length of time. I know quite well that for many women there will be many months where they must abstain for much longer if they are truly serious about avoiding conception.

So, help me out here. Does your experience or training indicate something else? Please, please, please do direct me to studies. At this point I am thinking that a week of abstinence may get many women a 90-95% method effectiveness rate for avoiding pregnancy, but I just can’t see how it would take less than 9 days to get to 99%.

What am I missing? I don’t want to be ignorant and say silly things in future posts. :-)

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Contraceptive Mentality and Sexual Desire

The vast majority of people whom I’ve seen discuss “using NFP with a contraceptive mentality” are women, and the few men whom I’ve heard take that view are unmarried.

Which leads me to a thought: healthy married men enjoy sex. Hence they are aware of the difficulty of abstinence, and the laughability of our excessive focus on how exactly married couples may enjoy conjugal intercourse during times of low fertility.

There are, of course, always a few exceptions. But these seem to me to come from those who have at least some guilt over their lack of self-control, and so seek to justify it by condemning others for a practice which not only requires self-control, but results in a better (at least in the immediate sense–I do not imply that children themselves are ever anything less than good) situation overall.

So, maybe, just maybe we should all chill out in our condemnations and recognize a bit of reality. Married couples are naturally oriented toward conjugal intercourse. Sexual abstinence is not easy. And apparently neither is charity in understanding the struggles of marriage.

If a couple has a contraceptive mentality, then they will engage in contraception. Nothing is gained from misusing the Church’s terms in order to condemn those who follow Christ in a way which is unfamiliar to us.

If your libido is low enough that abstaining unjustly seems like a real danger for you, then embrace God’s gift to you and spend time in prayer and fasting for those who have more common struggles.

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Felix Culpa Babies

I live in a world that devalues children. One of the many sad results of this is that followers of Christ devote their energy to emphasizing the great value of children to the point where other truths are obscured.

This is particularly true among “faithful Catholics” who greatly desire to answer John Paul II’s call to promote a culture of life. Often, instead of promoting life with all of the careful nuances of Church teaching, we simply assert that everyone should always “welcome children” and suggest that the bigger the family, the better.

I have seen oh-so-many articles and blog posts in which a parent of a “large” family will write about the rude comments that people make. Invariably someone will reply to the post with the suggestion that the person say “and which one of my children do you think should not be here?!” and the large family mutual admiration society all delights in their superiority.

The thing is, this is a dreadful approach for Catholics. And we suffer from our own medicine.

We say “IVF is wrong” and suddenly someone holds up her baby and says “you think my child should not be here?!”

Children are good. Children are always good. Even if a child is born as the result of rape, that child is good, and it is wonderful that that child is alive.

But the choices of adults which result in the birth of a child are not always good. Sometimes parents are evil, sometimes they are blinded by their desire for children, and sometimes they are simply selfish or lazy.

When a parent selfishly gives in to the desire for sex, despite knowing that it is likely to result in the conception of a child who will take emotional resources away from the older children who are already under-parented, it is a mistake. It is a mistake which may be smaller than IVF, and utterly incomparable to rape, but it is still wrong.

Married couples are called to procreation in the fullest sense. This requires the greatest of self-denial in sacrificing oneself for one’s children. And sometimes justice demands that parents deny themselves the pleasure of sexual intercourse in order to insure that their procreation is not mere reproduction.

And it is wrong for us to perpetuate the idea that selfishness is to be commended when it results in the great good of a child. This is why I will always think “how wonderful!” when I hear about a pregnancy, but I will not join in with those who call self-indulgence “heroic.” Perseverance while suffering the consequences of sin may be heroic. But sin is never heroic, no matter how small the sin, and how great the joy of the felix culpa.

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Periodic Abstinence For All of Marriage

Commenting on the contraceptive mentality post Allison asked a pointed question.

How do you feel about those who say they never want children but use NFP because it’s the only thing approved by the Church? Not sure how often that happens, but would you still think that their view is okay? Or do you view children as a part of marriage for those who are able?

Rebecca gave a great explanation of why some couples using NFP might say that they plan on never having children, but I think that Allison wanted a more general answer, so here is my view. I am posting it here so that you can all chime in with your wisdom.

Marriage is like life: we are not called to decide everything all at once, but rather to discern and live each day. Of course it is wise to plan, but there is nothing wrong with looking ahead and honestly admitting that our best of plans will not achieve every ideal.

If a couple is able to continuously discern the need to avoid pregnancy, and these moments end up adding up to their entire reproductive lives, then that is sad in some way, but certainly not sinful.

It seems highly unlikely to me that a couple would abstain from sex rather than use contraception if they were so closed to children as to violate their promises to the Church and to each other.

Furthermore, the Church’s minimum standard is that we must not separate sexual intercourse from reproduction. But married couples are not required to engage in sexual activity at all, as long as abstinence is mutually agreed upon. If it is okay for some rare couples to never engage in sexual intercourse, then it must certainly be okay for some to never have children, even though they may have no fertility issues.

I have never met a faithful Catholic couple who would not wish to have all the material, health, relational, and societal blessings required for raising children. But we live in a world where not everyone has everything, and as long as that is the case there will be couples who are unable to ever discern an appropriate time to enter the marital embrace with the hopes of conceiving a child. Children are certainly the supreme gift of marriage, but not every married couple is blessed with the resources and situation to seek out the transmission of human life.

Catholics who support contraception often assert that the Church should require marriages to be open to life rather than “that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life“. But the Church insists that moral law is not about the marriage as a whole and ignoring “details” of particular acts, but rather about each and every act added up to the whole. And if each and every sexual act is open to life, even though highly unlikely to result in pregnancy, the Church’s minimum standard1 has been met.

How would you answer Allison’s question?

1. Of course there may still be the question of whether a couple is being selfish or generous in their approach to giving themselves to each other, but that is no more true for the continuously “avoiding” couple than for all couples who “resort to infertile periods!”

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Using NFP With a Contraceptive Mentality: Reality Check

For a while now I have thought that it does not make sense to talk of using NFP with a “contraceptive mentality.” After all, a contraceptive mentality must be based on the separation of procreation and pleasure in the conjugal act, and abstaining from both in order to avoid either obviously does not separate the two.

But it is only recently that I realized how far such a thing is from any reality that I have ever known. The only way that it makes sense for one to be concerned about others “using NFP with a contraceptive mentality” is if one sees children as burdens “oh, everyone must want to avoid children if possible and only good Catholics accept the difficulty of raising these troublesome beings!” and also does not enjoy sex “and it is so easy to abuse NFP since all you have to do is abstain from sex for a few weeks, and that is so easy to do!”

So I decided to do a thought experiment, or whatever it is they call these things, and consider what it would look like for couples to “use NFP with a contraceptive mentality.” I tried to call certain couples to mind with this experience. Unfortunately no one who actually uses NFP thinks that they do so with a contraceptive mentality (although there are certainly those more scrupulous individuals–typically women–who do ponder the issue frequently and seek to insure that they are perfectly discerning the just place of abstinence in their family planning). So I had to turn to those who had previously used NFP “with a contraceptive mentality” and repented from their evil ways.

Here are their stories. Do let me know how well they match with your world.

Katherine and John (Because NFP is abused by newlyweds)
As told by Katherine

For years I had dreamed of a candlelit winter wedding. Inspired by our parish’s 8pm Christmas Eve mass I pictured the church full of candles and twinkling lights and green trees. Only there would be red roses rather than poinsettias.

But then when I actually got engaged and started planning with my friend Melissa, she pointed out how tired I would be after a 7pm wedding and hours of the reception. It was a no-brainer, and I immediately started planning our lovely morning wedding. It was not as glorious as my dreams, but it was quite nice, and I knew that being married ::blush:: was more important than the wedding!

Unfortunately though, John was still Southern Baptist at that point. He prayed daily for the Lord to wait until after our honeymoon to come back. After we took NFP classes he also started praying for me to be infertile on our wedding night. He has always been a good man and accepted that we would not use contraception, but he still had the contraceptive mentality.

After the wedding we got to the inn around 4pm. I must have been tired, but barely noticed. But John, the new leader of our home, acted as if he would never consider making love since the chart showed ambiguous signs of fertility. I pointed out that a baby really would be nice, but he shook his head resolutely and reminded me that if I got pregnant then we could never afford to go on a cruise for our first anniversary.

Well, that solved it for me! I mean, goodness, who cares about a few more days of abstinence as long as it means one can avoid the burden of a baby who would cause one to miss out on a Caribbean cruise next year?

Regrettably, I sunk so quickly into my new husband’s contraceptive mentality that I did not even think of praying about the issue as we flopped down on the bed with the laptop to spend the evening researching cruise lines.

Since then, John has become Catholic and is now on the parish council. Whenever the diocese talks about adding an NFP requirement to the pre-Cana curriculum John is the first to write to the bishop to remind him that NFP will only be used contraceptively by newlyweds.

Beth and Gabriel (Because NFP is abused by young couples who think too much)
As told by Gabriel

Well, the problem is that Beth was a grad student. No, not that she had just started grad school, after all, her program wasn’t really that demanding, she totally could have completed it with babies and we were guaranteed health insurance. But she is a statistician, and was constantly immersed in numbers, without a break. So when she would come home at the end of the day it was all still numbers.

Things would start to heat up, and then she would stop and say “Gab, it’s 7.1268.” And I’d be like “blast it” and she’d be like “you know we decided together to not risk anything higher than a 2.6.” And I’d be like “well, it’s not like those numbers are really real. After all, you’ve just crunched the studies and your cycles for the past 5 years and your maternal history of fertility rates and gynecological records. But there could be something missing.” And she’s be like “I’m sure there is something missing, but this is the best info we have.” And I’d be like “you’re so right, why are we even having this conversation?”

And that was that. Honestly, I don’t think that we ever could have gotten over our sinful desire to control our fertility at that stage. It was just too hard. Things only got easier as we got older and had been married longer and started to see sex as something that couldn’t quite be planned on. Thank God for grace!

Ignatius and Felicity (Because NFP is abused by couples with many young children)
As told by Felicity

The contraceptive mentality has always been a problem in our marriage. We did not notice it at first because we really wanted babies. I had spent my whole life planning on being a mother of a large family. I could not wait to get started.

But after four babies in five years, Nate started to suffer from the sin of worry. He was overly concerned for me. He thought that we should just abstain in order to avoid another pregnancy while the baby was still in diapers. So we did. For months at a time. I still feel so guilty writing this. I have confessed it many times!

Eventually we were overcome by the call to be open to life. Our fifth child was conceived a year later. But we had already fallen into a pattern of sin. So it was so easy to continue. I am eternally thankful for the grace that came in Easter, 2008.

We had, of course, abstained through all of Lent. And it was obvious that I was fertile on Easter. We would have to keep abstaining through the Octave in order to continue as slaves to the contraceptive mentality. But Nate had been to confession a lot during Lent. His spiritual director urged him to mature spiritually and cast aside his sin of doubt. Filled with the grace of the Easter Vigil, we were blessed with the conception of our sixth baby who was born right before our eighth anniversary.

Thanks be to God

So, maybe my imagination just is not good enough, but in the world that I live in, most people like sex. A lot. And most of them are not so great at calculating a 10% chance of pregnancy (that is, having to deal with a baby in nine months) and then determining that they are going to abstain from sex at the moment in order to maximize their selfish pleasure years in the future.

And when it comes to “being open to life” it typically looks like engaging in sexual intercourse because the couple felt like it. It seems entirely odd to me to view those who choose to forgo sexual pleasure for the good of their family with suspicion and constant concern that they are “abusing” their right to abstain from sex.

For real.

And just a reminder in case anyone was only half-reading, these were not real stories. I made them up in response to the typical accusations of groups of people who “routinely abuse” NFP. You know, newlyweds never have just cause to avoid pregnancy and all that.

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Does Anything Strike You About This List?

The idea of conventions really appeals to me. You not only get to hear great speakers on the topic that interests you, you also get to meet others with the same interest. Even though I do not attend many conferences, I love to read about them. And what could be better than conferences that focus on natural family planning?

So I was easily engaged with the Couple to Couple League’s 2010 speakers list. Check it out. Then you can read what I thought as I read about who is speaking:

Cardinal Ennio Antonelli of the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
I would love to hear him!

Bishop Ronald W. Gainer
I should probably know something about him…

Mike Manhart, Ph.D. CCL Executive Director
Makes sense since he runs the organization.

Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. (Fr. Tad) Director of Education, The National Catholic Bioethics Center
I love Father Tad. I still can’t believe that the Vatican seems to be taking his side on the embryo adoption issue. Hm…

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., Ph.D.
Awesome!

And then there was Joseph Corbo, M.D., James McKenna, Ph.D., Dale Alquist, Ray Guarendi, Ph.D., and Michael Schwartz.
I don’t know any of these guys, though McKenna sounds really interesting.

Then I scrolled through the list again.

I had to be missing people.

I had to be missing women.

No, I had already seen the one woman… a sister. I have no objection to celibate women promoting life, they are crucial! But why is she the only woman listed? Does the Couple to Couple League believe that if NFP-using women want to hear from women who actually live with NFP they should just talk to themselves? Are women and men really so similar that men can speak to these issues just as well as women? Did the conference organizers try to get women to speak but find that they were all so drowning with their own children that they had nothing left to give to others?

I left Couple to Couple League’s website with the sinking feeling that they are crippled in their ability to promote the fullness of what the Church has to offer for women in real life. Am I missing a good reason for avoiding married women as speakers, or does the Couple to Couple League have a tremendous opportunity to grow in this area?

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Failing NFP & Learning a Bit of Charity

I was full of dread as I approached the door to enter our final natural family planning class. When it was time to review my chart I nervously joked to the instructor that I had found a way to “fail” natural family planning before I was even married. It wasn’t that I was pregnant; I had started hormonal birth control and had an early temperature spike to prove it.

Thankfully the instructor was perfectly gracious. She was not especially surprised since my first month’s chart was disturbed by a laparoscopy which had confirmed endomentriosis but done nothing to ease my pain. She asked whether  the doctor had a plan other than keeping me on hormones for life. The doctor did not have a plan, but my primary goal was to get through the semester. I did not have the option of seeking out a specialist for another surgery, and I could not continue to function through the pain.

The hormones worked so well that I wondered why I had spent years insistent on avoiding them. It was so very wonderful to be able to function normally and I was thrilled to be able to concentrate on an intense semester. Then summer came. As I waited in a long line for the Sacrament of Reconciliation I thought about how easily I am distracted from God. It seemed that I turned away from every opportunity to join myself to the Savior’s suffering. And so I returned to the pain of my normal menstrual cycle.

Two months after I got married I again had a very strong need to be able to function physically. I tried the same hormones that I had been on before, but without success. It did not reduce my pain and I observed the signs of my fertility with the wry thought that it was a good thing I was not using the hormones to avoid conception! I got a prescription for a different mix of hormones, but by the time I had waited for my body to adjust I simply did not want to go through it all again. So I gave up on artificial hormones.

I am profoundly thankful for my experience. Without it, it is quite possible that I would be one of those Catholics who say things like “the pill is never a good option for Catholic women!” It does not matter how clear the Church is that artificial hormones are permissible for therapeutic purposes. Some continue to insist that no health issue can possibly make resorting to the evil of hormonal contraception legitimate.

I would never have directly questioned the fact that artificial hormones were allowed, after all Humanae Vitae could not be more clear:

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.

But I was all too ready to agree with those who asserted that doctors were just lazy and there was no reason for any woman to be on artificial hormones. I still think that the pill is over-prescribed, and I am still glad that I made the choice to have a laparoscopy rather than starting hormones without knowing the source of the problem. Information is good, even without pain relief. But the fact that many doctors are too willing to prescribe hormones without considering the underlying health issues does not negate the fact that there are very good reasons for therapeutic use of artificial hormones.

Even minor surgery has risks and it is somewhat naïve to imagine that it is always affordable and effective. I wish that no women had to deal with the physical pain of reproductive disorders, but I am thankful that there are many options for treatment and pain-suppression. If you know a woman who is able to treat pain with something as simple as a birth control pill, please consider suspending judgement long enough to ponder thanking God that she does not require anything stronger.

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