Why I Don’t – and Won’t – Use Contraception

This post is a part of the Catholic Wife, Catholic Life’s NFP-week series. It was originally published Sept. 2, 2014 here.

I (surprisingly!) haven’t been asked very often why I don’t – and won’t – use contraception, but I’ve certainly thought about how I would respond if I were asked… So, why would I never use contraception? “Let me count the ways…”

+ It doesn’t allow you to love – not freely, not selflessly, not totally. You can’t love in those ways when you’re holding back a part of yourself — the gift of your fertility.

+ To say it another way, it doesn’t allow you to love like Christ — which is how we are called to love. Contraception contradicts Christ’s love.

+ Sex is meaningful; it is meant to be unitive and procreative. You cannot separate these two essential aspects — without both, the marital act falls short of what it is intended to be. (Note: this does not mean that couples who experience infertility do not experience the fullness of the marital act. It also does not mean you have to make a baby every single time you have sex).

+ Marriage is intrinsically linked to procreation. Each marital act has the potential of creating new life with God. Contraception, on the other hand, seeks to exclude God from sex. (Note once more: this does not mean that you are called to create new life every single time you have sex; it means you are called to be open to the possibility of creating new life with God).

+ Contraception weakens the sense of fidelity in a marriage. A couple using contraception is not being faithful to their marriage vows — the part where they promise (to one another and to God) to be open to children.

+ Fertility is not a disease, and the pill is certainly not medicine. Oral contraceptives are considered highly carcinogenic.

+ Many are also abortifacients. That means that they do not prevent conception, but prevent the new life from implanting — which, really, is like an early abortion.

+ Children are “the supreme gift” of marriage. They are a blessing. And it is our fundamental task as married couples & families to be at the service of life.

+ There is a two-fold end of marriage: “the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life.”

+ Contraception is a barrier between spouses — it prevents them from truly bonding with one another during their marital act. It also changes how the spouses view one another and treat one another. It can breed disrespect, objectification and irresponsibility. Some of the first feminist leaders recognized this. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull and Elizabeth Blackwell all spoke out against contraception & abortion; they believed, as do I, that it degrades women, since,”it gives men license to indulge in their passions without consequence.”

+ There is no such thing as “safe sex.”

+ Many contraceptives lower your sex drive.

+ It’s a band-aid that may help some of your symptoms (PMS, cramps, acne, headaches, PCOS), but it does not treat the root cause.

+ It not only masks those symptoms, but it also masks many signs of fertility or infertility — and knowing more about your body, about your cycle, and when you’re ovulating is so much more helpful — and empowering.

+ Contraception can delay your fertility whenever you’re ready to start having children.

+ And if you’re looking to avoid getting pregnant for now, there are much better options — options that are healthier for you, which respect the dignity of life and are just as effective.

“From beginning to end, the Scriptures call us to receive God’s love, to love as God loves, and to choose life.” (Christopher West)

I don’t mean to say that all married couples are called to have 10+ children in their lifetime. There are no rules or requirements from the Church about family size — other than to say that contraception is inherently wrong & that the mission of marriage is to transmit human life.

I do believe, though, that all married couples should discern what God is calling them to do — in their circumstances & in their situations.

And when in doubt, we should probably err on the side of generosity — because life is good.

You can read more about when it is permissible to use NFP to avoid getting pregnant, here.

Yes, NFP takes self-control, self-denial, greater trust in your spouse & especially in God, as well as greater honesty & communication in your relationship… But these things do not hurt a marriage. These things can make your marriage greater & help your love grow.

— As a side note, I think it’s significant to let you know that I didn’t always think this way — there was a time that I thought I would use contraception — when I even advocated for it… But a few gentle nudges by some kind & caring people helped me to see that contraception would not only hurt me, but it would hurt my future (now) spouse, and our marriage and future children. It’s not healthy. It’s not helpful. It does so much more harm than good.

I don’t think I’m any better than any woman who uses contraception — but I can tell you that I’m better off without it, and I believe everyone would be.

If you haven’t heard about any of this before and are curious to learn more or you just want to pick my brain on NFP, email me! I will respond 🙂 My email address is [email protected]

photo credit: outcast104

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  • Finally famous

    okay, I really don’t get it. I am a single catholic woman who wil, God’s willing, one day, get married and have children. I have been struggling with the contraception issue for a long time for the following reasons:

    1) I think NFP doesn’t really work. I have no study percentages or anything like that. I am speaking from experience. from friends I mean. Every family that I know (and there’s many of them) that uses NFP has lots of kids (6 and up) .so …what’s going on here?

    2) If one of the reasons why contraception is wrong is because one is taking the procreation aspect from sex, how is it different from when you say ”I am abstaining from sex during this period of time, because I can conceive?” In other words, NFP. Aren’t you taking the procreation aspect out of sex too by abstaining during fertile days and not abstaining during infertile days?

    I am not commenting to criticize, I am commenting to understand. Please help me out

    • Nicole

      1 – there are studies done on the effectiveness of NFP, which, show that the rate is equal to or higher than artificial contraceptives. Look around this blog. I believe one of the studies is actually here. Many times, those who advocate that NFP is ineffective have used the method incorrectly, inconsistently, or not the way it was supposed to be/intended so anecdotal evidence is not always accurate. Scientific studies have greater accuracy rates.
      2 – it is the sexual act that is procreative, therefore, refraining from it is not removing the “procreative aspect.” In Catholic teaching, love should be central to any union between a man and a woman and, as Ann Marie stresses here, that love means taking compete responsibility for our actions. If, in the natural and divine order, the sexual act results in pregnancy then the natural result of such an act is procreation. No matter how it is rationalized, one cannot argue otherwise. It is a fact of life. Otherwise, why would people who use artificial contraceptives spend so much time and money just to prevent that pregnancy. Following this logic, then, if the sexual act is meant to result in procreation the anyone who engages in it must be prepared to bear that responsibility. That sense of responsibility, at its core, is manifested in real love for your partner.

      • Finally famous

        okay thanks for clarifying Nicole.
        For the first point you said ”those who advocate that NFP is ineffective have used the method incorrectly” hmmm makes me wonder…all these NFP families that I know, have used the method incorrectly? I don’t know.I will need to talk to them and conclude later. What I know is that I still don’t want no more than three kids so I will see.
        I get what you are saying on point 2). Makes sense.
        Thank you and God bless!

        • Maria

          Great site, great blogs, and this is an excellent discussion.
          Nicole: Perhaps the families that have 6 or more children actually want that many or more children. I know many families who use NFP to delay conception, not to prevent it altogether… so the 6 or more children are actually welcome and planned for.

          • Finally famous

            Hmm good point too Maria. I will have to talk to those families I know to figure that out.All I ‘ve heard from them was “We accept every child we conceive as a gift from God”.
            Famous Catholic speaker Jason Everett just announced that they ‘re expecting their 7th kid

      • Bridget Wagner

        Well, I think you could say that studies have shown the effectiveness of NFP to be equal to *some* artificial contraceptives, but certainly worse than most. Looking at the data posted by the CDC, it doesn’t show that NFP absolutely cannot work at all, it just shows it to be one of the least effective methods of controlling reproduction that are currently available. I’ve attached the CDC chart comparing efficacies of contraceptive methods. They report that for typical use of NFP, about 24 out of every 100 women experienced an unintended pregnancy within the 1st year of use. Which means that 76% of women used NFP and did not get pregnant, so ~3/4 of women per year who use it are successful. That’s not terrible, it’s just waaay less effective than the other methods. In contrast, typical use of birth control pills lead to a 9% failure rate (often because typical use includes people forgetting to take the darn pills every day, oops) while a long-acting implantable progesterone-only contraceptive method like Implanon has a only 0.05% failure rate. That’s super good. I mean, if you do not want to have a baby, you are pretty much not going to have a baby with those odds. I think the point with NFP though is not that you are going to insist that NFP works just as well as the other contraceptive methods, but that while you acknowledge it is not as effective at preventing pregnancy, as a Catholic this is the only method of family planning that is open to you and you accept that you may have an unintended pregnancy, even with perfect use. Anecdote: My parents (and I) are Catholic and they used NFP-only. I am one of six kids, and they report that every one of those kids but one was unintentional. We are about 2-3 years apart, which is right about what you’d expect with the studied efficacy rate of NFP. Fun! http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/unintendedpregnancy/pdf/contraceptive_methods_508.pdf

  • anonymous

    the writer of this article doesn’t seem to understand that taking a birth control pill for reasons other than birth control is not always intrinsically evil! While birth control may be a side effect of the pill, as long as your intention is to treat something like endometriosis, for example, then taking the pill is NOT wrong. What the writer of this article (and many other Catholics) fails to realize is that if the pill is working for your medical condition, and you’re not taking it to prevent pregnancy, then it is okay morally. Sure the gift of fertility is great and all, but sometimes you must preserve your fertility (such as in the case of ovarian cysts).