The Birth Control Issue – Part 1

Posted on August 31, 2013 by


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(This post is part of a series.  The Birth Control Issue – Part 2, The Billings Ovulation Method, The Wonder of New Life, Preparing to Be a Godly Housewife and Mama)

I think this is a very important discussion to have with Christian women.  I am a pharmacist, so I am able to discuss the medical aspects of each method of birth control and I would be glad to answer any questions to the best of my ability.  But – ultimately – if you have medical concerns or questions, you may want to ask your pharmacist or doctor.  It is not my goal to give medical advice here – but to think about spiritual matters.

I approach this topic with an expansive understanding of exactly how inadequate I am to discuss it.  I cannot begin to count the hours I have spent and the tears I have cried throughout my marriage, wrestling with this issue

It is my prayer that we might seek God’s design and His wisdom.  This is going to be a difficult topic to think about – because we have almost all been VERY influenced by the world to think a certain way.  I know that most of us have never questioned our views on birth control whatsoever.

Let me just say – the Bible doesn’t have a lot of specific information about “birth control.”  So, I don’t want to fill in blanks for God that He didn’t intend for me to fill in. My wisdom is worse than worthless.  Only God’s wisdom matters.

God knows each person before they are ever conceived.

“For you created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in that secret place… Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”  Psalm 139:13-16

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 (God’s call to Jeremiah)

I do want to question many of the ideas we have unquestioningly swallowed in our culture, even in the church today.  I am going to share my old viewpoint, how God changed my viewpoint and my concerns about certain issues.  Then –

it will be up to you and your future husband to pray and really seek God’s face and seek to please Him in this area.

  • Of course, I am only talking about using birth control in marriage in this post.  Sex outside of the bounds of marriage is very clear sin in God’s eyes. 

(I am well aware that many women use birth control pills to treat acne and endometriosis as well as heavy periods.  I am not discussing those uses of birth control in this series.)

**  If you have sinned in this area, or any area, the blood of Jesus can cleanse you if you will trust Him and surrender your life to Him!  If you want to talk about how to find a real relationship with Jesus and how to be with Him forever in heaven after you die, instead of being separated from Him forever in hell – (which is reality according to Jesus, Himself) – let me know!  I’d be glad to talk with you.  

My personal views on this topic have dramatically changed in the past 4+ years that I have been studying God’s design for marriage and family and godly femininity.  We used birth control pills for a very long time earlier in our marriage.  I never really questioned whether that was a good idea or if it pleased God or not for at least 7 years.   After we had our first child, this issue became extremely difficult and frustrating for me.  I could not find a peaceful conscience about it for years.  I am very aware that I am woefully inadequate to address this topic with other women.

It is not my desire to force my ideas on anyone here.  My goal is to get us thinking about WHY we want to use birth control and the potential spiritual,  emotional and physical implications of our choices.

MY ORIGINAL IDEAS GOING INTO MARRIAGE AND FOR MANY YEARS IN OUR MARRIAGE:

  • I was terrified of getting pregnant
  • I wanted my husband to have insurance so that I could work part time once we had babies.  It was over 7 years from the time we got married before my husband  had a job with insurance.  My primary motive was fear.  Fear that God would not provide for us.  Fear that I would have to work full time once I was a mom if my husband didn’t have insurance  –  when I knew I wanted to be home as much as I could.  I had a lot of fear about finances.
  • I still had a year of pharmacy school left to go when we got married.  I didn’t want to have a baby during all of that stress.  I didn’t think it would work well, although I had some classmates who did have babies during school.  I usually studied about 6-8 hours/day in college – so I was concerned I couldn’t be the mom I wanted to be and study at the same time.
  • Babies seemed very optional to me in marriage and they also seemed pretty inconvenient and burdensome.
  • The whole pregnancy thing seemed very scary to me – I liked feeling “in control” and pregnancy was definitely something that made me NOT feel like I was in control.
  • I was ok with birth control pills for many years, thinking that the pills always prevented ovulation – so that seemed “ethical” to me.  I believed that the pills prevented conception.  I believed – and still do believe – that life begins at the moment of conception.
  • I bought the idea that we needed “time together just to be a couple first before we had the stress of children.

MY LIFE:

When it came time that I believed we “should be ready” to have children, trying to decide to stop the pills was VERY DIFFICULT for me!

I had grown accustomed to the idea of having total control – or thinking I had total control – over my fertility and my body.  I had incredible anxiety as I got off the pill and we began to “try” to have a baby.

After the birth of our 2nd child, I began to really read the package insert on birth control pills – and realized with increasing alarm that birth control pills do not always prevent ovulation.  Sometimes, ovulation can happen – no one can know for sure what is happening on any given cycle when a woman is on birth control pills.  And because the birth control pill hormones fool the body into thinking a woman is pregnant, the body does not increase the lining of the uterus to receive the baby if a baby is conceived.  So, it is possible that conception can happen, but the baby can’t implant – so there is no pregnancy – and a woman would never know.

That bothered me a lot.  

It bothered me so much, that after our second child, I told Greg I didn’t want to use birth control pills anymore.

The problem was – my OB/GYN said that attempting another pregnancy would be quite dangerous for me.  I had 2 c-sections already, and the doctor said my uterus was so thin, he could see my daughter’s face through the uterine tissue during the c-section.  He warned us that another pregnancy could easily result in a ruptured uterus for me – which would likely kill me and the baby.  I was in tears in the OB/GYN’s office after our baby was born – trying to decide what kind of birth control to use that wouldn’t mess with a conceived baby’s ability to implant.  The Dr. got SO frustrated with me!  He said, “There are NO guarantees that any (hormonal) birth control won’t prevent conception!”

That was unacceptable to me.

Eventually, we opted for surgical sterilization.

GOD CHANGED MY IDEAS SOME MORE:

Then, a year or so after we already had the surgery – I began studying godly femininity, godly marriage, God’s design for family, etc.  And I began to understand that the fundamental ideas behind birth control were originated with feminists who were completely anti-God, anti-men, anti-godly femininity, anti-family, anti-marriage and anti-God’s Word.  Feminists about 100 years ago (the first wave of feminism) began teaching that (Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley):

  • God is “whoever you want her to be.”
  • The Bible is not true.
  • The church is “oppressive to women”
  • God’s design for marriage is “oppressive to women”
  • Being a wife is oppression.
  • Being a mom at home with children is slavery and imprisonment.
  • Children are a burden and an inconvenience.
  • Children keep women from finding “true fulfillment” in the working world.
  • A woman’s real satisfaction in life can only be found in a career.
  • If only women could be set “free” from pregnancy, child-bearing and the home, the world would be right.

Later, in the 1960s and 1970s (the second wave) feminist leaders also pushed for and succeeded in their quest for:

  • birth control pills to be developed
  • abortion to be legalized
  • no-fault divorce

The third wave of feminism is more loosely defined, but began in the 1990s and promotes ideas like:

  • pornography is empowering for women (the first 2 waves of feminism VEHEMENTLY opposed pornography as degradation to women)
  • the family should no longer be defined by biology
  • transgender fluidity
  • homosexuality/bi-sexuality
  • the elimination of the traditional definition of marriage/family

Birth control pills became widely available in the 1960’s – hence the “Sexual Revolution.”  Birth control pills  (or some form of birth control) are one of THE major reason why women are able to work in the workplace today.  Once a woman marries, if she does not use birth control – she can expect to have a baby about every year and a half or so.  It is financially impossible to pay for daycare once you get a certain number of children.  The mom’s salary doesn’t begin to compensate many times for the day care expenses.

MY EXPERIENCE

Then I really began to understand, too – God designed mothers to take care of babies.  Babies grow in their mother’s womb.  God designed moms to nurse their babies and cuddle and hold their babies – all throughout the day every day – and many times, at night, too.  Once you hold your own baby – it can suddenly become impossible to imagine leaving that baby for 20-40 hours/week to work and give that precious baby to someone else to take care of.  No matter who else you choose, NO ONE loves a baby like his/her own mama.

I used to think my children would need me home more just when they were young.  But now, I know that no one but a Mama cares about the spiritual development, the nutrition, the level of exercise, and emotional well-being of a child like a mama.

Am I saying no women should work and all women should be home with children?  

Nope.  

These are personal decisions that each couple must face, wrestle with and pray about.  No one answers to me about any of this.  We will all answer to God alone.

I am saying – there are a lot of things that we accept in our culture that we as believers in Christ need to question and really seek God’s wisdom on:

  • birth control – is it always God-honoring?  When is it honoring to God?  Is it ever God-honoring?  When is it not honoring to God?
  • day care – is that God’s design, for others to raise our children?  When is it the best solution?  When is it not wise?
  • women working full-time to the point that they can’t be the primary care givers of their own children – what is God’s design?
  • being SO BUSY with activities all the time so that we don’t have time as families to even sit down and eat supper together every night?
  • being SO BUSY that we lose time for the things we say are our biggest priorities – God, marriage and family?

THE COLLEGE SCENE

I worked as a pharmacist at a large university student health center pharmacy for about 6 months one time.  We mostly filled birth control pills, antibiotics for STDs, ADD meds and antibiotics for respiratory infections.  Thousands of young women on the campus were on birth control pills.  Obviously, they weren’t all taking them only for medical reasons.

One of the reasons I ended up deciding to leave was that I started thinking about how birth control can seem like a “free ticket” to sin outside of marriage and not have to experience the consequences.  I started to wonder what God thought about me selling all of these pills – most of which – would facilitate fornication.  And I thought about how rampant STDs were on that campus – and it just broke my heart.  Our culture is far from God.  I wrestled with – what is my responsibility and accountability before God in this picture?  Can God be pleased with my participation in dispensing all of these pills?

It is time, in my view, to question ALL the worldly wisdom we have heard and to trash it and only build our lives on God’s wisdom and His Word – about every issue in our lives.

It is a huge concern to me that most of my ideas about birth control, about career and about having children originated with those God-hating, Bible-hating, blaspheming original feminists 100 years ago.  That is scary.

What does God’s Word say about marriage and family?  That is what matters most to us as His disciples.

  • Marriage is a sacred covenant, instituted by God.
  • God’s design for masculinity and femininity is beautiful and we are all meant to bring the greatest glory to Him.  That is our primary purpose.
  • Being a wife and mom are sacred blessings full of incredible power to bring good to our husbands and children
  • Children are a precious gift – a heritage from the Lord.
  • Marriage represents the intimate oneness between Jesus and His church.
  • Sex is designed to be a very holy thing – only for marriage – where it displays the spiritual intimacy and union between Christ and the church.   The oneness between Christ and His church produces fruit – and new children in God’s family.

Is it possible that by tampering with our fertility in marriage, we are tampering with the picture that God intended sex to be in marriage?  Have we warped His design by removing fertility from the picture of sex?  That is a really important question.

I am not saying I have all the answers.  Not at all.

Would I have gone ahead with the surgery if I knew then what I know now?  I don’t know – considering my medical situation – we may have gone that route anyway.  I chose that before I really understood what I do now about God, men, women, marriage and family.  So – I never had to truly wrestle with all of these questions and live this out.  I do believe that I missed out on a lot of joy and freedom in Christ for many years in our marriage by my fear to trust God in this area and in many other areas.  We may have still elected to have surgical sterilization if my health and the health of a future baby was at great risk.

I am not here to tell anyone what to do or to judge what is right.

TYPES OF BIRTH CONTROL:

FYI – the medical definition of pregnancy is when “the product of conception” (baby) implants to the uterine wall.  Many Christians believe that life begins at conception, not implantation.  This can get complicated.

  • pills, Nuvaring (vaginal ring), Ortho Evra (patch) – these hormones tell a woman’s body she is pregnant so the lining of the uterus does not build up and usually she won’t ovulate.  Also, the cervical mucus does not thin out like it would when a woman ovulates, and this may be part of the way the pills work to prevent pregnancy as well.
  • Spermacidal foam and film prevents conception but not very effective alone.
  • the sponge, cervical caps, diaphragms – barrier methods prevent conception, effective rates are a good bit lower than with other methods.
  • IUDs-  when an object is in the uterus, a baby will not implant if conception occurs.  IUDs do not prevent conception.
  • The Morning After Pill (Plan B) – a high dose of birth control pills taken in a single day.  Prevents ovulation or prevents implantation depending on when it is taken.  May not prevent conception.
  • condoms – prevent conception – unless the condom breaks.  This is the only method that would potentially be able to protect against an STD.  If a married couple has this issue, that would be something to consider.
  • Depo-Provera – tells the woman’s body she is pregnant and prevents the build up of the lining of the uterus. Often prevents ovulation.  May not prevent conception.
  • surgical sterilization – prevents conception.  Basically permanent.
  • natural family planning – a woman monitors her temperature with a special thermometer every morning before she gets out of bed and charts when her temperature peaks, that is when ovulation is imminent.  Couples using this method attempt to avoid sex during the wife’s fertile periods. (usually several days around day 14 after her period started each month)  It works best when the woman has very regular periods.   The chance of pregnancy is much greater with this method of birth control than with the others.
  • withdrawl – the husband pulls out before climaxing.  The effectiveness of this method depends greatly on the ability of the husband’s timing.
  • nursing/lactation – when a mother is nursing a baby every 4-6 hours or so on a daily basis – the hormones involved in lactation suppress ovulation.  Some mothers continue nursing longer for this reason.  But if a mother goes more than so many hours in a day without nursing or pumping her milk – ovulation can occur.
  • The Billings Method – a woman tracks the changes in cervical mucus and discharge and avoids intercourse from the time the mucus thins through several days after that.  Here is a link to the site.  If done properly, this can be quite effective.  It’s also a great way to know when you are fertile and when to have sex to attempt a pregnancy as well.

Hormonal birth control pills do have side effects, similar to pregnancy.  But the risks are usually a good bit lower with pills than with pregnancy:  stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, clots, moodiness, loss of sexual desire, depression, possible increased risk of hormone dependent cancers, migraines…. you can look up the prescribing information to see what side effects are associated with different pills.  During pregnancy, the estrogen levels get MUCH higher than they do with pills.

A list of different forms of birth control and effectiveness rates by the CDC in the USA.

A package insert with prescribing information from a common hormonal birth control pill

QUESTIONS TO ASK OURSELVES ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL (Talking about in marriage here):

  • WHY are we using it?
  • Is it possible that we could be twisting God’s good design for sex by altering it with birth control?
  • Am I using birth control because I am afraid?  God’s perfect love casts out all fear.  If fear is my motivation – that may be something I need to look into.  Do I trust God?  Am I listening to Him?
  • Have I been indoctrinated by our culture to believe things about marriage, family, fertility, children and my role as a wife and mother that are not God-honoring?  If so – what do I need to trash?  What do I need to embrace?

IS BIRTH CONTROL A SIN?

I don’t know that I can answer that.   I’m not sure it is always yes or always no.  A lot of it depends on our motives and may depend on a variety of circumstances.   This is something I would like to see us all wrestle with God about and truly seek His way and be willing to do what will most honor Him.

I would like to see women and their future husbands pray about this, research it and seek to honor God,  attempting only to hear His voice.   I desire to see hearts pursuing Christ, His wisdom, His design and His exaltation on this and every topic.

Only respectful, edifying comments will be approved.  Thank you for understanding!

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