It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!
This week we’re also linking up to Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by We are THAT Family.
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails about s-e-x, I guess because I’m one of the few Christian bloggers who will talk about it openly. And quite a few of those emails have to do with birth control.
Here’s the scenario one mom wrote: she doesn’t like the pill, and so they haven’t used it. But she finds herself very nervous about sex because she doesn’t want to get pregnant again. And so her libido has nose dived!
What should she do?
Let’s start with some big picture issues, and then we’ll get to some specifics.
First, children are a blessing. If you get pregnant “by accident”, realize that it is never an accident. God planned that life, God knows that life, and God will help you provide for that life in every way.
Second, there really never is a “good time” to have a baby. We know that life is always busy. There is always one more course to finish, one more promotion to land, a little more money to save, or something. It’s always busy. But we have babies anyway. And if there isn’t a good time, then it follows that there isn’t a bad time, either. Sure, some may seem better than others, but God will always help you through.
I just want to put those two things out there before we start talking too much about birth control, because we need to remember that ultimately it is God who is in control. In fact, many Christian women feel so strongly about this that they don’t use birth control at all. Since children are a blessing, and since God is in control, we shouldn’t limit God.
Obviously not all agree with that, but I think it is a legitimate viewpoint. Other people say, “God has called me to other things, and I can’t fulfill that ministry, or be a good parent to the children I already have, if I have a baby right now.” And so they want to wait. I think that’s also a legitimate viewpoint. After all, few people want more than three kids. I would really prefer that we not get into a big debate in the comments on which viewpoint is “correct”, because I do think honest Christians who love Jesus fall on both sides of the spectrum, and I think we should respect each other.
And because I think both viewpoints are valid, I want to take a look at the different methods because it is a legitimate topic for discussion. So here goes:
Natural Family Planning
How it works:
The most common method of natural family planning is the Basal Body Temperature Method. Chart your cycle by taking your temperature every morning upon waking. Your temperature “spikes” during ovulation, so by taking your temperature, you can tell when you ovulate. When you collect data over a number of months, you can start to estimate this, and then you refrain from intercourse over the 4-6 day period around ovulation (different sites give different numbers). You can download charts to help you with this, and to explain this to you, right here. You can also do a variant of natural family planning by charting your cervical fluid. There’s more information on both of these methods here.
Pros: If done correctly, this does really work. You don’t have to use a barrier during intercourse, and you don’t have any hormones in your system.
Cons: It’s hard to use reliably if your cycle is not regular, because you have to stop intercourse a few days before ovulation (since sperm can survive and swim for several days). You also have to chart for a number of months to get an idea of when ovulation will occur, so it can’t be used on the spur of the moment. It also asks you to refrain from sex during your most fertile days, which also happen to be when your libido tends to be the highest. Thus, it’s likely that you may have a “moment of weakness”, and that’s how people end up parents!
UPDATE: A commenter notes that the method charting cervical mucous instead of temperature can be used even if your cycle isn’t regular! More info here. Another commenter notes that you can purchase a fertility monitor from a drug store, which tells you if you’re fertile from a urine test every morning. I have several friends who use this and find it very helpful. (I’m sorry I didn’t include it above, I just didn’t want to make the post 3000 words! But I think I’m doing that now, anyway!).
A barrier that is unrolled over the penis to collect the sperm after ejaculation. If used consistently, it’s very unlikely that you will get pregnant (we used these for years, and we never had any “surprises”).
Pros: Easy to use. Cheap. You don’t need a prescription. Readily available.
Cons: There’s a barrier. Need I say more? Most couples don’t like the feeling, and thus there’s always the temptation, “let’s just not use it this time”. That’s how people become parents!
Many people use a combination of condoms and natural family planning. You only use the condoms in the week around ovulation, and you use nothing other than that. For many, this works well. This is normally called the Fertility Awareness Method (or FAM).
A hormone mixture that you take everyday, at the same time, to stop your body from ovulating.
UPDATE: On Facebook people have noted that I’ve left out the other hormone methods, such as The Ring (inserted into the vagina and left in place for three weeks) or the needle. These methods may be preferable if you’re going to use a hormonal method, since they don’t require remembering to take a pill. But the Pros and Cons are pretty much the same, because they’re based on the same thing: preventing ovulation.
Pros: Your period is lighter. Your acne is better. Cramps are almost eliminated. You are regular, and always know when your period will come (and you can even manipulate it a bit so that you can avoid your period by a day or two if you need to). If taken everyday, it’s almost 100% effective.
Cons: There is some controversy about whether the pill really prevents ovulation or whether it prevents implantation (in other words, conception occurs, but then a miscarriage happens). You can gain weight. There may be a link to breast cancer, but this isn’t clear (it’s more likely that those who have fewer children and fewer months breast feeding have a higher chance of breast cancer, and those on the pill likely have fewer children). You are taking a hormone, and many women are uncomfortable with that.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for our discussion, in many women the hormone makes you really moody and kills libido, which sort of defeats the purpose. Many of my emailers reported being on the Pill and having to get off of it because they had no sex drive, but then they didn’t know what to use.
An IUD is a device implanted in the cervix to prevent pregnancy. I DO NOT recomment it at all because much research shows that it does not prevent conception. It just prevents implantation.
The diaphragm is a barrier inserted over the cervix before intercourse. It isn’t as widely used anymore, but if you’re comfortable inserting it, you can try it.
Pros: If inserted correctly, it is fairly effective and does not provide a barrier the way a condom does.
Cons: You have to be fitted for it, so you can’t just buy it over the counter at the drug store. You have to be confident to insert it and to take it out. If you’re at all squeamish about this, don’t use it, because you’re unlikely to position it correctly. It also is more awkward to insert, and so this makes it less likely that you will use it, if you start making love in a heat of passion rather than just “let’s get it on tonight”.
If you’re sure you aren’t going to want any more children, many men go through with a vasectomy (or, in some cases, women get their tubes tied, although this is a far more invasive procedure).
Pros: Almost 100% effective. You never have to think about birth control again. You can be completely spontaneous.
Cons: How do you really know you don’t want any more kids? Often parents think this, but then five years later change their minds. Reversals rarely work. You don’t know what’s coming down the pipeline in your life. Choosing something permanent could easily lead to a lot of regret.
Nothing is perfect. No matter what method you choose, if you don’t stick to it 100%, it will have a failure rate. So try to think about how you are most likely to fail. Are you more likely to agree to sex without a condom because you don’t like the feeling of condoms, or are you more likely to forget a pill?
Above all, realize that sex was created partly to make children. As much as you can, come to terms with the fact that no matter what method you choose, it will never be 100% effective. So many women become scared of sex because they’re scared of getting pregnant again. You need to let this go and give it over to God. If God wants you to have a baby, He’s going to help you be a great mom. Your life will not be over if you have another baby. If you want to try to prevent it, fine, but you must come to peace with the fact that you could become a mom again, and that’s okay. If we could get over this fear, perhaps we wouldn’t have such problems with birth control!
So tell me, what have you tried? What has worked well for you? What hasn’t worked well? Let’s talk!
Now, what advice do you have for us today? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!