How can we have a healthy sex life if I'm scared of getting pregnant? Some thoughts on finding the win-win!

What do you do when you’re scared of getting pregnant, hate hormonal birth control, but then you avoid sex?

Reader Question: We can't agree on birth control, so I'm scared of sex!Every Monday I like to try to answer a reader question. Today I have the same question from two readers who are both scared of pregnancy. One woman writes:

I read many Christian blogs encouraging frequent sex between man and wife. I believe it to be helpful to a marriage. But what do other couples do when they don’t want to use contraceptives but are feeling insecure about having more children? My husband and I were not on the same page for a long time about having more children. That definitely affected our sex life. It is Biblical to have frequent sex so then should we just expect to have 20 children?

Another woman writes:

I follow and love your blog, but this is a topic I have either missed you addressing, or perhaps you haven’t addressed it. I am happily married for 16.5 years. We have 8 beautiful children, whom I stay at home with and homeschool. I feel complete in our family size, for many reasons. My husband says he does, also. However, we cannot find a birth control we agree on. We have failed at NFP/FAM both times we tried to use it. We hate how condoms interfere with intimacy, and we don’t want to do anything hormonal. I am leaning towards something permanent, but my husband is not on board there, either. Because of us not being able to agree/decide on a reliable form of birth control, I am fearful of pregnancy, and my attitude toward sex with my husband is suffering.

I’d love any advice on how to overcome this speed bump in our marriage. The simple answer would obviously be “get on the same page”. But what do we do when that’s not happening? Maybe I’m just looking for reassurance that I’m not the only one who has felt this way.

You’re definitely not the only one who has felt this way!

So how does a couple come to an agreement in this tricky situation?

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentIn 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I shared the concept that quite often in marriage we think of conflict as a win-lose thing. I told of three different stories–including one of my own–where we get into these endless arguments trying to come out on top.

For instance, quite a few years ago, when my girls were little, I was homeschooling them and Keith had a busy pediatric practice. He wanted one night a week to himself, to get together with some local guys and play battle scenarios with miniature soldiers (think that sounds geeky? You have no idea!). But I was starting to get writing assignments, and I needed time to write.

Keith was genuinely burned out. He had life and death decisions constantly. He needed time to decompress.

I genuinely needed time to use my own giftings.

How were we going to solve that one? It didn’t seem like both of us could win; there were only so many hours in a week.

But eventually Keith (it’s usually Keith who is the smart one when we’re in conflict) realized we were being ridiculous. We were fighting over time, but there were other ways to get more time. And Keith ended up cutting back his practice half a day a week to give me an afternoon to myself, when he took the girls. It was great.

We found a win-win.

In most conflicts,  you can find a win-win–or at least find a solution that you’re both happy with.

But this birth control one is a tricky one, because it really seems as if there are only two options: either he gets sex and she gets pregnant; or he gets no sex and she doesn’t get pregnant. In both scenarios, one wins and one loses.

Find the win-win instead

So how do we get out of this win-lose dichotomy?

Instead of focusing on who can make the better argument, ask: what do I need here?

What is your underlying need? Both of you speak it out loud. It’s best if you even write it down! And you may have several.

She might write:

  • I want to feel confident that I won’t get pregnant
  • I feel uncomfortable with hormonal birth control methods
  • I want to feel close to my husband

And he might write:

  • I want a fulfilling sex life with my wife
  • I feel uncomfortable with condoms

As soon as you write your needs down, you’re now in problem solving mode.

And problem solving mode is much better than fighting mode.

Give each need the God “sniff test”

Here’s another thing I bring up in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: not all needs are legitimate.

I once had a reader write because her husband was a pastor who had been involved in porn ten years prior. He had gotten clean, but over the last year some typical behaviours had started again–he was secretive; he was becoming more selfish; he was becoming more verbally cutting.

She asked him if he was using porn, and he said, “I need trust in a marriage. You’re violating the marriage covenant by not giving me something I need.” And he refused to let her see his computer.

Some needs are illegitimate, and are actually covers for sin.

Let’s take a look at these needs. The one that stands out to me is “I want to feel confident I won’t get pregnant.”

I completely understand that feeling. I really do. But no matter what birth control method you use (short of sterilization), there is always a risk. And our futures are in God’s hands, not ours. Whatever we do for birth control, we have to realize that “I may have another baby in my future.” That’s God’s prerogative. And if you do get pregnant, God will be there to give you strength and help you love that baby and mother that baby.

To not have sex because you don’t want to get pregnant is really saying, “I don’t trust God.” It’s a spiritual issue far more than it is a marriage issue. And that’s dangerous.

I’m not saying she’s wrong for not wanting more children; I’m just saying that we should never presume upon God. And ultimately this question is much easier to work out if we’re able to trust God and say, “I’ll do my best, but I know that  you hold my future, and whatever happens, I’ll be okay because you will carry me.

Let’s Problem Solve Together!

Now let’s problem solve together. She doesn’t want to use hormonal birth control, and likely for good reason. The women in my direct line react badly to it. We gain 10 pounds in the first month–and keep ballooning up to about 40 pounds heavier, even if it’s a low progesterone dose (trust me; I’ve had several family members, including myself, go on low doses not for birth control but to regulate periods. It’s been a disaster). We get totally grumpy. We lose our libido. I even get blood clots!

And some people have similar reactions to the IUD. For most, though, the IUD has far fewer side effects that the Pill. However, there is controversy over whether it prevents conception or just prevents implantation.

So let’s take the hormonal out of the way. That leaves:

  • Condoms
  • Diaphragms
  • Natural Family Planning

J from Hot, Holy and Humorous swears by her diaphragm! You can put it in early in the day; nobody feels it at all during intercourse; and it’s super effective. Not to share TMI, but I can’t use one. I’m just really queasy about that sort of stuff (which is ironic considering what I do for a living). But if you’re NOT queasy, it sounds awesome.

Let’s Talk Condoms and Natural Family Planning

If a diaphragm isn’t in the cards for you, what about a combination of other methods? With natural family planning you chart your cycles so that  you know when you ovulate. Then, about 4 days before ovulation and 3 days afterwards (that’s actually a REALLY long window, but I’m trying to be super careful here) you avoid intercourse or you use a barrier method.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 20th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive HealthRemember: You cannot get pregnant when you’re not around ovulation! Seriously, that little sperm needs an egg. No egg, no pregnancy. And eggs are only viable for a few days, as are sperm. So in the week right after your period (or at least in the first five days), you’re usually good to go! And then after ovulation until your period–green light, too!

I really understand being nervous about this. I have a 20-year-old daughter who just got married who is still in school. Believe me–we all get it! We really do. But one of your needs is feeling close to your husband, and one of his needs is feeling close to you through a fulfilling sex life. You owe it to yourself to educate yourself about fertility. The more we understand, the less scared we will be. Learn the science behind it! The best book for that that is recommended everytime I talk about this is Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

How Do I Get Over Being Scared to get Pregnant?

Knowledge + Trust in God = A fun sex life!

You need both elements. If you’re ultimately scared that a pregnancy would be a disaster, and think that “disaster factor” makes it more likely, since God always gives you what you’re most scared of, it won’t matter how much you educate yourself. Your problem is a spiritual one.

But if you really aren’t educated, then you’ll think that you can get pregnant ALL THE TIME–which honestly is not true.

When you have both elements, it’s easier to sit down with your husband and say something like,

Look, we each want a great sex life. But during these days we’re just going to have to use condoms. It won’t be so bad, though, because it means that on other days we don’t have to! So it’s only a sacrifice for part of the month. And this way we’ll be able to feel close and have fun again. And with me understanding my body, it will help me understand my libido and pay attention more, too!

So often we ignore our bodies, and miss out on our libido surges. When you’re tracking, you pay attention. I’ve got a series on understanding how our hormones affect libido, too.

You can find a win-win, even in this seemingly impossible situation.

But you’ve got to let God into the equation. And as you do more research, you just may find that you’re more excited about sex because you understand your own body better.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentDo you and your husband go around and around with the same issue, never resolving it? Maybe it’s whether to homeschool. Whether to move. Whether to buy a house. It seems like only one person can win. But what if you just need to look at the situation differently? In 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, Thought #7 gives a detailed plan to find a win-win. I hope it helps you resolve that longstanding conflict, too!

Now let me know in the comments: How have you dealt with the fear of pregnancy?

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