A Christian Guide to Choosing a Birth Control Method
There are some groups of Christians, such as the Quiverfull movement , who are opposed to the use of birth control.
I’m not a member in any of those groups.
I’m in the group that advocates the use of birth control in a monogamous marriage, whereby both partners have prayerfully considered the chosen method and agree that it is God honoring, obedient to His call for their marriage, and respectful of human life.
As a mom of 3 boys, I can tell you that children are indeed a blessing. However, they are not the only blessing in my life. Hence, the use of birth control. After talking with many of my friends about this subject, I can tell you that it is a common dilemma to grapple with the decision of a chosen method of birth control.
Therefore, this isn’t a post about whether Christians should or should not use birth control. Rather, this post seeks to explain how various birth control options work and the ethical dilemmas involved in using them.
I’m hopeful that the information provided will help you to make an educated decision about what is best for your family.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me warn you that what you are about to read is intended for mature audiences only.
Types of Birth Control
Abstinence: While this is the only guaranteed method to prevent pregnancy, Paul warns against this. We’re told in I Corinthians 7:5, “Do not deny eachother except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” So, we’ll consider this one a no-go.
Withdrawal: The man removes his penis from the vagina prior to ejaculation, reducing the chances of semen/sperm reaching the uterus. No potential dilemmas here, other than the fact that it isn’t particularly accurate.
Natural Family Planning: Without the use of drugs or any devices, a woman is able to determine when she is ovulating based on her basal body temperature and cervical mucus. The couple refrains from sex during ovulation, thereby preventing pregnancy. I know many people who have used this method to get pregnant as well as to avoid pregnancy. Thumbs up if you have a regular cycle, are able to abstain during ovulation, and are organized and responsible enough to keep track of it all.
Barrier methods: Options include the male condom, female condom, contraception sponge, diaphragm, cervical cap, or spermicide. These methods either prevent sperm from entering the uterus or kill sperm before they enter the uterus. Another win, but most couples are more concerned with the interruption and/or lack of spontaneity involved in these methods.
Permanent Measures: When a man has a vasectomy, the vasa deferentia are severed to prevent sperm from entering the seminal stream. When a woman has a tubal ligation, her fallopian tubes are clamped or blocked to prevent an egg from reaching the uterus for fertilization. I don’t see any ethical dilemmas here if you have already had children, have responded to God’s call for procreation in some way, or have a medically necessary reason.
Intrauterine Device (IUD): Both the Copper IUD and the Hormonal IUD create changes in the cervical mucus and the uterus that kill sperm. Secondarily, it also creates changes in the lining of the uterus, preventing implantation should fertilization occur.
Hormonal Methods: These methods include The Pill, vaginal ring, birth control patch or injection.
According to the American Pregnancy Organization, hormonal methods prevent pregnancy via one of three ways:
- First, it prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation)
- Second, it thickens the cervical mucus, acting as a barrier in preventing the sperm from reaching the egg
- Third, it makes the lining of the uterus thinner, making it more difficult for a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus should ovulation occur and fertilization take place
Last week, Eric McClellan offered an insightful post about embryonic stem cell research. What followed was an educational discussion about when life begins. In the vein of full disclosure, let me share that I do indeed believe that when a sperm and an egg meet (an egg is fertilized), so begins human life at conception. Others believe that life does not begin until the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus (which occurs about one week after conception).
If you agree with me that life begins at conception, then both the IUD and the hormonal methods are cause for concern. There is a possibility that a fertilized egg, a very early human life, may be prevented from implanting into the uterus and therefore resulting in a miscarriage.
In his book Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?, Randy Alcorn says, “If implantation is unsuccessful, the child is flushed out of the womb in a miscarriage. When the miscarriage is the result of an environment created by a foreign device or chemical, it is in fact an abortion. This is true even if the mother does not intend it, and is not aware of it happening.”
Conversely, the Christian Medical and Dental Association has this to say, “The issue at hand, however, is whether or not hormonal birth control methods have post-fertilization effects (i.e., cause abortion). CMDA has consulted many experts in the field of reproduction who have reviewed the scientific literature. While there are data that cause concern, our current scientific knowledge does not establish a definitive causal link between the routine use of hormonal birth control and abortion. However, neither are there data to deny a post-fertilization effect.”
In this sense, you can see that there are differing views on the subject and prayerful consideration should be given to these methods of birth control.
How do we choose?
Any couple will tell you that this a difficult decision. Take heart in the fact that God grants wisdom to those who seek it. If you are unsure as to what form of birth control is best for your situation, I encourage you to do some research, talk it over with people you trust (friends, pastor, your doctor), and most importantly ask God! He has created sexuality for procreation as well as for pleasure. If you are married, you should enjoy the gift of intimacy with your spouse to the fullest extent possible, and that might involve using birth control.
Were you surprised by any of this information? Which method(s) do you consider most ethically sound? Do you see any ethical dilemmas that weren’t mentioned?
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