In our fortnightly column ‘Great Sexpectations’ the Woman Alive panel answer your questions on sex, faith and intimacy. Drop us a confidential email on firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us anything. Here, we tackle; choosing contraception methods as a Christian.
Thank you so much for asking this question, and congratulations on your engagement! I thought I knew the answer, (all contraception is fine, unless you are a Catholic and then you can’t use any…) until I did some research, and what I found was really interesting! For example, what I did not realise is that some forms of contraception, the intrauterine device (IUD) and occasionally the pill, can be abortive. That means they destroy the fertilized egg, instead of simply stopping the sperm getting to the egg.
The IUD works by thickening cervical mucus to make it hard for sperm to enter the cervix, or by preventing the fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus. Abortion is a different matter to discuss, but as a Christian, if I was using an IUD or the pill, I would want to choose non-abortive varieties.
I did not realise is that some forms of contraception, the intrauterine device (IUD) and occasionally the pill, can be abortive.
As I know Catholics do not believe in contraception, I wanted to know why. So I asked Father Ed Tomlinson from St Anselm’s Catholic Church in Kent. He is married with three children (having been an Anglican minister previously). He said: "The Catholic Church is against artificial contraception (condoms etc) but not natural contraception, for example the Billings Ovulation Method, [NB The Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning is a more modern standardized modification of the Billings Ovulation] which is based on careful observation of mucus patterns during your menstrual cycle. The reason is that marriage must be open not closed to life. Children are a blessing from God not an unwanted inconvenience. There needs to be a chance for God to bless the union with a child which cannot happen if artificial contraception is used."
He went on say: "I would add that until very recently all Christians agreed on this point. Then came the sexual revolution… the short term effect was good for boomers - they got rich with less mouths to feed. It’s now devastating for their grandchildren whose tax yield is massive to provide for elderly populace not able to work. Africa will be even worse as they won’t be able to rely on immigration to plug the gaps."
It seems to me that contraception as a Christian may be more about what we believe about our "right" to choose how many children we have and when.
It is true that until the 1930s, the Catholic and Anglican Church were on the same page in opposing contraception. But at the 1930 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Church passed a resolution in favour of birth control. It was the mass production and availability of rubber condoms and diaphragms in the 1920s and 1930s, made possible by the 1839 invention of vulcanized rubber, which eventually forced the Church to take a public position on specific contraceptives.
With all this information, I think it is something you need to work out with your soon-to-be husband, and decide what you have peace with. There are many options of contraception, which your GP can go into – info is available here.
It seems to me that contraception as a Christian may be more about what we believe about our "right" to choose how many children we have and when. We have power to control so much in our lives, I wonder if contraception as a Christian is an opportunity to step out in faith, and leave it in God’s hands? Bless you in your own research and may you find peace with your final decision.
Our Great Sexpectations column is written by a number of different contributors who make up the Woman Alive panel.