Use of Contraceptives in Marriage

As you've discovered, the question of birth control can be a touchy and controversial subject, especially within the Christian community. We realize that believers from different faith backgrounds have drawn very different conclusions in this area, and as a non-denominational family outreach we don't feel it's our place to force our opinions on anyone. But since you've asked, we'll respond by outlining some of the basic philosophical principles on which our ministry is based and explaining how these principles impact our views on contraception.

Focus on the Family holds that all human life is sacred, and that life begins with fertilizationthe union of sperm and egg. We don't believe that it's wrong to prevent fertilization, but we oppose any method of so-called "birth control" that functions as an abortifacientthat is to say, any method that acts after fertilization to end a human life by preventing implantation in the womb. Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) fall into this category.

Birth control pills have become controversial because some of them are believed to function as abortifacients on some occasions. This is a complex matter, partly because there are many different formulations of oral contraceptives. At present it appears that birth control pills containing only progesterone do not reliably prevent ovulation. A similar mechanism of action may be at work in implantable contraceptive Nexplanon. Progesterone-only pills may allow fertilization to occur, with a greater chance that the pregnancy will be ectopic (outside the uterus). If this is the case, we have to conclude that such pills are problematic for those who believe that life begins at fertilization. For this reason, Focus on the Family recommends against the use of these pills.

The most commonly prescribed oral contraceptives contain both estrogen and progesterone. These, and Depo-Provera injections, appear to work primarily by suppressing ovulation, in which case they can be regarded as true contraceptives, since they function by preventing the union of sperm and egg. The majority of physicians with whom we have consulted do not believe that these pills or Depo-Provera have an abortifacient effect. A minority, however, feel that this possibility does exist and that women should be informed about it.

Some couples, wanting to avoid any concerns about the abortifacient nature of certain contraceptives, choose to use a barrier method, like condoms or diaphragms, or a timing method of birth control (sometimes referred to as Natural Family Planning). Of course, either of these will require more planning, preparation, and forethought than other methods.

Where the question of vasectomy or tubal ligation is concerned, we prefer to leave these matters to individual judgment. For obvious reasons, the Bible is absolutely silent on these procedures. In these areas, then, we can only advise that husbands and wives earnestly seek the Lord's guidance and then accept His leadership. We would simply point out that there is a strong chance that the effects of these procedures would be permanent since reversal is not always possible. This could be a question of serious concern to Christian couples who feel strongly about the importance of staying "open to life."

On the whole, we would suggest that contraception is an issue that should be approached with generous amounts of prayer and plenty of wise counsel from friends, parents, older adults, pastors, and trusted medical professionals. It's important to make decisions in this area with the help of as much information and insight into every aspect of the subject as possible.

If you have further questions, don't hesitate to give our Counseling department a call. Focus on the Family's counselors would be happy to discuss your concerns with you over the phone. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists in your area.

Resources
The First Five Years of Marriage: Launching a Lifelong, Successful Relationship

Articles and Position Statements
Can Christians Use Birth Control

Birth Control Pills and Other Hormonal Contraception

This information has been approved by the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family.