If you are like me, most of what you knew about contraceptives, birth control and family planning before marriage consisted of “pop a pill/get an injection to prevent pregnancy on my wedding night!“
Perhaps you are the bride who did get pregnant on her wedding night.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. But you conceived not because you planned for it, but because you had no idea you needed to do something to postpone pregnancy.
Before we start, let me clarify that yes, I believe God is sovereign over all of marriage, including our fertility.
He can interrupt our methods and redirect our lives, no doubt. Contraceptive pills or plans don’t (or shouldn’t) carry the day, the will of God does!
That said, I also believe God allows couples to have a say as to when they want to start a family; the reason a woman is only fertile one day out of the entire month!
Birth control/family planning is a tender mix of personal choice and God’s creative design.
He blessed our intellect and ability to discern and plan, and He’s not upset when we exercise that power of choice, based on our preparedness and readiness to “train up a child.” (Proverbs 2:26)
What does this all mean? It means if we want to postpone pregnancy, we must consider a form of birth control/family planning. The exact method is often the cause for many a debate.
In this post (and the next) I will share our journey and experience and hope it inspires and offer a little insight and clarity for your own.
It is my desire to help you understand how God is involved in all of marriage, and how we can grow and change over the years.
I don’t consider myself an “authority” in this area of contraceptives or family planning but I believe in the power of personal stories; I hope mine makes a difference today.
Just so we are on the same page, here are my working definitions for birth control, family planning and contraceptives, from faithful Google.
- Birth control – the act of preventing pregnancy.
- Family planning – the practice of controlling the number of children in a family and the intervals between their births.
- Contraceptives or contraception – the deliberate use of artificial methods or other techniques to prevent pregnancy as a consequence of sexual intercourse.
So here it is,
Our journey with birth control and contraceptives
As I mentioned earlier, I had limited knowledge of birth control and contraceptives before marriage. But once we started premarital counseling, my interest grew.
During premarital, our pastor and marriage mentor took a direct approach and strongly recommended natural methods over artificial methods.
While his advice made a lot of sense, I was super nervous about using natural means of birth control because my periods were irregular and I had no idea how to track fertility.
Aaand as newlyweds-to-be, we were looking forward to having lots of sex! The thought of abstaining during the fertile season was not so great.
Also, natural birth control sounded like a lot of work, and from what I heard from others, more of a miss than a hit. I was already uptight about the wedding night and was not excited about adding another spanner into the works.
My fiancé-now-husband and I wanted to wait two years before trying to have children (unless God over-rode our plan) and based on my concerns and the desire to have a little more certainty we decided to use a more precise method to prevent conception.
So we made an appointment with a gynecologist and of all the methods discussed chose the pill.
I started the combined oral pill (made up of two synthetic hormones progestogen and estrogen) three months before the wedding.
I commenced on the first day of my periods, as per my doctor’s recommendation…and my periods tapered off almost immediately – and I was a 5-6 day girl!
I was extremely nauseous and within days began to experience depressed moods. And food cravings. My chest grew by a cup size or about. My gynecologist had warned me about the side-effects as my body adjusted, so I waited it out.
It took weeks for the reactions to level out. And while nausea disappeared and other symptoms lessened in severity, some effects remained, albeit less harsh. (My husband was not complaining about the increased cup size though!)
In spite of the niggling side-effects, we felt it was the best fit outside natural birth control. My plate felt full (maybe due to hormonal overload!) and I did not feel confident enough to explore other methods. Plus other hormonal methods looked worse.
However, many-miles-in-marriage later, we did come off the pill and currently use a less invasive/more natural method.
Here are a few things I have learned over the last eight years about birth control and contraceptives, including my reasons for going natural.
1. It is important to find peace with your preferred method
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him – Psalm 127:3
For most couples, this verse is a beautiful promise which brings peace and joy to their hearts. Early in marriage, it had the opposite effect.
I interpreted it as “God will spring a child on us, and there’s nothing we can do about it; I better do my part to decrease the chance of that happening” As if you can outsmart God! Lol.
Honestly, I did not understand the “gift” and “reward” part. That should God override our plans; He was also big enough to make it a gift and reward, not a pain or burden.
It took a while, but eventually I began to respond to Gods gentle nudging. By that time we had just finished a massive relocation; it was the perfect time to learn how to operate from peace and how to invite God into intimate decisions without feeling condemned or afraid.
Trusting God doesn’t mean you don’t do anything to avoid pregnancy if you aren’t planning on it yet. It just means inviting God into that process and understanding that our methods are not a “protection,” rather God is in control.
While I was researching for birth control and family planning methods later in marriage, I appreciated detailed articles on the various methods available.
I’ll provide some details in this post too in case someone else needs the information like I did.
Hormonal family planning
These methods work primarily through preventing ovulation or the release of the egg from the ovary.
They also cause a thickening of the cervical mucus making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. They may change the uterine wall making implantation of a fertilized egg difficult.
These methods include the oral contraceptive pill, implants, patches, shots, or a device inserted in the uterus (IUD).
Personally, one of the biggest pluses I observed with the pill, was the ease of use. The only thing I had to do was pop a tiny tablet every day, same time for 21 days, with a 7-day break to allow “menstruation.”
It was pretty convenient as we could make love without thinking about fertile days – because I had none! Another plus was knowing exactly when my periods were coming and planning anniversary getaways around them.
My cramping reduced and my periods became lighter. And while most women on the pill battle with weight gain it made it easier to control my weight.
But like I said earlier (and I am not sure if it is all hormonal methods) I struggled with emotional ups and downs.
I also had food cravings – especially carbohydrates! The hormones also interfered with my ability to think clearly, especially towards the end of the 21 days – not a good thing when you are a writer who needs her brain 24/7!
I would also become increasingly convicted about the chance that the pill was an abortifacient; if by chance we conceived, it would block the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. In other words, cause early stage abortion.
I was also uncomfortable with the potential links to cancer.
All these deliberations took a few years. Yeah, I am a slow processor. Eventually, we got off the pill and now use more natural methods. I use a fertility tracking phone App (called Glow) to track my signs, and we use condoms as back up.
Here are the rest of the methods
These birth control methods work primarily by blocking the sperm from entering the uterus. The methods include male and female condoms, diaphragms, cervical cap, spermicides.
Permanent methods involve sterilization for the man (Vasectomy) or the woman (Tubal Ligation). This is a permanent method, mostly considered by couples who do not want to have any more children.
Natural family planning does not use devices or drugs.
It mainly involves observing and recording a woman’s fertility indicators throughout the month and abstaining from sex if she’s trying to avoid conception or using a barrier method as a back-up.
There are different variations of natural planning, like Sympto-Thermal Method, the Ovulation Method, and the Billings Method.
This method is working beautifully for us. No synthetic hormones and accompanying side effects, no need to remember to take a pill, being totally in tune with my body and the huge plus of working together as a team (because natural won’t work unless your husband is on it!)
I won’t lie; it is not without hustles. You have to be on top of things, like tracking and charting fertility indicators (I use a phone App which makes it a breeze).
My cramping is more pronounced (all though I’ve learned the magic of herbal teas!) and the periods hang around much longer. Probably because they are real, not the “faux” bleeding from a pill.
That’s a quick run through on common contraceptive methods.
Here’s the deal – every method has its pros and cons. Some more severe than others of course. Right from the start, I found it important to do my research, to talk to peers, a mentor, and a doctor.
It’s important for couples to figure out what works for them. Don’t take up a method because it works for someone else.
Think through the decision as a couple. Some women should not use hormonal methods due to existing medical conditions like high blood pressure or hormonal imbalances that contribute to other conditions.
100% natural planning might not work for you if your husband has some trouble with it.
If you are currently uncomfortable with your mode of birth control / contraceptives I hope you understand that God wants to help you get to a peaceful place. Pray and ask Him to lead you. Research.
Remember that God is truly the head of marriage and any fruit thereof. Ask Him to convict both your hearts on the best method to use as a couple.
2. Do it together
Because we had amazing pre-marital counseling, I had a better grasp on the responsibility of a husband as pertains to family planning.
We understood well in advance, what we needed to talk about – how many babies, when they would happen, if we were open to adoption if we could not have biological children, what methods we would use until we were ready to start a family, past sexual history, HIV testing e.t.c.
Three months before the wedding, we visited the gynecologist together.
Tommy asked questions and listened. It was super awkward to hear my physical examination – there was only a thin wall separating the examination table from the general office (you don’t have to do that, he can wait at the reception).
In the end, these somewhat awkward moments prepared him to take responsibility for our fertility as a couple. He was involved right from the start, and it became easier to keep the involvement and conversation in marriage.
Many wives struggle to loop their guys into family planning/contraceptive/fertility discussion later in marriage because they left him out at the beginning.
She visited the gynecologist alone. They were vague about when to start a family. They avoided all talk about the wedding night and expectations. Sex remained a taboo subject.
Recently I heard a newlywed husband confess to secretly throwing out his bride’s contraceptive pills during their honeymoon. Sweet wife worried herself sick and spent a few frantic days looking for her pills.
Thankfully it seemed like they had worked through it by the time of the interview. She was also very pregnant.
While they were smiling and laughing about it, manipulation and going behind each others back to get what you want is not the way to start a marriage.
So if you are considering marriage, and many of you reading this are, treat family planning and birth control as a “we thing,” not a “woman’s thing.”
Draw him in early, especially if it seems like he wants to stay away. Have a decent discussion.
I am hoping your premarital counselor will bring it up but if it doesn’t come up try and make sure it’s clear that making and raising babies is not a woman’s responsibility.
He needs to be involved, and that means being there before those babies happen. If your wedding planning schedule is so intense that you cannot schedule a visit to an ob/gyn together; then sis you are too busy. Prioritize your marriage, not just a wedding.
Here are things you can do;
- After the engagement, begin to pray about contraception / family planning. Ask God to lead you.
- Plan a coffee date to talk about your expectations. Try and do individual research before hand (typically a woman will do more research) and then talk about the pros and cons.
- Talk with your mentor and a trusted peer. Gather all the info and counsel.
- Make an appointment to see a doctor/obgyn together.
- Whatever method you choose, be patient. There’s a learning curve/adjustment to every method.
- Realize you can change your methods down the road; you are not locked for life.
Join me next week as I continue with Part 2 of our journey! (Click here to read it!) Among other things, I’ll share tips on how to keep your husband in the loop, the challenges of natural family planning, how my husband and I have stayed on the same page and how my month looks like if you are interested in going natural!
Let me know what you think about today’s post. Anything insights I have missed? What can you add? What method do you use and what benefits/challenges have you observed?
Picked up my book yet? I wrote Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years for the newlywed and early-wed wife who longs for a great marriage but struggles to cultivate the important mindset necessary for a thriving marriage. If you are an imperfect girl married to an imperfect guy, this book is for you! Click here to find more information, including the purchase links.
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