Our Journey with Contraceptives and Birth Control {Part 1}

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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 your 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.

Most of what I knew about contraceptives, birth control before marriage consisted of "pop a pill/get an injection" Here's what I have learned in 8 years

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.

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. Get all the tipsClick to Tweet

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.

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.

Our journey with contraceptives and birth control; lessons from 8 years of marriage

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

  • Barriers 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

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 methods

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. Contraceptives and birth control – work on 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 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?

~

Are you wrestling with the overwhelm of new marriage and desperate for a step by step guide on how to end the confusion, fussing and misunderstandings? Want healing and happiness in your marriage? Or maybe you just want to understand marriage so you can love better, create the relationship of your dreams, God’s way. My book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years can help! Pick it up here Amazon Paperback I Amazon Kindle I Barnes & Noble I PDF

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Linking with Messy Marriage

23 Comments

  1. Goodness! Such a wealth of information – both this article and the rest of the blog! How I wish I’d had even a small portion of it when I was getting married… Alas, it was not the case. Ignorance is NOT bliss. It can kill…
    I love your godly perspective and transparent sharing, Ngina. You’re the big sister and mentor I never had and wish, oh how I WISH I’d had.
    GOD bless you and this much needed ministry.

    1. Aww 🙂 Thank you for your sweet encouragement! “ignorance is not bliss” Couldn’t agree more!!

  2. Fasunloye Tolulope says:

    This has really helped me to be conscious of this aspect in marriage as I plan my wedding with no clue of this before. My wedding is less than 3 weeks. This is a new world to me, scared a lil bit.

    1. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding, Fasunloye! I know theres a lot of info in these posts and it can feel overwhelming if you hadn’t considered it earlier. but please don’t be scared! I would try look at it as “now I have more information to help us make better decisions!” If you have specific questions you can always contact me through email ( my contact form). I have prayed for you!

  3. Kathryn Prelock says:

    Nina, I was on birth control at the beginning of my marriage, due to advice similar to yours from Christian friends, family, and gynaecologists. However, as my husband and I looked into hormonal contraception, and found some real concerns. Most hormonal birth control is three fold, which you mentioned: blocking ovulation, thickening cervical fluid, and thickening the uterine walls. The first two stop conception. The third simply blocks proper implantation after conception, which, if one believes in a biblical view of life at conception, then that third purpose would be abortive. And most documentation states doctors don’t actually know which way pregnancy is being blocked. There’s often no way to really tell on a monthly basis. So every month, you take the risk of conceiving and then killing that embryo (that baby). And that makes it seem so much more serious.
    When we came off the pill, we miscarried, and then had 4 years of infertility, which is becoming WAY more common. I was shocked, since before birth control, I’d been like clockwork, and now was a wreck. I didn’t think about the fact that I was messing with my hormones– making my body adjust to things it never had before. Culturally, we are slow to recommend hormone replacement therapy, avoid GMOs, and value organic natural foods, but start 13 year old girls on a daily chemical pill without a blink. It’s really quite inconsistent.
    I know I’m in a minority for feeling so strongly against hormonal birth control, but if you (or anyone else reading) would be interested in more information, Randy Alcorn has compiled quite a bit of well-sourced information on the subject. Please check it out.

    http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Feb/17/short-condensation-does-birth-control-pill-cause-a/

    1. This blows my mind – “Culturally, we are slow to recommend hormone replacement therapy, avoid
      GMOs, and value organic natural foods, but start 13 year old girls on a
      daily chemical pill without a blink” Wow. Definitely something wrong!

      I heard about the uncertainly on how conception is avoided..the widely accepted (talked about) thought is the first two ways you described, the third way is played down. Certainly food for thought for anyone who believes life starts at conception. Thank you for sharing the link. I will check it out shortly.

  4. Thank you!! As you said, I invite readers to do their own research and not necessarily take the word of their doctor. At least my OB/GYN had no idea how hormonal birth control actually worked. She wanted to put me on the mini pill while breastfeeding my first baby, and I asked about whether it could interfere with implantation, since I too had just started researching it and was bothered by the potential abortifact possibility. She told me the mini pill doesn’t work that way. I looked up the official packet information, which directly contradicted her. More research revealed abortion actually was MORE common with the progestin-only pill than the combined pill. My doctor was wrong.

    I also asked about Natural Family Planning, which she told me doesn’t work. To her chagrin, I’ve been using the Fertility Awareness Method since my first was born and we have had NO pregnancy “scares” and conceived within two cycles of trying for all three of my kids following (although I miscarried this last time). I guess NFP doesn’t work for everyone, but it has been AMAZING for us. The more I learn about fertility the more BLOWN AWAY I am by God’s goodness and creative design. The female body is AMAZING. NFP has done amazing things for my body image as a result. I am indeed wonderfully made!

    1. Karen, I’ve had similar experiences with Gynecologists – they don’t have a lot of faith in Natural methods! And it is sad when a health practitioner fails to supply proper information. Good for you for digging in and doing your own research! You are right, it is AMAZING when it works for a couple..just AMAZING!! Thanks for sharing your story ( I am sorry about the loss of your baby 🙁 )

  5. I really enjoyed reading the article 🙂 my husband and I use barrier methods and are starting on natural rhythm birth control. We decided to stop the pill when we learned it prevented a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall. We believe life starts at fertilization, so we didn’t feel right about aborting a baby even that early. Right now we’re trying for our third. God has blessed us with two beautiful little girls already and we are loving life with them!

    1. Thank you, Danielle! I am really impressed by the number of couples who have left/considering leaving hormonal methods. In the end its about heading to Gods conviction! I am happy to read your journey and Gods perfect blessings in your little ones. Thank you for sharing!

  6. thelawoflove says:

    Love this! I encouraged two of my married friends to start using the calendar method 🙂 One was just using male condoms every single time and one was on the pill. My husband and I use the calendar method and condoms when I am close to being fertile or am fertile. My friends were amazed that sometimes we used condoms and sometimes we did not! God is good. Our God is all about order! There is a time for everything, a time to get pregnant and a time to not 🙂

    1. Indeed, there’s a time and season for everything! Wow, just excited to read your story! Indeed He is about order! All it takes is faith in HIS way for us. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Alicia Wiemeyer San Nicolas says:

    Great article! I especially like your second point. As a couple starts life together, learning about each other should include our physical bodies and health. I’ve tried to educate my own husband on what it’s like to physically be a woman, especially the physical part of periods, hormones, and pregnancy. But I also need to know how his body operates as well. Our physical strengths and weaknesses can influence our marriages.

    Hopefully not to much TMI sharing this, but we have used spermicide as our birth control method during the times we’ve tried to not conceive. The advantage is that it is not physically felt at all during sex. The disadvantage is that even when used there is a 1 in 5 chance of getting pregnant. Sure enough, after we were done having children, our fourth child showed up unplanned! And he is a blessing for certain, not just to us as parents but to his sister and two brothers.

    1. Alicia, thank you for your insights! Many wives don’t take time to educate their husbands on their bodies as well as take time to learn their man, which is unfortunate. It’s not an easy discussion, mostly because womens lives are cyclical and it can feel tiring keeping him in the loop about everything. But its so worth it! I’ll be talking about it in part #2, thank you for confirming the things I’ve been thinking about!

      Spermicide – Not TMI at all! It looks like many couples are using it. I did not know that part about not feeling it during love making. The “failure” rate though…lol! But I am glad that children are a blessing, regardless!

  8. Kyara Hall says:

    Love love love this!

    I have always felt a little off about this topic because it is not discussed in Christian circle! I always felt at peace that my husband and I do family planning and rely on the nudging of God when the time is right. Thank you for this! I love your articles, always transparent and right on time!!

    1. I am so glad the post was helpful Kyara! We believe just like you and your husband, that choice and reliance on God work together! Thank you for your sweet encouragement!

  9. Love this wording: “tender mix.”
    If only we brought that mindset to every area of life, recognizing God’s sovereignty and taking responsibility where the choice is ours.

  10. We are using the diaphram. Love it. I keep it right by my bed and now that I have the hang of it, it only takes 30 seconds to put it in. If I know we are planning on being romatic, I can put it in earlier as long as it is only a few hours ahead. If we want to have a second intimate act I just add more spermicide.

    I feel it is much less of a hassle than natural planning and is not invasive with no side effects. Easy peasy!

    1. Sounds like a fantastic choice for you guys! I’ve heard good things about the diagram and when were transitioning wanted to check it out..but i have a problem with even the smallest tampons (TMI? lol) 🙂 Definitely you’ve given me food for thought!

  11. Completely agree. I tried the pill at first, too, but it made me extremely depressed and anxious. As someone who already struggles with both, I did NOT need the extra dose of it!

    I honestly don’t see any down-side to the natural method with extra protection during fertile periods except for the increased period discomfort. But for me, even though I’m bed-ridden for about 48 hours every month (maybe TMI?), it is SO preferable to the emotional and psychological pain I had on the pill. Plus, then when you decide it’s time for kids, you know your body so well that it’s easier to successfully get pregnant.

    I’ve had a few friends who were newlyweds and started the pill just a week before their wedding and suddenly they were always depressed–and attributed it to their marriages! But then when they got off the pill, things start to get better… So whenever my engaged friends ask what they should do, I generally let them know that if they want to use the pill, start a few months before the wedding. Give your body time to adjust!

    Like you said, there isn’t a right or wrong answer–it’s about what works for the couple.

    Great post–and so important to talk about!

    1. Thanks so much for your adding your thoughts Rebecca! Sounds like we have a similar experience, though we took much longer to make up our minds to get off the pill. Good for you guys!

      Certainly not TMI! lol. My first day is typically crazy as well, but I’ve found chamomille/ginger tea works miracles! Still have to be on painkillers, but not as much as before!

      Love the tips to your engaged friends. I think my marriage FELT harder at the beginning because of fragile emotions 🙁 Small things became insurmountable!
      So important to expect these changes and decide if they are worth it!

      Ps. ION..i left a comment on your IG and then later realized your update may have been tongue in cheek and i completely missed the joke! lol. SO i deleted it!

      1. I’ll have to try the tea trick then, for sure! I love chamomile and ginger teas already, so that’s a great excuse to buy more 🙂

        And no problem about the comment–as a rule my stuff is usually pretty tongue-in-cheek so don’t worry at all about it! 🙂 haha!

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