What is the Difference?


My serious boyfriend is Catholic and I am Protestant. We are having a rough time speaking to the issue of using some form of Birth Control for the first 2 years or so of our marriage and then no type of Birth Control. My reason for desiring Birth Control is that we will both be Active Duty Military with him being gone for months at a time and me working 12-18 hour shifts. I feel it would be physically unhealthy for me to conceive and try to take care of a baby the way you are supposed to. I also feel it would be irresponsible for us not to use technology since he won't be around and that is not how families are to be. We want to do what is right but we are at an impasse. I can't see how NFP and other forms of Birth Control differ in the sense that they both are towards the same end -- try to NOT conceive and have a baby. Your intent is still the same.

If you have any thoughts on this it would be much appreciated.


Kelly A.


Dear Kelly,

Thanks for your email and your very important question. You and your boyfriend have some special challenges with your mixed religions and your both facing active military duty. My niece's husband is in the military and I know their times of separation are painful. They do have three beautiful children who seem to be doing pretty well. That's a great-uncle speaking, of course. :)

Your question (why use Natural Family Planning if it has the same intention as Birth Control) comes up often. Once I was giving a presentation together with a young physician and his wife. One of the participants asked, "Aren't natural and artificial methods just the same?"

The doctor replied, "If you really think so, why don't you try our method for five months?"

She thought, then said, "No, I couldn't do that. They are totally different."

On the panel was also a married couple who had used the Pill before switching to NFP. They mentioned these differences:

1. NFP (when used to avoid preganancy) involves some days of abstinence each menstrual cycle. While this first seems negative, they discovered a positive value. It became like a monthly renewal of engagement when they would express their affection by other means: holding hands, a hug, a walk together, a poem, a flower, etc. After that would come what was like a mini honeymoon. Thus NFP actually strengthened their affection.

2. It gave them greater confidence in each other. She knew that if he could exercise self-control during her fertile times, he was more likely to be able to do it when he was away from her. Also, when the wive is on the Pill, she is "available" to him at any time - but he also knows in the back of his mind that she is also potentially available to other men. Since the Pill was introduced in the 60's, infidelity has skyrocketed along with marital breakdown.

3. They are respecting the integrity of each others' bodies. Do you know any prescription - besides birth control - which is not aimed at helping the body to function normally? Birth control is not really medicine because it takes away a normal function of the body. The Pill, Depo Provera, Norplant, IUD, tubal ligation have one purpose - to render a young woman infertile.

4. Birth control can lead to what is called a "contraceptive mentality," that is, desiring such control that when a "failure" happens (only complete abstinence is 100% effective) the couple will more easily be tempted to abortion. A Guttmacher study showed that most of the women who obtained abortions were using birth control the previous month.

5. But even more serious, birth Control can involve not just preventing conception, but the destruction of tiny human lives. One of the mechanisms of chemical means is to weaken the endometrial lining of the uterus. If conception takes place the new human life cannot implant and thus dies and is expelled at the next menstruation. Birth control not only makes a couple more open to abortion, it is abortion. (The mechanisms I mentioned are no secret, altho doctors seldom explain them to their patients. For verification, check out the Planned Parenthood site's description of birth control methods.* See also: Blurring the Line)

6. Most important NFP does not destroy ones relationship with God. A Catholic who uses birth control is in an objective state of sin and is not eligible for communion until repenting and confessing the sin. To receive communion in that state does spiritual damage. (see I Cor 11:27ff) Up until very recently Protestants also considered birth control a serious sin. Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism called it "worse than adultery or incest" (Commentary on Genesis 38:10).

Now I don't want to give the idea that people who use birth control are hopelessly condemned. All of us are sinners and constantly need Jesus' forgiveness and grace. If we sincerely confess our sins - whatever they are, even adultery or child abuse - Jesus will forgive them and help us make a new start. But it's better not to get into a pattern of sin - which I hope you and your boyfriend will resolve to do as you begin your marriage.

One final word. Jesus says, "Do not be afraid." Do not be afraid to talk to your fiance about such a delicate subject. Do not be afraid of your fertility - it is a great gift. Do not be afraid of children. They may not come at the time you think is right, but they will come at the moment God knows is best. To be a parent is incalculably greater than any career.

My prayers are with you and your fiance. God bless,

Fr. Phil Bloom


*PP has this to say about the Pill: The "Pill" is the common name for oral contraception. There are two basic types– combination pills and progestin-only pills. Both are made of hormones like those made by a woman's ovaries. Combination pills contain both estrogen and progestin. Both kinds of pills require a medical evaluation and prescription.

Both pills can prevent pregnancy. But they work differently. Combination pills usually work by preventing a woman's ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation). Progestin-only pills also can prevent ovulation. But they usually work by thickening the cervical mucus. This keeps sperm from joining with an egg. Combination pills also thicken cervical mucus. Both types of pill can also prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus.

What they call a "fertilized egg" is what you and I once were - a tiny human being complete with the genetic information it is taking the Human Genome Project over a decade to decipher. Different from its mom or dad, it already has a dynamic life of its own.

What Every Catholic Couple Should Know

Why Humanae Vitae Was Right An excellent book on the Birth Control Debate edited by Dr. Janet Smith.

Review of Why Humanae Vitae Was Right

A clear and concise Summary of Church Teaching on Contraception

Chemical Abortions (Interview with Dr. Thomas Hilgers, M.D.)

To plan or postpone pregnancy: Billings Method.

Cukierski Family Apostolate
"Not Your Mother's Birth Control"

The Moral Difference between NFP and Birth Control. (Response to letter from Ken Stuart.)

Natural Family Planning and Feminism

Natural Family Site

Mary Bloom Center for Natural Family Planning

Surviving as a Catholic Family (Archbishop Charles Chaput reflects on the difference between Birth Control and Natural Family Planning)

Germaine Greer on Birth Control

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