Q&A: The use of contraceptives for married couples with children
Written by Arnoud Vergunst
|Reformed Ethics - Pregnancy/Reproduction|
You recently applied scripture to the use of contraceptives by newly-weds, thank you. At the end of your response you said the related topic of the use of contraceptives by married-with-children couples still needed an answer. Could you please apply scripture to this topic as well?
It is a difficult area that you are asking about. What is the use of contraceptives by married-with-children couples? God’s basic command to a married couple is to be fruitful and multiply. That doesn’t mean ‘have as many children as possibly you can get.’ We are to use also our discretion and remember that every child that is conceived also needs to be parented and cared for. Some would argue that we are to live by faith and God will provide us with everything we need. I will never dispute that truth. God has always kept His Word. But that doesn’t mean we are not to use common sense when we are married and forming a family. God’s design was that no conception would take place as long as mother was breast feeding the baby. The hormones triggered or released through the breast feeding stops the ovulation cycle and thus acts like a contraceptive. For some reason this mechanism often doesn’t work in our western civilization anymore. Yet God designed that purposefully to provide the ‘field of the womb’ a needed rest to recuperate. It is certainly true that there are many women who can cope quite well when they have a child every year or shortly beyond that. But there are also many women who don’t cope well with that and in that case, the children themselves end up suffering as well. That truth is also true for the father. All children need a father and a mother to educate and nurture them towards adulthood. From the Bible we know that weaning the child didn’t take place sometimes till the third birthday of the child! Clearly that was purposefully done. I have raised eight children from birth but all my children were on solids even before the year one was past. In other words, the Bible moms did this purposely to prevent another pregnancy and not because Bible babies didn’t get teeth till they were three! I don’t know whether all mothers did this but I don’t read of a disapproval of the practice.
From that fact I feel convinced that ‘spacing’ your children isn’t wrong if the motive is right. If a mother feels too overwhelmed with the children she has to care for at present, there is nothing unethical to prevent a pregnancy to take place. Often as the years of ‘rest’ have been given, the natural desire for another child awakens again.
The question is urgent when it is likely that there are dangers involved for the life of mother. Common sense would suggest that the life of mother is more important as she has other children dependent on her as well as a husband. If God’s providence has allowed circumstances to arise in mom’s body that would make it dangerous to have a child, the couple should indeed not have a child. If someone is half-blind, would it be wrong for him to drive a car or be an airplane pilot? Would he do wrong if he laid down his job as a pilot in case he was a pilot before his blindness developed? Likewise, when the circumstances develop or appear that another child would bring danger to mother, we should not be wiser than God. He is directing us clearly ahead of time to prevent another pregnancy.
In general I would draw the same line when it comes to genetic disorders that could arise from another pregnancy. Yet that case is more difficult because we don’t know exactly what the genetic make-up of the child will be. I have dear friends who have had two seriously special needs children in their marriage which were caused by a genetic match both parents were carrying. However, they have had several healthy children also. If they would have drawn the line after their first special needs child because of what the genetics suggested, they would have missed all the other children. Ultimately, God is the Creator and He clearly states in Ex. 4:11, “And the LORD said unto him (Moses), Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or seeing or the blind? Have not I the LORD?”
Yes, God’s grace is sufficient and never can I confess differently in my life. In all the circumstances and demands that large families have brought (we have had nine children in total and eight are still at home!) God has never failed to help us. Yet it is a struggle to give each child the attention they so need, especially in the surrounding pressures that they experience in our days. However, that must never encourage us to have no children. Moses was born in a dangerous age because his parents trusted God!
At the place I will not discuss the various pros and cons of contraceptives in use. In the first place, because I don’t know if I am complete capable for doing that but secondly, because this is public site and I don’t know how many children will read these answers. You can always ask me ‘privately’ and I gladly share my thoughts that way.
Rev. A Vergunst is the pastor of The Reformed Congregation of Carlton, New Zealand. He answers questions on his church's website, www.rcnz.org.