Question 12


Dear Fr. Matthew @ the Abbey,

Can you please give me some solid, straight-forward counsel on the topic of contraception with regards to the following situation? Can we use a condom during sexual intercourse until my wife is done 
breastfeeding and she can properly chart her menstrual cycle? 

My wife & I have 3 boys ages 5, 3 and 3 months. The 5 year old and 3 year old just had their birthdays in November. So all 3 boys are still very young. My wife has a herniated, bulging disc in her lower back which made the pregnancy very difficult. It also hinders her abilities to function on a daily basis depending on if the disc gets "aggravated". 

We are open to a new baby. But we would just prefer to wait for a while for my wife to recuperate. She is breast feeding right now. But she also was breast feeding with the first 2 boys and still had her menstrual cycle within 2 months after giving birth. She does the breast feeding all the time and the baby sleeps with us. This time she has gone 3 months and has not had a menstrual cycle yet. But she is scared to have any sexual intercourse with me because many women get pregnant at this time. A woman becomes fertile before the bleeding starts and there is no warning as to when fertility returns. 

We want to breast feed the baby because it is healthy for the baby. We could stop breast feeding so that she will return her menstrual cycle more rapidly, but the baby receives so many benefits from it that we really want to continue for about 6 to 9 months. Please write me back and thank you so much. God Bless, Chris ]

Dear Chris,

Your question has both a moral and a medical dimension. I will only address the moral aspect. Dr. Mary Martin OB/GYN will address the medical aspect.

Condoms are always immoral, since they deliberately turn against the fertility of the present marital act. They are always an immoral means to accomplish the ends of responsible parenthood.

The problem here is that you have legitimate reasons for spacing the next pregnancy, and you do not know when your wife’s fertility returns. I know that various NFP methods (Creighton model, CCL, BOM, etc.) are able to detect the signals of returning fertility during breastfeeding. You must consult the teachers of these models, and see what can be done to learn how to read your irregular patterns.

If there is uncertainty about when fertility is about to return, then the morally appropriate thing to do is to refrain from the marital act until you are able to know exactly where you are in your cycle. Now for the medical opinion:

Hi Chris,

Your question was referred to me by Fr. Daniel McCaffrey from NFP Outreach Ministries. I am a Board-certified Obstetrician Gynecologist practicing in Oklahoma City and your question is a common one. My patients are also very surprised to learn that Natural Family Planning is a more effective way to space pregnancies than traditional contraceptives. I practice in full compliance with the Catholic Church teaching and can reassure you that it is entirely possible to avoid conception even during breast feeding.

Although there are currently 6 methods of NFP taught in the US, I present the Billings Ovulation Method to my patients as a very simple way to determine potential fertility. There are only 4 rules and temperatures and digital exams are not used, making this acceptable to women of all cultures and within all times of reproductive life. In fact, the BOM is taught in 120 countries world-wide and is one of only three approved contraception methods in China. It is based on the fact that the pattern of a woman's vaginal discharge, whether changing, or unchanging, correlates precisely with the ovarian hormones. For more information, please go to or

I use the BOM to make gynecologic and infertility diagnoses. It is invaluable as a diagnostic tool but is 99.5% effective in delaying or preventing conception as well. Published data on the condom use has an effectiveness rate of only 85%. Even the 99% effectiveness rate advertised by the pharmaceutical companies for chemical contraceptives is actually only 90% in published data. The issue is that couples who use contraceptives are having sexual contact during the fertile phase because they have been taught erroneously that it is impossible to know when a woman is potentially fertile. My professional reputation is staked on the effectiveness of NFP. No pregnancies have occurred within my practice if the 4 rules were followed.

I will leave the moral issues of contraception to Fr. McCaffrey, et al.

God's blessings to you and your family,

Mary W. Martin, M.D.,FACOG