IS USING A CONDOM MORALLY GOOD WHEN MY WIFE IS BREAST FEEDING AND WE DON’T KNOW WHEN FERTILITY RETURNS?
Dear Fr. Matthew @ the Abbey,
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:
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 www.boma-usa.com or www.woomb.org
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