Q&A with J: Contraception without Condoms?

Today’s question is about contraception — specifically condoms. I take no responsibility, however, for Mark Gungor’s shockingly funny description of condom usage. See below:

“My question to you, however, is related to contraception. We have been discussing this on and off for a long time, and even after lots of research and reasoning, we’re still unsettled on what kind, or even whether or not contraception should be used (esp. condoms). What particularly got me was how Mark Gungor described using a condom (paraphrased): “trying to eat an ice cream cone with a sock on your tongue.” But neither of us want a baby any soon than AT LEAST a year of being married. Could you speak on how to enjoy marital sex while sacrificing the least amount of pleasure? I just wanna find a way to use a condom as little as possible…XD”

Contraception without Condoms

When it comes to condoms, I always think, “I’m the wrong person to ask!” Because if I’m being completely honest (and I have a history of that on this blog), I hated the feel of condoms. Logically, I know they are a good choice, but that barrier between skin simply didn’t feel good to me or my hubby. That said, I know a couple married something like 30 years who have always used condoms with no problems; they love ’em.

So after admitting my own personal aversion to condoms, what can I say about contraception? Here’s what I think:

There’s no one perfect contraceptive. You have to find what works for the both of you.
Condoms do limit skin contact, but they are easy to use, make clean-up a breeze, and many options are available. If one condom doesn’t feel good, you can try several others — test drive and find the kind you like.

Hormonal approaches can cause problems for some women. Not all, but some. For instance, oral contraceptives have been known to reduce sex drive or sensitivity in some women. For myself, I experienced a contraception-related bout of depression — but that was after years of using the little white pill successfully. If your wife wants to try a hormonal approach, just pay attention to her reactions and make sure everything is going smoothly.

Many people avoid barrier methods, but they work just fine once you know how to use them. After getting off oral contraceptives, I fell in love with the diaphragm. It was easy-peasy to use, and it worked. If you want to know more about that, you can read Want to Rave about Your Birth Control Method?

When you consult with your doctor, ask how the contraceptive works. Some contraceptives are abortifacients, meaning that they actually work after fertilization of the egg; they get rid of the embryo. As a devout Christian, I’d be looking for birth control that worked before fertilization. Just make sure you know what the process is for the form of birth control you’re considering and that you’re comfortable with it.

There’s always Family Planning. I’d be remiss not mentioning the planning method some believer couples use very effectively and happily. Engaged Marriage has written well about this method.

Nothing is 100% guaranteed and user error is the most common reason a birth control method doesn’t work. So finding what you will successfully use is most important.

Make this decision together as a couple and be willing to try different methods. Don’t let your doctor immediately talk you into one or the other, but ask questions about the relative advantages and disadvantages of each alternative.

See also: Which Birth Control Method is Best? from Sheila Gregoire

34 thoughts on “Q&A with J: Contraception without Condoms?

  1. Sterling

    I love the diaphragm too and we pair using it with the fertility awareness method so that we know when to use it. Fertility awareness is similar to family planning in that uses science to determine when a woman’s fertile phases is. We had several objections to oral contraceptives so this was the method for us! Definitely talk to your doctor and do your own research too, best of success!

  2. libl

    There’s also the fact that chemical contraceptives can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting and to many Christians, that means it kills a living soul….the baby. I lost a baby due to using contraceptive film. It damaged the fertilized egg and the baby couldn’t grow right and died at 8 weeks.

    1. J Post author

      Oh, that’s heartbreaking. I’m so sorry. Thanks for shedding light on this issue.

  3. alchemist

    I just re-read your rave about your birth control method. The last comment on that post said that the diaphragm had been discontinued? Is this the case?

    I’m getting married in December, and I’m leaning towards diaphragm for birth control. I’m not too happy with the thought of artificial hormones. I’ve used the pill before (in high school for skin issues). It made my period longer and my boobs bigger. Which I hated. My fiancé knows it can mess with a women’s’ moods and libido. So he’s more than happy to keep me off hormones.

      1. J

        I left the comment about it being discontinued. At the time, I was looking for one & the company that makes the most popular one in the US had ceased production. I read online that you could still order through a European company. U.S. production may have resumed now. Talk to your pharmacist…a good one should be able to look and tell you if the can get them. But you’ll have to be sized by your doc first. Good luck finding one. We eventually found a pharmacy several miles away that happened to have one in the correct size in stock and we have loved it. So much better than hormonal bc for us.

  4. Elizabeth

    We were introduced to the FemCap, and love it! It’s a cervical cap, that, when used with a spermicide, is an effective contraceptive. We didn’t want to use regular spermicide, due to the chemicals, and we found a natural spermicide called Contragel. We ordered both online. No messing with your hormones, no limiting of skin contact, and you can use one for a year before replacing!

  5. Keelie Reason

    We were really boring and just used condoms. There are a hundred and one different kinds of condoms on the market. I suggest use a lot of lubrication if you go the condom route. I personally didn’t notice a ton of difference when it came to condoms, but my husband didn’t prefer them.

    We really loved when I was pregnant because unprotected sex was awesome. After my third child, I had my tubes tied because I was already having a c-section. I also have a disorder that affects my pregnancies, so having more than 3 kids was very risky for me. I went ahead and made the decision to do that. I don’t think it is for everyone to have surgery when they are done having kids, but it was right for us.

  6. Lauren

    I’d just like to say that birth control that is great for one person might not be great for you, and what one person does not like might be perfect for you. It’s worth trying multiple kinds and talking to your doctor in depth about what your options are and how they all work. I thought I would use a diaphragm when I was planning for my wedding night, but when I went to get fitted, my OBGYN recommended that I use other methods until I’m a little bit more able to relax down there because it would have been extremely uncomfortable for me straight off the bat. I tried the pill and it made me throw up and bleed constantly, so when I finally got married, my husband and I decided to use fertility awareness and condoms. Some people do hate condoms, but they would never know that they hated them if they never tried! I really feel like the only drawback for us is the few seconds it takes to put it on.

    I guess my point is that you don’t need to set your heart on one type of birth control as if it were the only option for you. Figure out what you like and what you can maintain. Something will work, and it might not be what you expected!

  7. JAMES WITTER

    We used condoms for years and then we went to the pull out method before ejaculation. Then in the last 3-4 years when we know we wanted permanent birth control I got a vasectomy done and that is the best thing we have ever done

  8. susan in st louis

    A couple other things to consider – hormonal birth control use can increase likelihood of some forms of cancer, from what I’ve read. Naturally, this would be something to look into.

    Additionally, it is so important for any person engaging in sexual intercourse to realize that contraception (a baby!) could happen at any time. Even when using birth control of any kind. If you are not okay with this, you shouldn’t be having sex. Life is a gift from God to be treasured, even if the timing isn’t what WE would pick.

  9. Christi

    Christians should very carefully consider what they find God’s Word says about birth control. Obviously it doesn’t address each method specifically, but I think if we pray about it and seek God’s guidance, we will find something we can have peace about. One note: Christians (and anyone, for that matter) should especially think VERY carefully about hormonal options, like the pill. I wrote a blog post about this that some of you may find helpful: http://treasuringandpondering.blogspot.com/2013/03/some-thoughts-on-birth-control.html

  10. Kay

    I am another fan of the Fertility Awareness Method. When I am potentially fertile, my husband and I use condoms or we have fun in ways that don’t include intercourse. I have about 5 days where i am fertile and since we have sex every 2-3 days, that means a condom about twice a month. That’s not so bad, though sex is not as good as without, that’s for sure, which is why we usually experiment with manual and oral sex during those times. I would love to try a diaphragm. And when in doubt, use protection!

    On a bit of a side note, I highly recommend Fertility Awareness even if you are regularly using other barrier methods. The more I got to understand how my body actually works and what it was doing, the more I am blown away by God’s incredible design. I feel empowered by this intimate knowledge of my body and have embraced my womanhood in an entirely new light, giving me the best body image I have ever had despite having three kids. This has carried over to the bedroom too! Because now when I see my body, I am just plain amazed! This method has done great things for our sex life!

  11. Stephanie

    The topic of contraceptives really only became a “spotlight topic” of conversation between my husband and I after our daughter was born. We researched and studied MANY different methods, and in all honesty, it was a bit overwhelming at the time. Having both a heart condition and endometriosis, our options were very limited as far as what I call “medical forms of contraceptives” and my severe allergy to latex took many over the counter methods off the table. After serious discussion with my OB he advised an iud, more so to slow the scarring from the endometriosis, so we both thought win win. After 2 miscarriages and having to undergo emergency surgery at 14 weeks into the pregnancy with our daughter due to cysts overrunning and killing my left ovary/tube, we figured it was worth a try as we wanted another baby, God granting, in the future. What was intended to buy my pretty badly damaged body some time to heal turned into almost 2 years of total hell. It started out great, periods stopped pain eventually eased etc, it was like my reproductive system was in suspended animation, then a year in the infections started. We finally rooted out the problem, the iud had shifted causing all sorts of havoc, removed it and 3 months of antibiotics and UBER prayer I was finally better. I said all that to say this… Be super careful of methods that seem too good to be true. Even if/when used for reasons beyond preventing pregnancy, there are always risks and everything should be weighed as if a definite possibility. On a positive note, by the grace of God, my husband and I are expecting our second little princess the 17th of this month (if she can hold out till then) and I will be having a tubal litigation while open for the Cesarean. That, again, is another option that while not for everyone, is what we’ve felt lead to do and a decision I’m actually looking forward to since my baby birthing days have past.

  12. Eric Wiggin

    My wife and I have been married 52 years, and we quit using birth control about 30 years ago, a couple of years after our youngest child was born. We’ve tried the pill, spermicide foam and condoms, and for both of us the condom was the one we disliked the most. It’s extremely freeing to be done with them all.

    But the main issue for both of us has been intimacy–especially for me as the husband. I always hated condoms, and I know that other men do, too. Someone said that sex feels better without one, but I don’t think that’s really the issue. It may take a bit longer, but the pleasure is the same. But just knowing there’s something between us, felt or not, damages the intimacy. As I understand the meaning of becoming “one flesh,” it’s both a physical and spiritual matter. A pastor we once had, who is now with the Lord, said that a better rendering of that phrase is “one self.” And that’s the real purpose of making love, isn’t it–with nothing in the way, either physical or spiritual.

    One day working as a substitute teacher I was given a 10th-grade sex ed class, and after the kids finished some writing projects that the teacher left, we talked a bit. One young man was trying to embarrass me, I think, when he asked, “What do you and your wife use for protection?” So I drew a big circle on the board, with male and female signs inside and said, “Marriage is a closed circle, so we don’t need protection (I was 60+ at the time).

    “I don’t get it,” he said.

    “I married a virgin, and so did my wife,” I told him. “So we can’t give each other anything.” He then got the point, and a bit of teasing from the other students.

    Eric

  13. M

    We are currently using condoms and okay with it. I think it’s better without but honestly I’m not sure I can tell all that much difference myself except needing a little extra lube, it’s mostly the hubby that notices. We were attempting the FAM method after the birth of our first baby in addition to condoms during fertile periods (my cycles returned at 10 weeks postpartum! Yuck!) and it was difficult for me to take my temperature because I was up all night nursing an infant and never sleeping the recommended 4-5 hours. I also was having a hard time noticing the other tells because of the breastfeeding hormones at play and foolishly attempted to go off of my normal non-breastfeeding cycle. Baby #2 was born 13 months after baby #1. 😛 Soooo now that we had that experience we are just using condoms all the time. I hope to talk to my doctor at some point about options but this is what we do for now because my body is in need of a little break after two babies so close together.

  14. jayme

    We do condoms with family planning. Family planning tells you when you’re most likely fertile, so it’s those times that we use condoms and don’t use them at other times in my cycle.

  15. Lynn

    Well, I’ll be totally unhelpful and tell you my method which was to wait until after menopause to become sexually active (with my husband). Yes, there is life – and love – after menopause. (My sister stopped at 35 and I stopped at 38.)

    1. nylse

      I second the notion of it getting better after menopause, and after a vasectomy. I remember being younger and having all the worry and conversations around birth control. I think I’ve tried them all with the exception of the diaphragm (my friend had a diaphragm baby, so I ruled that out after hearing her story). I ultimately settled on the copper iud and had no bad experiences. But at this stage of life, its freeing not to worry about birth control any more.

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  17. Dustin | Engaged Marriage

    Thanks for the mention regarding Natural Family Planning, J! It’s been the best thing we’ve done for our marriage.

    If anyone has any questions about NFP, I’m more than happy to answer them!

    Dustin

    1. J Post author

      Hear that, everyone! Dustin’s got answers, if you’ve got questions. I believe Engaged Marriage is a great resource.

  18. Jules

    In regards to protection in being sexually active, I have used the Depo-Provera shot and the Pill as my birth control. We hate condoms but we have used them as a last resort which wasn’t often. However, I have been completely off hormonal BC since May of 2011 (after my miscarriage). So I haven’t used anything since. Then my husband had a vasectomy 3 months after I gave birth to Jackson in 2013 (August 2013 was the V). It’s been great, not having to use anything and enjoying sex naturally which we both love the most. 🙂

      1. Anonymous

        Yes, please do, J! My husband & I both hate condoms & neither of us want to use anything hormonal, so we’ve just been using the pull out method for several years now (barring the times that I was pregnant). However, I kinda feel like we’re pushing our luck with that method, & neither of us want any more kids. Still though, it feels a little nerve-wracking to undergo surgery & alter our bodies, especially since we’re both still relatively young. So I’d be very interested in your perspective on &/or experience with vasectomies (&/or getting tubes tied as well).

        1. Eric Wiggin

          My wife had her tubes tied at the birth of our youngest son 38 years ago. She was nearly 41. No side effects that either of us are aware of.

          It was a blessing to be able to have sex without birth control (we’d been using spermicidal foam). I can’t imagine using the pull-out method. I remember well the night, nine months earlier, when we decided to do without the foam and try for another baby. Best sex we ever had–before or since. Super romantic for both of us, and we managed to make it last about an hour. All I can say is that Eve & Adam must have had times like this in Eden.

          Then they sinned–the Fall and the Curse. It’s my opinion that part of Eve’s punishment was that her conception would “multiply,” though I realize that some Bible scholars would not agree, and some even teach that they didn’t have sex until after they’d sinned.

          Eric

  19. AC

    We have been married for 3 years, and I’ve been on the pill the whole time. I want to switch methods, because it has affected my libido. I know there are a lot of Christians who won’t take hormonal birth control because they feel it will terminate pregnancies, but you can figure out if you are ovulating or not if you know what to look for. Also, I had some blood tests done, and my estrogen was the level of a postmenopausal woman. Hard to imagine I’m releasing any eggs! And that’s while taking a medication that’s known to decrease the effectiveness of my birth control.

    I am interested in trying FAM, but not sure what to do during my fertile time. Condoms aren’t all that effective, especially compared to what I’ve been using. I have some health problems, and a pregnancy really isn’t a good idea.

  20. Mary

    We use Lady Comp,have been using for almost 5 years. Since my wife has got a very regular cycle we abstain from sex for about 12 days. After waiting for almost two weeks, I feel like a teenager again:) Our batteries are fully charged. For us the aspect of waiting is quite crucial, it totally changes your perspective on sex.

  21. Tammy

    I was put on the pill in high school for very heavy, painful, and irregular periods. For me it was a godsend–it took a couple of tries to get the right pill (ortho tricyclen), but once we found it, it changed my life. Made my periods much lighter, extremely regular, and a lot less painful.

    In sexual terms, I found that being on the pill has some big advantages as well as (in our case at least) one disadvantage. The advantages were that when DH and I got married, the birth control angle was already taken care of, and we could focus entirely on the pleasure of making love and learning how to do it without worrying about birth control. Also, without having to use condoms, we had the physical and emotional intimacy of not having anything between us. The disadvantage is that during our engagement, we slipped up a few times and had sex, and I think part of the reason is that we knew we were safe from pregnancy–if I hadn’t been on the pill we may have had more of a deterrent in place. Of course, I had dated a couple of other guys before meeting my husband and never had sex with them despite my being on the pill, so it isn’t fully the reason. Still, it’s something to consider.

    1. Eric

      Tammy’s comment re Contraception Without Condoms raises several issues. First, re condoms she perceptively says that it helps both the “physical and emotional intimacy [of sex to] not have anything between us.” During the times my wife and I have used these pesky things, such as during her periods, we’ve discovered that this observation is spot on. Our experience, along with Tammy’s comment, gives the lie to the notion that teens need to be given free condoms. Teens of both sexes hate these things, and the teen term for not using a condom is “riding bareback.” The impression that most adults have is that teens who have sex do it only for “fun.” Well, that’s one reason. But teens of both sexes do experience deep emotional intimacy, and we parents had better understand that a “child” of 13-17 is every bit as capable of emotional intimacy as a married adult.

      Second, what does one do who’s had sex before marriage, then discovers that the premarital relationship has hurt the marriage sexual experience? Well, we acknowledge it as sin. Apologize to the spouse. Repent to the Lord and trust the blood of Jesus to cover our sin of lovemaking before the marriage covenant. Then, even as God puts our sins from Him “as far as the east is from the west,” we put it behind us also and don’t even think about raising it as an issue, or holding this as a weapon in a fight.

      The best book I’ve seen dealing with sexual temptation before marriage is PASSION and PURITY, by Elisabeth Elliot (she died in June). It’s a classic, and should be read by every older teen and married person. And BTW, PASSION and PURITY was hot off the press on the day I interviewed the author for a magazine article. At her suggestion, I hurried into the Gordon College bookstore, February 28, 1984 to purchase a copy. My only regret is that the interview was over, so I wasn’t able to get it autographed!

      But this book, though out of print, is available used on Amazon; or you might find it in a library.
      Eric

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