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Condom in marriage for protection of unborn child
Question from Catholic Man on 7/9/2013:

Thank you for this opportunity. My wife and I have 5 children, one of whom is still in the womb. At times my wife has had threatened miscarriages as her uterus has prematurely contracted. We have had reason to believe that one cause might be semen which has been known to bring on labour for some women. My question is, if there is a possibility of semen potentially bringing on early contractions in early pregnancy, would there be a problem in using a condom to prevent harm? As it is not being used for contraceptive reasons is there any issue? I wish not to masturbate, but I notice that build up of sperm in my body is causing me discomfort and I have read that it can cause Prostatitis. Not being able to masturbate or make love to my wife is also affecting my relationship with my wife. Thank you for your help.

Answer by Judie Brown on 7/10/2013:

Catholic Man

I sent your question to a Catholic physician and following is his response:

There are two separate issues here which need to be addressed. First, in rare instances, the prostaglandins present in semen may have been implicated in causing uterine contractions. However many other factors have been implicated as well. Contractions following intercourse for example are common and harmless. Only your doctor can make the decision whether or not your semen is a true threat to the pregnancy. The condition of the cervix is key and can be easily assessed with sonographic measurement of length and dilatation. Remember this is a fairly rare occurrence.

Regarding the condom use I am sure you would get different answers from different ethicists. On the one hand since there is no egg or chance of pregnancy, there is no contraceptive intent and therefore the condom use might be considered to be morally neutral. I personally do not accept this. It is my understanding the church teaches that intercourse in the married state must be entirely "natural" culminating with semen being deposited naturally in the vagina. That is why oral sex is forbidden but intercourse after hysterectomy or menopause is totally permissible. Therefore I feel the condom use as you describe would not be acceptable because there is an un-natural barrier to a natural act.

The issue of masturbation is somewhat related to what is said above. The act is always forbidden because it is totally un-natural with semen being deposited outside the vagina. Therefore it carries the penalty of grave sin. Your concept of infrequent intercourse being a cause of prostatitis is flawed. Prostatitis is a bacterial infection caused by infected urine from a urinary tract infection, not semen, which "backs up" into the prostate. It can also be seen after a prostatic biopsy or in the immunosupressed such as men with HIV or on chemotherapy, etc.

Finally as a gynecologist and as a husband for 50 years I must point out the fact that after 5 pregnancies with a full work load at home your wife I am sure is "tired". Less frequent intercourse should not affect your relationship with your wife but should enhance it in that some self denial on your part will demonstrate your respect and understanding of her role of wife and mother. Healthy marital sex, as designed by God, is mutual while the use of condoms and or masturbation is not mutual but selfish. Pregnancy is temporary and soon your life will be "normal" again.

Pray to Our Lady for the strength to carry you through this.

Anthony N Dardano, Md, FACOG, FACS

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