Family Planning Dilemma: When Should We Stop Trying to Get Pregnant?

Life is full of daily, short-term, and long-term decisions. Every day there are choices from minor decisions of what to wear, or what to eat, to those that are more profound like who to marry, where to live, or when to have children and how many. For those who are married, family planning is a discussion that shouldn’t be avoided.

Christian couples may decide to leave family planning totally in the hands of God and accept children naturally as they come in gender and number. Other Christian couples may see nothing wrong in manipulating the timing and number. The timing or method of planning is a controversial subject that needs prayer and the couple’s decision as they seek the Lord’s guidance in their relationship.

But what does a couple do when they are unsuccessful in conceiving? After a year of not using any contraceptive methods, if they are still not pregnant, they are considered infertile. It may be an issue with the woman or the man or both. At that point, there are some tough decisions to be made regarding fertility testing and conception methods. It doesn’t take much research to know what the options are. The options can be varied, difficult ethically and spiritually, and expensive. It’s definitely time to stop and pray for guidance. The big looming question in the back of all of the conversation and prayer is, “Do we trust God with our family planning?” Along with this question, consider, “How long should we try?” If these questions haven’t been asked, they must be asked and taken very seriously. Remember the words of Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV). A couple needs to be at peace each step of the way as they try to conceive. It’s a difficult path but leaving God out will only lead to frustration, confusion, and bitterness.

I’m reminded of a sermon my pastor preached recently from Genesis 16 and 17 where Sarah took their infertility situation into her own hands by providing her servant, Hagar, to Abraham to bear a son. Sarah and Abraham found out that “God will not tolerate your way and human ingenuity.”[1] The situation caused a great deal of tension between Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham. Hagar was eventually forced to leave them with her son, Ishmael, as Sarah saw Ishmael as a threat to her son, Isaac. Even though Sarah did conceive and bear a son, she had not trusted God with the outcome of their situation which caused a great deal of pain and sorrow. Not bearing a desired child is a much different outcome but still requires trusting God and not taking the situation into your own hands to manipulate the outcome you believe is right for you.

When realizing that you may be taking things into your own hands, there are some important points to remember. First of all, keep in mind that “Overall, the success rate of fertility treatment is about 50%. However, the success of treatment varies from person to person. It depends partly on what’s causing your infertility – some causes are harder to treat than others.”[2] This statistic might already be familiar even though hard to take. It’s difficult to swallow that fertility and many other conditions have limited answers. The medical field is still not able to provide answers concerning why a person has a particular diagnosis when sometimes there appear to be no answers. Doctor Kurapati says the body is a “dynamic interplay of many known and unknown variables.”[3]

If you’re considering fertility treatment or are in the process of receiving it and have not defined an end point, you need to. An article from WebMD warns that a couple can be Addicted to Hope for a Child. The article states, “For couples that don’t define the ‘enough is enough’ point before embarking on the journey to pregnancy, these treatments may become addictive, with each new cycle bringing a flush of optimism.”[4] They also recommend the important task of setting some financial limits. These are definitely vital considerations. In my own personal experience, financial considerations played a definite role in whether to stop using any type of medical intervention as they all get expensive quickly. The hope to naturally conceive lasted at least until menopause which kept me on a cyclical roller coaster.

Personally, I never totally gave up hope but we were able to adopt a little girl and move on, trusting God with His plan for our lives. If it hadn’t been for my faith and God’s sovereign will in my life, I might have fallen into a debilitating pattern that would have been unhealthy for me, my husband, and adopted daughter. Laura Uprooth gives nine helpful, important warning signs to watch out for if your focus on trying to achieve conception is consuming you. In summary, she says you should stop trying to get pregnant if,

  1. “You’ve lost your joy and passion for having a baby. Instead, you feel depressed, anxious, and unhappy most of the time.
  2. Your marriage and relationship is suffering.
  3. You focus on the emotional aspects of how badly you want to have a baby, and refuse to consider the possibility that it may not happen.
  4. You spend more time searching the internet and reading pregnancy forums than creating a healthy, happy life apart from conceiving a baby.
  5. You’re losing friends, struggling to get exercise or eat healthy, or refusing to do anything that could affect your chances of getting pregnant.
  6. You’re starting to wonder if your goal of getting pregnant is a good idea.
  7. You actually dread the thought of getting pregnant.
  8. You’re starting to resent the time and energy it’s taking to try to get pregnant.
  9. You refuse to consider different ways to get pregnant, such as consulting a naturopathic doctor.”[5]

Uprooth suggests taking time to “focus on activities, people, events and goals that bring meaning to your life in different ways. Sometimes taking a break from trying to conceive can involve researching other ways to start a family, such as adoption or fostering.”[6]

Therefore, it may be time as a couple to go to prayer and reevaluate your thinking on family planning. It may be time to accept another picture of your family than you had imagined. There are resources to help you. You might want to talk with your pastor or a biblical counselor. Someone who has gone through a similar experience could be helpful. In my book, I explain my experience and suggest books and websites that will greatly help you. There is a resource listed separately on my website, also, at https://pathwaytopeaceandjoy.org/.

Above all, know that God will perform His sovereign will in your life because He loves you and knows what is the perfect plan for you and for your life as a couple. Do not be discouraged in a way that can lead to depression and reclusiveness. Also, do not be determined to take the situation into your own hands to try to force the outcome you want. Be determined to embrace the life God has chosen for you. Be at peace and find joy in being an instrument of light and hope in a dark world.

[1] Dave York. 2024, January 7. The Promise and Sign of the Covenant. Covenant Life Fellowship. www.https://clfroseburg.com/.

[2] Success Rates of Fertility Treatments, Medically reviewed by William C. Lloyd III, MD,IACS, 09/06/2020, https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/fertility-and-conception/success-rates-of-fertility-treatments. Accessed 02/06/2023.

[3] Rajeev Kurapati, MD. What Happens When Doctors Don’t Know the Answer? 06/28/2018. https://opmed.doximity.com/articles/what-happens-when-doctors-don-t-know-the-answer-. Accessed 02/06/2023.

[4] Addicted to Hope for a Child, WebMD from M. Sara Rosenthal, The Fertility Sourcebook. (McGraw-Hill, 06/27/2002). Medically reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD, Accessed April 22, 2022.

[5] Laurie Uprooth. 9 Signs You Should Stop Trying to Get Pregnant. April 22, 2022. https://www.theadventurouswriter.com/blogbaby/signs-its-time-to-give-up-on-your-goal-of-getting-pregnant/. Accessed February 6, 2023.

[6][6] Uprooth, “9 Signs You Should Stop Trying to Get Pregnant”